Mast Raised


Saturday morning was a cold rain. By mid-afternoon a serious cold front was moving through, and with it winds gusting to 30+. Not a great day for trying to raise the rig for the first time. So I ripped out the ’90s jacuzzi tub from the master bath, instead. Done and done.

Note ever present supervisor. 



Could it be another goldfish pond?


By late afternoon Sunday, the opportunity finally arrived to play with the boat again. There will definitely be some tuning to do, but the mast got raised and the boom hung in place. Still too windy to raise the sails, but progress!

Wow. This is a very tall mast.

No, really. It’s crazy tall.

Insanely tall.

You don’t realize how tall 25 feet is until you try to lift it and move it around.








The good news, though, is with a good tabernacle already added by a previous owner, it’s not too hard to raise single-handed. I can pin the base first and attach the lower shrouds. Then, by running a line through the jib tack and up to the turnbuckle at the end of the forestay, I can walk the mast up on a shoulder until the temporary line can take over the lifting, then just pull the mast the rest of the way up with the line. The temporary line and the lower shrouds hold the mast in place until I walk forward and move the forestay to the stemhead. Nice. Then it’s just a matter of attaching the upper shrouds and the backstay. Next time I’ll try using the Jib halyard. Not exactly as easy as poking in the stick on a Melonseed, but hey, I’ll take it.


Tabernacle base. 



Stepped mast in tabernacle, with boom vang attached. 




View from the front, with the halyards still lashed for moving. 


This mast has a lot of wires. Double shrouds, jumper shrouds, forestay, backstay, halyards. I may replace some or all of it with dyneema, Amsteel Blue. That could reduce the weight aloft by as much as ten pounds, starting with the backstay and halyards. The current stainless wire rope is all fairly new, and in very good shape, but holy cow, really? It’s a tangled spiderweb of stainless steel cables. For a wooden mast there’s an awful lot of stainless steel in play. From what I understand, the wooden masts aren’t strung piano wire taught like the aluminum masts, so synthetic should work fine. I’ll probably use it as is for now, just replacing the backstay initially, because that’s a piece that needs to be easily adjustable.

There’s a 600′ spool of the synthetic rope on the way. I’m grateful what’s here is in such good working order. Makes the boat eminently usable now, so replacement can happen when and if I choose. And it’s very expensive stuff, both the fittings and fitting out. 

For now, the 25′ mast is propped on sawhorses on the front porch. There’s soft spot that needs investigating.




Mast on sawhorses, almost the whole length of the front porch.






2 Replies to “Mast Raised”

  1. Jumper stays are such a headache. A few years back, you may remember I restored an old Thistle, which I’d hoped to use for gunkholing, but with it’s tall mast and huge sail area, it was no boat for single-handing in more than five knots of wind. I considered re-rigging it with a shorter, simpler mast and keeping the old one in storage.
    Does your sail have reef points? You know racers don’t do reefs, just add more beef.

  2. Hey Doryman.

    The Thistle is even “worse” than a Lightning – shorter, lighter, rounder, and with even more sail area. Makes the Lightning seem sensible, so thanks!

    At some point they dispensed with the Jumper Stays. Perhaps when they switched from wood to aluminum masts. I don’t know if those are required for support on the wooden masts, but will have to assume so for now.

    The old original sail plan spec’d reef points (in fact I think they were mandatory). The oldest set I have, perhaps original to the boat, does have them; but just one set of points, and shallow ones at that. I may get another newer used set like them. If so, those too will only have one shallow reef point.

    None of the newer current sails are set up for reefing, just racing. My understanding – all theory for me at this point, but this is what I’m told – is they use a lot of different controls to tune the rig for increasing wind conditions and limiting boat heel, like so:

    1. Move all human meat ballast to rail. If that’s not enough, go to step 2.
    2. Move all meat ballast farther out on the rail. If that’s not enough, go to step 3.
    3. Tighten backstay, which flattens the draft of the sail.
    4. Lower the boom further outboard away from the centerline to depower base.
    5. Open slot in Jib
    6. Loosen vang to induce twist and dump wind from top of sail.
    7. If that’s not enough, drop sails and wait for someone to tow you home.

    But then, these racing fleets only go out in a fairly narrow band of sailing conditions, for safety reasons. I’ve been out in worse in my little Melonseeds each of the past two years. Not by choice, mind you, only by necessity.

    The reefing schedule for the old style sails is more suited for cruising and more tolerant of extremes:

    8. Drop Jib and raise centerboard some to rebalance boat.
    9. Tie the one reef in main, then adjust centerboard again until balance is regained.

    This reduces the total sail area by about 50%, but reduces the power by about 85%. I’m assured this is enough, but I would feel better with a second set of deeper reef points for multi-day cruising.

    I’ll have a better feel for all that once I have a chance to try some of it. It’s possible with just a single reefed main, and the centerboard raised and sailing on the hard chine, that would suffice for all but the most extreme conditions, at which point you might drop the sail altogether. I do know of one person who, in dire straits, has a jib re-configured with slides to raise in place of the main as a storm trysail. Personally, if I had to do that . . .

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