Raise and Lower Your Mast – While on the Water
In my last post, I indicated that this post would be about making warm, aromatic bread in a microwave pressure cooker. I lied. I will get to that post next, promise.
I mentioned a radical new mast lowering system in my first post back in January though, and mentioned it again in an ongoing thread about cruising around the Great Lakes that Ron started on a Rhodies' discussion forum (that's what card-carrying owners of Rhodes 22 sailboats call ourselves). The new system allows single-handed sailors to raise or lower sizable masts while on the water, even if the water isn't entirely smooth. The work can be done from the cockpit (for the most part), and leaves the mast centered in the mast crutches – there is no need to shift it forward or aft before securing it.
Trouble is, I sort of indicated I'd get a video up this week showing the system in action, so now I've gotta put up or shut up – so please be patient with a little delay before I finally unveil that loaf of bread.
And… just so you're not expecting a professionally produced video, know that this is an unscripted and unrehearsed demonstration of the mast lowering system – using Legos as the prototype medium. And now that I've set the bar so low that no one could possibly crawl under it – without further ado…
Some things I didn't throw into the video commentary:
- The geometry of the system actually lifts the mast slightly, and would allow a mast to clear a step of several inches. It won't do any good for keel stepped masts, however.
- As shown in the video, you can pause while raising or lowering the mast, whether to pass under a bridge and put the mast back up again immediately, or to disconnect / reconnect wiring between the mast and the boat.
- This should work well with larger masts, as the lower quarter of the mast counterbalances the next quarter of the mast (up to the half way point), and the halyard from the bow to the mast head helps support the top half of the mast. I'm working with the Rhodes' in-mast furling system, and anticipate no problems with its weight, particularly given that the mainsheet has a 3:1 purchase on the line attached to the mast. Note that you'll have to tie the lower end of the mainsheet to something other than the traveler on the Rhodes – the backstays probably won't provide adequate support while slack. I intend to move the traveler overhead to the front of a rigid bimini.
- There is no need to loosen the rear lower stays or the backstays on the Rhodes. The shrouds will need to have a little slack in them, and the forward lowers will need a bit more slack in them (possibly disconnected entirely). The jib or genoa furler will need to be disconnected entirely before lowering the mast.
- The system will be able to support the mast while upright if you're motoring under reasonable conditions. If you'd like to put up a sail however, you need to reconnect and re-tension the headstay, the forward lowers, and the shrouds. You should reconnect and re-tension the rigging if you'll be in rough weather though (even if you only intend to motor) as the upper end of the mast could whip around unsupported – and a bent or broken mast could ruin your whole day.
- I know… the mast is too far forward in the model; work with me here though, eh? The prototype was designed with Crayons and fabricated with Legos!
I'll add another post in a week or two about design and construction considerations. Life beckons and time is short, so that's it for now. Your comments – good or bad – would be appreciated. They may make for a better Lego Mast System 2.0!
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