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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Putting Up My Mast - What to and Not to Do!

"We couldn't hold it any longer as we could feel the heaviness of the mast getting the better of us - and fast! We let it down as best as we could and thankfully Victor was able to lower it with the rope and pulley so it didn't crash. If it hadn't been for the pulley rope it probably would have come down with a bang! As it was, it came down at a 45 degree angle to the bow and the top end of it was sitting on another boat owners dock box."

Today, I knew I was going to try and raise my new mast. But I only had myself to do the lifting and that mast is 29 feet of heaviness! I mean, It took my friend Danny and I just to lift it from my car to my boat - but to raise it, would be far more difficult. I suddenly thought of my friend Victor who might want to help me and so I called him. Before I knew it, Victor had called his best friend Sean, and now there were three of us! With a little leverage, the three of us might be able to haul the mast up. Once down at the marina, I got to the task of attaching all the shrouds - except the back stay. The 'new' mast had once been attached to a full keel, Columbia 25. That Columbia 25 had looked very similar to a Catalina 25 - with a flat deck and all. Because my deck was not flat and there was a foot higher cabin top to it, I figured I needed to add a foot more to the shroud rigging. The last time I raised my mast, the starboard lower shroud had been too tight and as the mast was being raised, it snapped the shroud as if it wasn't even there! So I thought that giving the shrouds some extra 'breathing room' was a good idea at the time. Also, my mast was four feet bigger than my old 25 foot mast. After having talked to a boat builder, he told me that a mast could be x1.3 the length of my boat. So if my boat was 22 feet than it can be 22 feet + (1/3) of that - which is about seven additional feet. So adding 7 feet to 22 equals 29 and that is the exact size of the mast. Thank you God for helping me get just the right size - for at that time I hadn't a clue! So now my mast will be maximizing the size limit.

Before raising the mast, I secured the bottom of the mast with heavy rope so that it wouldn't slip and so that it would stay near the mast step. We also needed to raise the boom and secure it on all sides with rope. We would then use the boom for leverage. Passing a long halyard through it from the top of the mast and securing it with a knot at the booms end, we then continued to pull the rope from there and secure it from the boom to the stern. Then taking another halyard from the top of the mast down through an pad eye on the booms end (this time without a knot at the top of the boom) led it to the pulley at the stern of the boat (this halyard we would use to pull the mast up). After this we were then ready. Sean and I would lift the mast up from the mast top end, while Victor - at the other bottom of the mast end - would haul the rope attached to the pulley and make sure the mast went in at the step.The first time we lifted the mast, we got it up a little but it wouldn't go any further and we wondered why. I then realized I had attached a rope to the mast securing it to the bow and had to take that off. Then we got the mast up three quarters of the way and again it wouldn't go any further. This time we realized the back stay was snagged on something and it wasn't free and clear of the port spreaders. So I took it off and unwrapped it and attached it better and then we tried again. I lifted and then Sean went in front of me and lifted and then I went in front of Sean and lifted. Again we got it fairly high (and the boom gave us a lot of leverage) but when the mast got up three quarters, the port and starboard shrouds were not tight enough and the mast began to sway. We couldn't hold it any longer as we could feel the heaviness of the mast getting the better of us - and fast! We let it down as best as we could and thankfully Victor was able to lower it with the rope and pulley so it didn't crash. If it hadn't been for the pulley rope it probably would have come down with a bang! As it was, it came down at a 45 degree angle to the bow and the top end of it was sitting on another boat owners dock box. We then thought that the boom leverage was causing us to fail, so we took it down. Unfortunately without the leverage it provided, the mast seemed to double in weight! And later we realized it wasn't the boom that was causing the problem - it was the extra foot I had added onto the shrouds (they were way to loose). My estimation to add that extra foot to the shrouds seemed to make sense in theory but in real life it somehow was wrong.

So now the mast (instead of lying straight across the bow) was now lying at a weird angle across the bow. It seemed we were creating enough of a sensation that my friend Sergio came out of his boat to help too. Still we could not bring it all the way up! Sean, Sergio and I lifted again but we were getting tired and only got it up a little ways. My friend Brian, who owns a boat near where we were lifting, came out and decided to help pull the halyard attached to the pulley so that Victor would be free to lift too. One would have thought that with the four of us it would be a piece of cake. But without the boom to create leverage, it was very heavy and we failed again.

Altogether, we had let down the mast slowly on the halyard three or four times now. My other friend Augustino came out to give us some advice. He wanted me to give it up, paint the mast while it was still down and lift the mast up with the big crane that is at the dock. But I disagreed and said no, as I wasn't willing to give up quite yet, and besides, I didn't have a $100 to afford the crane either. The negativity was beginning to get the better of us, but we gave the mast one more go, with the six of us. This time a miracle - we got it up! Once it was up, we all held the mast in place at the mast step, trying to get it to fit in the step. It was a very tight fit, so we kept having to move it around until it finally dropped in. At this time we also realized that the shrouds were too loose and I quickly tried to get the slack out of the shrouds but it was really hard as I had to use pliers and I was under a lot of pressure to get it done fast. After getting the shrouds tightened a little, Sergio pulled the back stay tight and tied it down so that the mast was now secure. It had been very stressful for all of us holding the mast up and when we were finally able to let it go without the mast potentially falling, we could all take a deep breath again! We were at last victorious and my friends at the dock departed back to their boats.

My friend Victor, Sean and myself who had come down to get the mast up, now went to a restaurant to get something to eat. After they got some coffee and I some hot chocolate with our meal, Sean and I could barely sit down we were so sore! My whole body ached. The hot drink was nice and I was thankful. We all agreed - we had come an inch from giving up. So that's the story from beginning to end. The only thing I haven't mentioned is how I was able to secure a mast for only $200! That was a feat in itself as new masts are probably more like $2000. My lowest price before finding that really good deal was $500. But asking around at the dock yard where they pull the boats out of the water, gave me a nice lead to a man who buys old boats and cuts them up to sell the parts. But for the amazing price, I had one more cost - that of time. I had to wait a month or so before it was convenient for the man to come down to Marina Del Rey and deliver the mast.

So in the end, I believe it pays to have faith in yourself that you can achieve more than you think you can, to have faith in God and step out believing He will help you connect all the 'dots' you can't see yet. To watch and see without our biases if God is helping you or warning you, to be positive because negativity will drown your aspirations even before you begin, and to be persistent because without it you will never accomplish hard things.

~By Albie
PS: Thanks for all your comments!

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My new Mast!

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