Reinstalling the Mast

Mast reinstalled into boat

After the week of work was completed on Cinderella’s mast, we (me especially) were ready to put it back in, and get on with life… Or should I say more boat projects…

Ava and I finished the last task remaining late Friday night in the cold rain. We worked partially under the headlights of Sabbie (Ava’s great little Saab), and used the car as refuge to warm up. Unfortunately, 10 minutes of headlights with no engine charging her batteries was a little rough on ol’ Saabie, and we were thankful of her manual transmission when I was pumping my legs pushing her up to speed.

Ava learn how to push start a car that night, and I was hoping it wasn’t an omen of what was to come.

THE MAST WAS READY TO GO IN!!

Unfortunately, we were unable to schedule the crane to put the mast back in that week, so we would have to schedule an afternoon lift the following week (around my work schedule). That eventually was pushed back to an early lift the following Friday due to a mixup at Canal Boatyard. Even with the mixup, I would recommend them without question, they are in close proximity to our slip, and the guys really know what they are doing.

It was Saturday, and the mast work was done. All that was left to do was to have the yard put the mast back in.

How exactly does one reinstall a mast again? More importantly, why was in not until now that the question popped into my head?

After a brief moment of doubt, I realized that the process is done all the time, all around the world, surely I could figure it out.

I started with google “How to reinstall a sailboat mast.”

It seemed simple enough, have the crane operator lower the mast back into place while I guide the mast back onto its step. Once on the step, attach the forestay (rod going to the front of the boat) followed by the backstay (rod going to the back of the boat) and then the shrouds (rods going to the sides of the boat).

How hard could it be? It turns out, not very hard at all!

Mast prepared to go back into Cinderella

The mast was back in and we had it stabilized in no time. All that remained was to motor back to our slip where we could put the final tension on the rig whenever the weather looks better.

That is where things will get interesting.

The goal of the day was to get the mast back into Cinderella and get her home. We want to avoid any fees associated with keeping the mast in the yard.

Goal accomplished

The rig is back in Cinderella, but we still can’t sail her. This isn’t good because I am itching to go out and sail worse than ever.

Swiftsure is only a couple months away and there is still much to do. We have a hole in the deck around the mast that needs to be filled and two turnbuckles that we need to replace before we can tension the rig and finally put the sails back up.

Mast reinstalled into boat
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Follow along next time as we apply spartite, replace turnbuckles, and tension Cinderella’s rig.

Let’s take the Mast Down!

Arguably the second most important part of a sailboat is it’s rig (coming in just after a sound hull). After all the steps to sailing look something like:

1) Keep air in the boat and water out
2) Scoop wind with sail to move boat
3) Smile and crack open a beer, you are sailing!

Then why do we neglect our rigs?!

Well, a healthy fear of heights is probably one reason. A lack of understanding and a belief in mysticism might be another. But I would venture to guess the seemingly overwhelming yard costs associated with stepping and unstepping a mast is probably the main reason.

Maybe I’m generalizing, but of all the sailors I know (several of whom talk about going offshore) few have intimate knowledge of their rigs. This should raise eyebrows.

What is it made of? What sort of fittings are used on the boat? When was it last inspected? Is it original? How many years are recommended between inspections? If something breaks, what do you do?

After going electric, we are pretty much counting on our rig to get us around the world. No if ands or buts about it, it has to stay up. Knowing that we can’t afford to put a new rig on Cinderella, we better make damn sure we do everything we can to keep it standing so we can manage steps 2 and 3 from above. Afterall, sailing is supposed to be fun, right??

Where do you start? Well the previous owner is probably a good place. If they weren’t to knowledgeable, maybe the owner previous to them. If that doesn’t work, try a rigger.

We did both, and oddly enough it was the rigger that was able to put us in touch with the PO who raced Cinderella all those years ago. What we found out was invaluable. We knew when the mast was installed, the specs, who did the install, when it was inspected, the age of the halyards (and that they needed replacing ASAP), the sail inventory, when to use those sails, and much much more. We are fortunate Cindy’s PO was very knowledgeable and willing to share everything he knew.

Where does that leave us? Well Cinderella still has a nasty leak around the mast, and we have a 20 year old rod rig with the life expectancy of (get this) 20 years! Now Navtec rod rigs can last up to 50 years or more if properly taken care of, but the only way to know anything is to take it apart piece by piece and have a look for ourselves.

So that’s what we did. I decided to take a week off work and we would have the mast unstepped and set up in the local boatyard where I could work away until she was ready to go back in.

We convinced some friends to come along, offering the breakfast, wine, and beer, in exchange for help and photo skills.

Before this, I have never pulled a rig before, this is where research and the PO come in handy. It turns out, Cinderella has a stock Express 34 rig built by Ballenger Spar Systems in CA and the PO knew where the balance point of the rig was, and outlined the steps of removal for us.

They looked something like this:

Prior to arriving at boatyard

1) Remove boom, vang, sails, and any appendages connected to the mast itself (leaving the halyards, you don’t want to have to fish those through later)
2) Disconnect any wiring to mast VHF cable, wind instrument cables, light cables and so on
3) Lubricate all turnbuckles and make sure they turn freely (you do not want to be stuck unseizing turnbuckles when yard fees are $100/hr)

Upon arrival at boatyard

4) Let the crane operators begin supporting the mast from its balance point (on our rig, that is just below the bottom spreaders)
5) Go around and loosen all turnbuckles completely (Cinderella’s mast is keel stepped and will stand upright without any rigging attached
6) Disconnect all standing rigging and tie of to the mast
7) Double check all running rigging is disconnected from the boat (we forgot this one)
7) Have crane operator do their thing and watch in wonder as the mast slowly lifts out of your boat.
8) Cover hole left by mast removal with something (we used a plastic bag and duck tape.

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That’s it! It really isn’t a complicated procedure, and the crane operators have done this hundreds if not thousands of times. The weirdest part is motoring your boat back to your slip without the mast in place, no more requesting bridge opening!

Follow along on the next step where we replace the halyards, take the turnbuckles apart, inspect the rod ends, and add spreader lights!