Mast Lowering (and raising)   

Hit Counter   Fiddler's Green's mast lowering and raising gear stows under the mattress in the quarter bunk!  This is the skippers bunk when out with the lads!  'No sense no feeling' they say!  Well it is a 4 inch thick, 'dense foam' bunk cushion!  
    Here is all the gear hauled out on deck prior to setting up. There is not a huge amount of gear and as such it stows away under my bunk quite happily.  It includes a crutch that I set up at the stern.  All this gear on board means I can raise or lower the mast anywhere, independent of shore facilities.  
    Now the parts of the frame are all together.  The two sides are each in 3 parts, only because I extended the frame to get more leverage, to 9 ft, and I wanted all the bits small enough to stow.  Some have the frame permanently on deck, as part of the guard rails.  You just have to ensure the whole thing is strong enough so it does not flex or collapse.  My first one was a straight galvanised water pipe, jointed into two bits.  It needed guy ropes to ensure it did not sway sideways, but it worked.  Trouble was that it  very strong, but heavy and left rust marks everywhere.  It was always raining I seem to recall!  The MkI Stainless pole was too thin and bent!  That's when I went to the  'A' frame design.  the pole can be lighter section so easy to handle in separate bits, but strong enough once assembled.  
    With the 6 part tackle attached and led through a single snatch block to ensure a fair lead, I can start to lower.  In my case I use the stays'l halyard to attach top of frame to mast.  I have to tension rigging forward with the tackle first, so as I can remove roller reefing topmast fore stay.  The spar is allowed to rest alongside and has to be watched to ensure it does not snag or get damaged.  
    This pic shows the extended chain plates.  The top of the plate extension is in line with the pivot bolt on the tabernacle, thus the rigging to the top of the mast stays reasonably tight, not taught, as we slack it off, but the mast does not shift sideways during the lowering.  The diagonal support goes forward to an extra, small chainplate to take the quite considerable backwards pull as the mast is in the horizontal position.  You could simply attach a wire or rope to the chain plate extension, to prevent it going back, perhaps from the pulpit.  
    Here you can see the ease with which we can stop and pose for the camera!  There is no strain on the rope at all. I have it in just one hand.  When raising I sometimes use the anchor winch on deck to get me started, Keith, the crew, will give it a slight push sometimes.  Last time I had the thing up before he realised it had left the mast crutch, not even a grunt from the foredeck!  It was a simple case of reeving the blocks in the correct fashion to ensure they do not try and twist, thus creating friction.  
    The 'A' frame can be seen clearly here, the odd shape, because I altered it to make it taller.  The cross poles locate into the frame and prevent it bending in towards the middle.  Keith gently makes sure no wires get caught up in the crutch and no rigging screws get bent!  The Roller reefing spar rests on the guard rails and the spreaders as it comes down.  
    Mast down into crutch.  Note the height of the A frame. The higher the better, but you do need to be able to get at the rope on it when it is in the vertical position.  We release the lower end of the tackle, then pivot it over backwards to release the staysail halyard, that we use for lowering.  The Frame them comes apart, bit by bit.  Lastly the rigging is lashed to mast with lots of scraps of carpet, then the whole lot moved forward till the heel is on the pulpit, the centre in the tabernacle jaws, well padded with that old carpet, and the top of mast in the crutch.  The height of the crutch was carefully adjusted to get that in line with the tabernacle and pulpit. The original was dropped into a tube welded to the stern rail, but now I have removed that and have a free standing pole, on a block of wood, lashed in place. Trouble with that is I can no longer motor the boat about with the mast down, as the tiller will not turn!  Might put a stronger  tube back on the stern rail, it was useful to be able to chug in from the mooring or around the marina, with the mast down.

Then off behind Keith's Land Rover to winter store in a nearby barn.  All the ropes and the dodgers etc will go into the washing machine at 40 degrees, and after drying will be packed away till spring, when they will look like new again!  The Stainless rigging checked for any flaws, and replaced if needed.  Did two pairs of wires last year, not bad for 12 years...


John Williams