Tim Spofford's "Inochi" P19 #611: Alternative Mast Raising System

Old NWP Website's picture

Sailboat Type: 

  • P18/19

Update (11-30-2002): I replaced the wooden dowel, which didn't feel particularly secure, with my boat hook. I can temporarily remove the red platric thimble that covers the pokey end of the boat hook and replace it with the bimini external eye (see below). Afterwards, I can easily and quickly restore the boat hook to its normal configuration. See pictures below. Note that although the uncovered end of the boat hook is threaded, the inside of the external eye is not; rather, it uses a set screw to hold it in place.

(I still haven't got a picture of it in use, since the same circumstances that required me to come up with this device in the first place mean I don't have anybody handy to snap a picture while I use it. One of these days one of my kids will be home long enough to do it for me.)

From time to time over the past few years I've written about my frustration with trying to raise and especially to lower the mast on Inochi, my P19, by myself. (It's not a problem with my 15, which I can handle effortlessly with feet planted on the cabin top.) The worst of the problem is the difficulty I encounter in holding the mast in relative equilibrium during the lowering process, as it passes 50 degrees or so around the same time I have to move aft and, usually, down in to the cockpit. I've lost it once, remarkably doing no damage to my boat or to the boats and cars parked alongside, but with considerable damage to my nerves and my confidence. Always, it's touch and go and is enough of a problem that it occasionally has kept me from sailing if I didn't have crew and couldn't count on finding someone on the dock to lend a hand.

Many of the solutions that have been offered by others turned out not really to be "singlehanded," in that they relied on having another person to handle the forestay, halyard, or other line to stabilize the mast during raising and lowering. There also have been testimonials from people who apparently do in fact manage to do it by themselves. I can only assume they're more nimble than I. (The problem I have is not so much one of strength as it is of balance and flexibility. It also can put great strains on one's back muscles. Mine, at 57, are largely undamaged. I'd like to keep them that way for as long as possible.) One local skipper went to considerable trouble to give me the unused factory mast raising system from her boat, for which I continue to be very grateful. This helped but has all the usual problems that people seem to find with the factory system.

Last week I conceived of and just tested a different and very simple system, constructed of parts I already had for another project that didn't work out. It worked flawlessly.

Here are the parts needed:

1 bimini top external eye end (West Marine 420770, 2002 Catalog p. 788 item A)
1 bimini horizontal deck hinge (West Marine 397069, 2002 Catalog p. 788 item C) 
1 wooden dowel of the same size, whatever length you can find (mine is 54") (NB. Not recommended. Version 2 uses my boathook. See above and below.)
1 Davis round slide Track Stop (West Marine 108332, 2002 Catalog p. 1018, bottom right)

Total cost: $15-20. I used 3/4" bimini parts because that's what I already had. If I were to do it from scratch, I'd use 7/8". The parts are all available at chandleries other than West; I just happen to have a West catalog available as I write this.

To assemble, affix the external eye end to the end of the dowel. Place the tab of the eye end in the hinge and secure it with the bolt supplied with the hinge. Affix the track stop to one of the holes in the deck hinge, with the round barrel on the flat side of the hinge, away from the dowel. (I haven't decided whether the top or the bottom hole in the deck hinge is preferable; probably it makes no difference.)

To use, simply put the track stop in the mast track, slide it to a suitable height on the mast (this will depend on a number of factors including your height and the length of the dowel but for me 6 1/2 to 7 feet seems about right), and tighten its thumb screw. The dowel hangs loosely from its pivot (see below) and gives me, in essence, a secure four and a half foot extension for my arms, with which I can easily lift or drop the mast through the troublesome middle part of its arc, without having to move my feet from the deck of the cockpit.

I still use the jib halyard, running forward from the mast around a bow cleat and back to a cleat on the cabin top to hold the mast in place while I secure or release the forestay, but the mast is vertical and stationary at this point. I don't use the halyard at all during the transition, relying completely on my new device.

My one concern is the dowel breaking and impaling my sorry assed singlehanded self against the floor of the cockpit. Sometime this winter I'm going to see if I can find a way to attach the working end to my boathook instead, without losing its effectiveness.

Kirkland Washington 
WWP19 #611 "Inochi" 
WWP15 #2170 "Grundoon" 

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Version 2.0:

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



Factory Mast Raising System

Sanibel Dave's picture
Hi ... My guess is that you do not employ the "baby stay" system required to tame the factory mast raising set-up. The reason that I guess this is because I use it and have no issues with taking the mast up a way, stopping at about 20 to 30-degrees, dogging it off on the halyard cleat. With the mast stopped and suspended off the crutch, I move to the cockpit with the limp line in hand. From the cockpit, I yard on the line to continue the smooth lift on up to vertical.. Once the mast is up, I again dog it off in the cam-cleat and walk forward to pin the forestay. If my wife is there to do it, all the better. I have a jack on my backstay, which I finally tighten and lock. Then, I remove the baby stays that I have "pinned" with carabiners on the open, deck top, U-chain plates and pull the bolt-pin through the mast that was holiding the top ends of the baby stays. It is steady and simple. My only suggestion is to not do this unhooked from your tow vehicle ... It gets rather comical, if you do, as you step into the cockpit. Yep, I did that in my driveway ... once! If Nancy had been sitting on the trailer tongue, it may have avoided some matrimonial levity. We have the same rigging as the Potter on our Sanibel, so I know it works. Hope this helps. Dave