This shot looks out to Saginaw Bay from the interior harbor. The two buildings that remain today are the Huron Yacht Club on the left and the Bay Post Fish Company dock on the far right. Can you name any others?
Image from the State of Michigan archives
It was a bittersweet decision. We had to bring our sailboat home. Our plans for next year did not include the stress of putting our sailboat in only to use it a few times. We thought that we would put our Catalina 27 on our lot next to the cottage. This would save the cost of the boat yard and she would be more protected from the blistering winds of the harbor. The one problem was the mast. Since we bought her we have never lowered the mast. There are plenty of YouTube videos on single handedly un-stepping a mast from a trailerable sailboat. However I struggled finding reference material on the process for larger boats. Specifically a step by step guide that one could use as reference to lowering a mast. It just doesn’t exist. Hopefully you will find this a useful bit of information for your own boat. This assumes that you’re using a crane or a gin-pole and have at least one or two helpers.
Tools: Needle nose plyers, screwdriver, bungee cords, large zip ties and three foot pieces of line to lash the mast in place.
Deck prep – Measure and cut 2x4s for platforms for the bow pulpit (~24 inches) and across the stern pulpit. (~72 inches) Some larger sailboats have extensive cowling supports to hold their 500 lb. mast. The Catalina 27 standard rig mast tops off at about 300 lb. with all the attached rigging and lines so you have the option of using this method just has the trailerable Catalina 22’s can do. Mounting to the bow and stern pulpits so that the mast just rides above the cabin in all the clearance you need. You can rap the board in a towel if you don’t want to maar a painted mast.
Remove the boom including the gooseneck slide – With all the sails removed unshackle the topping lift and detach the boom gooseneck fitting from the mast. You may be tempted to leave the slide in place but go ahead and remove it and reattached to the end of the gooseneck. This will ensure that your hardware doesn’t get misplaced. Once removed you can secure the boom on the deck or move it down into the cabin.
Secure jib halyard, topping lift and main halyard to mast – If all your lines run back to the cockpit remove each line separately from any blocks and secure to the lowest mast cleat you have or clip each to a line that is run around the mast and is jammed into a low cleat or winch. Dress any tails of the three lines or wrap them up with zip ties.
Loosen turnbuckles and power lines – Loosen shroud turnbuckles and remove cotter pins but do not remove the clevis pins from the chain plate until the mast is secured with a lift line. Detach the power lines for the mast lights, VHF and Wind vane.
Secure lift line – If you’re using a crane or gin pole, wrap the lift line around your mast. Raise the line until the loop is tucked just under the spreaders. Be sure not to get wrapped up around the bow light. Once the line is under the spreaders tighten enough to remove any slack.
The uplifting moment of truth – Once the lift line is snug and secure around your mast loosen and gently remove the forestay or your furling drum. At the same time remove the backstay and all the shrouds. Walk all the rigging to the mast and bungee the mess around the mast. If you have a roller furling set it aside so it won’t get damaged or pinched. Remove the two bolts from the base of the mast. One everything is in place one person needs to ”hug” and guide the mast up and off the plate. Once off about an inch stop and ensure all the power lines are detached. Ours had a plug that was inside the mast that had to be separated.
Walk it back – Gently walk the bottom of the mast to your stern and place on the 2×4 you mounted on the pulpit. Make double sure that your roller furling system does not get pinched or twisted in the rigging. Make sure the spreaders don’t hit the top of cabin hatch.
Dress it up – Use zip ties to secure the rigging about every two feet along the mast. Make sure nothing is hanging off the sides or drooping into the cockpit. Lash the mast to the 2×4’s if you’re going to trailer or move the boat to its cradle.
While there are many ways to lower a mast, this offers those who have never had to drop theirs some insight of what to expect. It you have your own hints or special tips please comment. We appreciate your insight.
While it seems that all the festivities of Cheeseburger in Caseville are happening up on Main Street there is an entire crowd of Parrot Heads in the harbor. Caseville is blessed with several marinas and all of them shift into high gear during the festival. Many of the marinas coordinate with decorations and festivities. If you’re strolling around in the harbor keep these courtesies in mind: 1) For many folks their boat is their cottage, they live on it during season. 2) Do not walk aboard uninvited. 3) Docks are unstable dangerous places, even the seasoned sailor has fallen in. Have fun but use care. If you have a slip in the harbor, you’re in for a treat. If you’re lucky to have a buddy with a boat, do not arrive empty-handed.