Latest News: Forums Technical Stepping the mast

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  • #4473

    Hi there,
    I’m currently restoring a battered Mk 1 GRP, and recently aquired an old mast. I’m getting to the point soon where I’ll be thinking about how to step the mast. The mast has got a smooth rounded heel insert, not the box with 3 sheeves like you can get from trident. If anyone else has a mast like this, what do you put under it to cushion it and hold it in place? The boat has just got the bare tabernacle, as I the previous owners canibalised it for spare parts for their other boats, so there is no indication as to how to set it up.


    Sounds unusual- do you have a picture?
    Do either the tabernacle or the mast have a hole for a mast pin?


    I don’t have a picture, the boat is in North Wales and I work in London. The mast and Tabernacle do both have a hole for the bolt, and I do have the bolt. The heel plug just fits in the mast, the mast has the sheaves already in it, and the plug is basically just a circular plug that is slightly rounded. I’ll load a picture when I have on.


    Yours sounds like the mast heel that was on the mast that came with my 1970’s Mk2, sort of rounded off with a pair of sheaves in a small block screwed into the flared bottom of the mast track.

    When I removed the old mast plug, I was surprised to find a lump of lead inside the mast (I don’t think it was an anode) as well as a lot of powdered aluminium oxide. Unfortunately the mast had aluminium worm up near the hole for the pivot pin and at the spinnaker pole ring so I did not mess around with the plug but decided to buy a new mast. Had this not been so I would have taken a hack-saw to the old mast and cut off enough length to be able to fit a new 5 sheave plug (as fitted to the new mast I bought from P&B/Selden). The new plug has a tenon underneath that fits into the new mast track I obtained from P&B, which makes a nice positive support for the mast, securing it from side to side and front to back (against the bolt at the back).

    I take down/put up my mast on my own, what is especially good about this set-up is that once the mast plug and track are engaged, the mast is secure and I can jump out to fix the forestay without worrying it is going to fall backwards.


    I’m in a similar position really. I have just purchased a Mk II and have been considering how to step the mask. The mast is carried as normal I would imaging the top of the mast sticking over the bow of the boat in the little cradle that is attached to the trailer. Is this the correct position of the mast, I feel that the mast would be better placed with the base at the front in the cradle as this would facilitate an easier stepping or am I missing something? 😳 😳

    Would appreciate any and all suggestions to help get the mast up easier.

    I would just add that this is my first rigging of any sailboat. I am a complete novice.




    For trailing, the mast goes with the thick end on the transom, and the thinner end propped up in the mast support, so that it clears the roof of your car.
    To step it, you turn the whole thing around, and put it into the tabernacle, with the mast pin through it. Attach the two shrouds. Unhitch the trailer from the car so that the boat is sitting slightly bow-down. You can then stand on the thwart and lift the mast into position. Because the boat is sitting bow-down the mast will not want to fall back, and you can take the forestay forward and attach it to the bow fitting.
    It’s really quite simple 😀


    The one time I tried trailering with the “thick end first” the spreaders made contact with the fore-deck and did some damage. No Disgrace’s advice is correct.

    I generally have about a metre and a half sticking out behind the transom, which is probably a bit illegal but otherwise I donk the roof of my car with the top of the mast if there are any hills/slopes to climb. I have a child’s red bucket I tie on the foot of the mast and tuck all the loose ends of halyards inside.


    Thanks guys, advice noted and appreciated.

    Dave Barker

    I do things a little differently. The “thick end” goes at the front when trailing, which saves turning the whole thing round end to end. The spreaders don’t snag the deck because I have a little support crutch about 500mm long (guessing) which temporarily fits into the transom fittings. (I’m in the process of rebuilding my lighting board and intend to make the de-masting stem integral to it.)

    I initially lower the mast onto this rest, having first released the forestay. There’s no need for a 2:1 system on the forestay by the way – you can push the mast up or lower it quite easily if you’re fit enough to sail a small boat! Then take the mast pivot pin out. This enables you to slide the mast first backwards to clear the tabernacle and edge of the deck, then up and forwards into the main support in front of the boat on the trailer. You can manage this alone, but it’s easier with a helper. A piece of foam or a towel will protect the foredeck and/or coaming when you need to rest the mast down to hop in or out of the boat.

    Working in the way I’ve described you can have the boat and trailer attached to the hitch all the time, but I admit that gravity isn’t on your side when you release the forestay!

    If the mast tends to contact the top of your vehicle when going up a steep bridge or change of slope coming out of a side road perhaps you need a longer mast crutch? An engineering works should be able to make one for a few £ and perhaps save an expensive accident…

    I trail with the mast upside down i.e. with spreaders pointing upwards, which looks wrong but means that the curve of the mast agrees with the tendency to sag in the middle. Admittedly this involves rotating the mast on its own axis and a small amount of faffing with shrouds.

    By leaving the shroud clevis pins in the shroud adjusters (i.e. not on the boat) there is a convenient way to lash the shrouds tightly and tidily towards the bottom of the mast using the tail of the genoa halyard. This keeps them straight and uses up the length of the halyard tail into the bargain – less to wrap and tie away. I usually tie the forestay tail through the hole in the mast where the mast pin would go.

    With a good tall mast crutch the overhang behind the boat isn’t too much, but a cloth tied to the main halyard at the mast head acts as a flag to try to avoid accidents.

    Stepping the mast is a reversal of the unstepping – try to remember to fit the burgee before raising the mast (if you use one).

    That’s just the way I do it – try different ways until you’re happy with what works for you.


    That sounds like an excellent idea, particularly when space at the waters edge is at a premium. I found the mast not to be heavy but its length is the real issue. I had no idea how long this mast was until I got home and tried to step the mast on my driveway. It was this point that I thought there must an easier way than this, hence my question. I think I will have a look at your method at the weekend and see if there is enough clearance over the car, I think there should be as I have a Focus Hatchback so not a big car at all.
    Thank you for the in-depth reply, most useful!

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