Bill Blohm's "Dream Catcher" (P19): Mast Raising System

Old NWP Website's picture

Sailboat Type: 

  • P18/19

This page illustrates my home-made mast raising system for Dream Catcher, my West Wight Potter 19. She is a 1988 model and so has the older, heavier mast.

Please note that this system is home-made, it works for me, and I accept the risks inherent in it. This description of my system and how I use it are provided simply to show you an idea of one way to set up to raise and lower your mast by yourself. If you build yourself a system like this, you are accepting all risks inherent in that system, including any damage that might occur to your boat, yourself, or others and their possessions from the use of it. This is not meant to dissuade you from using this system if you wish. It is merely to point out that if you construct a similar system based on this article, you are assuming all risks and liabilities from the use of the system you build.

I built this based on various conversations that took place on the West Wight Potter list. The end result is a system that allows me to raise and lower the mast in 15 minutes or less (after practice) by myself with no help from anyone else. No modifications are made to the mast or boat. The forces are light enough that a small child could pull the mast up if someone else were to steady it along the way. Some people seeing this will state that the addition of "baby-stays" or more properly "baby-shrouds" would eliminate the need for steadying. That is true, but it would add extra time to hook them in. It is possible to seize some connection points to existing shrouds and snap a baby-shroud to the mast and this connection point. I do not see the need for this, though, although others may not care for my method of steadying and pulling the lines, described below.

The only modifications made were to the trailer by the addition of a pipe to the winch upright. Except for the 100 feet of 1/4" line and the pole itself, everything else I scrounged from what I had at home. Total cost of materials for me was $32 for the pipe and $2.50 for the 100 feet of braided line (pre-cut discard at a farm store). A list of materials is provided here:

  • 100 feet 1/4" braided line
  • double pulley with becket
  • double pulley
  • C-link (like a carabiner, but with screw-shut, shaped like a chain link)
  • 2 eye bolts with washers, lock washers, and nuts
  • snap link, similar to the C-link but with a flat spring-steel closure
  • 11 foot pole
  • 2 foot long 3 inch inside diameter pipe to hold pole
  • 2 1/2" bolt to replace one of the bolts attaching the winch to the upright

The first thing to do is install the pipe to the trailer upright. The pipe obviously has to match with the pole you wind up using. I'll describe the pole next. I obtained the pole first then located the pipe to match the size of the pole. Once I had that matched, I drilled two holes in one side of the pipe to match the two bolts that hold the winch platform on the upright on the trailer. I used the upper existing bolt in fastening this pipe, but I replaced the lower bolt with a 2 1/2" long bolt. This allows me to have something in there that the pole rests on, rather than just falling through the pipe to rest on the tongue. That provides me with 1 1/2' support for the pole and puts 9 1/2 feet of the pole up in the air. The two bolts at the top aren't necessary. They were already there in the pipe when I hacksawed it off a plate it was welded to.

 

In looking for the pole, I was attempting to obtain a square aluminum pole 11 feet long. I wanted a pole made of a certain temper, I think my brother-in-law suggested 6066-16 or some such but I don't remember. I was unable to find that, but did find a 1 1/2" square pole of 1/8" thickness. Since I was having so much trouble, I took that. It was not as stiff as what I was looking for, but it didn't bend when I held one end and had someone stand on the middle of it. In the end, this pole turned out to be a little weak and bent, but this is easily remedied with a stay from the top of the pole, attached at the other side of the block. This stay hooks onto the trailer tongue as far forward as possible and is tightened prior to raising the mast. This has solved my pole bending problem but is not shown in any of these pictures, being added after the pictures were taken.

 

The pole is assembled as follows: an eye bolt is installed 1 1/2" from one end of the pole. I used a 1/4" eyebolt, 2" long. As it turns out, this gave me sufficient extra length on the back to attach a flange for the stay. To this eyebolt I attached the double block with becket, using the C-link. I installed the pole in the pipe, made sure it was all the way down, and then drew a line on the pole. I wrapped electrical tape around the pole with the bottom edge of the tape at that line. This gives me a quick visual guide as to whether I have that pipe seated all the way down or not. The upper bolt holding the pipe in place intrudes just enough into the pipe to make this a necessity.

 

I then installed the other block and the line. Putting the pole back in the pipe, I pulled this free block down to where I wanted it to hook onto the pole when not in use.I marked that point and installed the second eye bolt. To this I clipped the smap link. When I store the pole, I clip the free block to this link, pull the line snug, then tie the line to the pole using a clove hitch and doubled line. Then I coil up the rest of the line and lash it to the pole as well. This is visible in some of the pictures.

