removal of main mast

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October 5, 2013 at 13:54 #6751
Ronar M
Ronar M
Participant

Hi All

I want to take out Ronar’s mainmast this winter to inspect the mast step and to clean up and paint the foot of the mast. Has anyone got any advice about this job? I’m concerned as the mast comes out what will happen to the genoa furling gear. Should I get the crane operator to lift the mast up so that it’s foot is clear of the deck so that I can tie the standing rigging including the furling gear to the mast before it is turned into the horizontal? Once it is on trestles, how much support will be needed – is it ok to put it on two trestles or does it need three? Answers to these questions and any other advice would be welcome. Cheers, Trevor

October 6, 2013 at 02:06 #14421
Van
Van
Participant

Hey Trevor,

We just did this with Rainshadow – re-stepped the mast last Thursday. Pulling it out was straightforward. Obviously disconnect all wires – there there was a bonding wire that I almost missed as it was out of sight.

We have a roller furler – Harken Mk IV. It was necessary to disconnect this from the stem fitting during the haul out as the travel lift was not quite long enough to deal with it. At the dock, I simply released it at the stem fitting (also easing the backstay), and while it was still attached at the head, walked it down the side along the outside of the lifelines to about the level of the forward stay, where I tied it off to the lifelines. I used a halyard as a temporary stay, dropping that only when the travel lift was carrying Rainshadow. The mast is pretty strong and the halyard probably is not needed, but it seemed prudent. You will also have to do this to unstep the mast.

When it came time to unstep the mast, as the crane operator lifted the mast, one task for me was to keep the furling drum from snagging on the lifelines. Then, as the mast came out, I strapped the furler, along with the shrouds to the mast as high as I could reach. The crane operator then lifted it over the side and lowered it until the foot was about a meter from the ground. At that point, I went down to ground level and as the operator lowered the mast, I walked the foot forward to rest it on a saw horse. The other end of the mast slowly was lowered onto another saw horse. It was pretty straightforward. Just make sure the spreaders don’t catch on anything. The crane operator here didn’t always have a good view. We used just two saw horses and that was plenty. The mast sagged a little but seemed fine. I tied everything to the mast in three or four places.

Also, the crane can interfere with things at the masthead, such as a windex or anemometer. In our case, it was fine and we didn’t have to do anything special – just watch for that. Also, another thing that can get dinged is the mid-mast lights (steaming or deck light). Again, just watch and if there is a problem the crane operator will wait until you can swing the mast to avoid a problem, or he’ll have to adjust the crane to avoid problems.

The mast has a very nice rubber “partner” (if that’s the right word) which jams in between the mast and the deck to hold it secure. This was a tight fit and I had to go below and whack it many times to pop it out. You will need a mallet and some kind of shaft/rod/stick to be able to get at it. Just pulling the mast up was not enough, you have to pop the rubber thing out to be able to get the wires past the deck. Be careful, I missed and whacked myself in the nose…. embarrassing and lots of blood! Haha!

One more thing, the mast can roll on the saw horses, so keep a couple of wedges handy to jam on each side to stop that.

Restepping the mast was similar. Watch for the crane harming something. Once it is in position to lower, move the furler outside the lifelines again. Make sure the mast boot and partner are ready. I liberally soaped up the partner to make it slide easier and this seemed to help.

The step itself is a long slot, with four wood blocks on either side of the mast. I took out the forward two blocks as the mast was lowered, and then wiggled the mast until I could get them back in. I did not have to whack them.

It really helps to have someone relay commands from you, in the head guiding the mast, to the crane operator. But you have to shout pretty loud to be heard via the fwd hatch. In all it took about 20 minutes to restep the mast, which included reattaching all the shrouds at the chainplates.

Van

October 6, 2013 at 08:33 #14431
Ronar M
Ronar M
Participant

Hi Van,

Thanks for taking the time to write such a long and helpful account. I feel a lot more confident now. The crane operator in the boatyard is very experienced which should help. I did wonder about the configuration of the mast step and found a stray block of hardwood down there once; now I know what it is.
I know that the wiring is joined at the bottom of the mast by what we call ‘chocolate boxes’, in the uk – small polythene fittings with a brass insert that you cut off a longer strip. I think this is not very satisfactory and would like to replace them with a waterproof junction box of some kind. What arrangement do others have? cheers, Trevor

October 6, 2013 at 21:40 #14441
Van
Van
Participant

Chocolate boxes!? Wonderful name.

I ran into this issue too. I decided to use simple connectors, like the ones used to connect wiring on a trailer to a truck. Not very elegant, but cheap and easy to wrap with tape to waterproof. I suspend them from the cabin sole to keep them out of the bilge.

I also use a DB25 for the connection for our old DataMarine anemometer. It’s shielded, and has enough wires. I “waterproof” it with many layers of electrical tape.

I also squirt in some dielectric goop into the connectors’ holes – it’s called “Stuf” and is often used by Hams. I use it for PL259 UHF connectors for the SSB and VHF radios.

Van

January 20, 2014 at 12:20 #14661
Ronar M
Ronar M
Participant

Hi Van

I have successfully removed the main mast from Ronar M. Your advice was very useful and all went smoothly. However, now I need to pick your brains about the mast step. Mine was full of water and there seems to be no drain hole. Let me describe what I have. There is a long slot into which the heel of the mast goes. This slot has a ‘floor’ but only at the extreme ends (on which stand some wooden chocks). The central part of the slot opens out into a lower sump and it is this that was full of water. I removed the water with a sponge and then poked around with a piece of stiff wire to see if there is a drain hole that is blocked. I found nothing. I am visiting the boat again next week and could then send some photos. Meanwhile I would be grateful for anything you can tell me about what you found when you removed your mast. Cheers, Trevor

ps I am reading a fascinating book at the moment which is based in your area. It’s ‘The Boys in the Boat’ by Daniel J Brown. I can thoroughly recommend it.

January 31, 2014 at 08:07 #14721
Van
Van
Participant

Sorry so late to reply, have been busy with other things. The slot you describe is the same that I found on Rainshadow. However, it was not full of water – possibly it had been a while since we’d had rain and it had dried up. It did not occur to me to look for drain holes, although that would make a lot of sense. I wish I had thought of it.

I reused the wooden chocks, figuring if they had lasted 35 years, there was no need to replace them. The chocks mainly seemed necessary to prevent the mast foot from sliding fore and aft. However, they do not make a tight fit if I recall.

How is the corrosion on the mast foot? I was surprised that it was in pretty good shape on Rainshadow. Just superficial corrosion.

It seems like the drain holes in the mast itself are important to keep clear, perhaps an annual check is necessary. I enlarged them. The mast was full of what looked like bits of wood, but I think was bits of the polystyrene that they used inside the mast to stop the wiring from flopping about. I got out at least four cups (about a liter) of the stuff. The polystyrene is probably degrading slowly.

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