With the assembled pole in the pipe, I pull the free block to the mast. I clip the jib sheet to the block and pull the sheet until about 2/3 the distance from base of mast to the sheave where the jib sheet enters the mast. I fasten the jib sheet and won't touch that again until I'm done and need to release it to get the block back down to where I can unhook it.

 

I quickly tie off the bitter end of the line through the blocks. This is a simple wrap around the mast and cinch it. All that it is to do is to keep the line from falling off the boat while I perform the next step.

I check my stays, shrouds, and all other lines to make sure that they are free and will not catch on anything while raising the mast. I've found the layout that works best for me and takes into account my handrails, stern ladder, and guide boards on the trailer. While it's easy enough to lower the mast back down to clear a snag, or to tie off the line somewhere while you do so, it's a pain and besides it looks un-shipshape if you have to do this so make sure all your lines are clear. I lay the forestay on the cabin top so that when I get the mast up, it's there, ready to hand.

It takes a few pulls before the mast will rise. Now comes the part where people will probably point out that baby-shrouds would be useful. All I say in return is that there's little pull or strain on me as I do this, so it's no big deal to me to do it this way. With one hand on the mast to keep it centered, I use the other hand to pull the line. I pull that line past me, transfer the line to my mouth, grip it with my mouth, move my hand up the line, and repeat until the mast is practically vertical. At that pint, it's very easy to push the mast the rest of the way vertical and hold it in place. There are two possible steps here, depending on your courage. You can tie off the line to the mast to hold the mast up, or you can drop the line and grab the forestay. Pull the forestay forward and attach, clip it homw, and you're done raising the mast. I release the jib sheet and allow the weight of the block to pull it down to where I can grab it. I unhook the block, clip the jib to the mast, then clip the block to the pole. I wrap some of the line around the pole to secure things, then toss the rest of the line into the back of the truck. From here on, it's launch as usual. Since the pole is on the trailer, there's nothing to unhook from the boat other than the block from the jib sheet. I just roll up the rear window snug enough that it's not easy to pull the line out of the truck. I could, if I were worried about someone stealing the line or pole, simply pull the pole out of the pipe and put that in the truck as well. I think it'd fit in my Blazer, but might not in smaller vehicles. In that case, a bicycle lock should take care of things.

 

Lowering the mast is the reverse. Hook the block to the jib sheet, pull the jib sheet 2/3 the way up and fasten off. Pull the mast system line so that there is some tension on the system, or at least no slack, and tie off around the mast. Disconnect the forestay and bring it back by the mast so it won't snag on anything. Here, I have a trick from belaying in rock climbing. I face aft so I can see the mast crutch and run the line from the pole over my right hip, across my front, and hold it in my left hand with the hand against my left thigh, where the hand would rest if the arm was just hanging there. I ease my left grip on the line and push against the mast with my right hand. It will seem like nothing's happening, even though you can feel the line slowly going through your hand. Eventually the mast will get out of horizontal. Use your right hand to control side sway, and to guide it into the mast crutch. If anything happens that you need to stop the mast lowering, just tighten your left hand on the line and pull your hand behind you. The rope across your front gives you added control although from the pull on the line I don't think it's really necessary. Added safety, just in case I need it. There's never much pull on the line so you can easily lower the mast as slowly as you want. Once it's in the crutch, you can let the line run free. At this piont, I just toss the line over the side and proceed to disconnect the block from the jib sheet. I hook the block to the pole, free the jib sheet and secure it as usual, then proceed to prepare everything to trailer home. Last thing I do is pull the line on the pole snug, tie off the line as described earlier for storage, and bungee the pole against the mast for trailering. Lowering the mast takes no longer than raising it.

Also a picture of my favorite crew-member. :-)

As I mentioned earlier, I added a stay from the top of the pole to the trailer tongue. This has prevented any further bending of the pole. In talking to a mechanical engineer at work, he suggested a slight bend in the pole away from the boat might be a good idea so I simply turned the pole around, straightened it out, and shifted the eyebolts to the other side of the pole. So far, it's worked excellently with no further bending.

A final word. As I state at the start of this article, this system is home-made, it works for me, and I accept the risks inherent in it. This description of my system and how I use it are provided simply to show you an idea of one way to set up to raise and lower your mast by yourself. If you build yourself a system like this, you are accepting all risks inherent in that system, including any damage that might occur to your boat, yourself, or others and their possessions from the use of it. This is not meant to dissuade you from using this system if you wish. It is merely to point out that if you construct a similar system based on this article, you are assuming all risks and liabilities from the use of the system you build.

(This content was imported from the old 2003 NW Potters website.)