LIFT OUT and MAST DOWN
VERY VERY Early on a Saturday Morning I set
off with new-built trailer in tow. Built on JW’s design (Loosely) it had 2
axle beams and plenty of lights. – As the Traffic cops say, “If it looks
right it probably is and no-one knows the rules and regs for boat trailers
(Click to enlarge)
I had planned this like a military operation – lots of blood and very
little else – and as with all things to do with boats whatever you want to
happen; that will be the last thing to occur.
Once arrived at the moorings (07.30) oooooh
bloody cold hours I set-to on the boat whilst she was still sitting dry to
get her ready.
After removing the fiddly split pins I slackened off the standing rigging
to prepare for bringing the mast down.
I had never taken the mast down before; this is for two reasons – firstly,
it had only gone up once with me being the new owner of this Eventide 24
and, secondly, even then I bottled out and used the crane; but I wanted to
try out the A-pole device that the previous owner had promised was as easy
Along with getting things ready and several cups of tea with others,
wondering how long the crane driver would be, I now noticed that the tide
has sneaked in really quickly and she was almost afloat. This is not fair
– all summer whenever I wanted to sail and had to wait for water it had
dawdled in at the last minute, usually late (on the tide tables) and
didn’t hang around long. This day I was afloat a good hour before I had
expected and so decided to leave bringing down the mast until the boat
stopped bobbing about on the ebb.
Where I was lifting out, with the rest of the boats, it needed 6m of tide
so as soon as there was enough water I motored her round to the bank side
to await the crane with no risk of missing the tide, which was funny as it
had still not arrived.
Once tied up to an increasing raft of boats (eventually 20) and unable to
go anywhere, I then found out that the crane driver had called with some
weary excuse that the sprocket-flange- whatsit-gizmo had broken and the
crane wouldn’t go. The consensus was he had had a heavy Friday night and
forgotten our lift-out day. I think it was his call an hour after he was
supposed to have arrived, which forced this reasoning. After much wailing
and discussion he agreed to get a crane to us the following morning.
Now came the big choice – tell my wife the plans for
Sunday had been slightly altered to fiddling around with the boat all day
or get the mast down. No contest - the mast was less daunting.
With the water having run away to play in the English Channel again I had
a steady base.
OTTEAU – Eventide 24
For those that haven’t seen my device it is a
straight bit of wood 2” square by 8ft long with an eye bolt at one end and
holes to bolt it to the top mast tabernacle bolt at the other.
The top of the mast is secured to the eyebolt end and then a six/one block
purchase arrangement from the eyebolt to the stem head.
The theory is that the A-pole gives the leverage to lift/lower the mast.
Now I wasn’t so sure as it takes two strong men
to lift the mast and I’ve never used multiple blocks before. Luckily, I
was ably assisted by my friend at the club, George, who has a 30ft Cornish
Crabber with a big thick mast that he says he’s put up and down dozens of
I left the main shrouds loosely attached to stop any sideways swaying of
the mast. The other stays had been undone with the forestays replaced by
both mast halyards (mainsail and foresail) using two for extra-added
One tip I might add is that once you have reeved the two triple blocks it
is advisable to tie one end to the becket of one of the blocks. I didn’t
and when I called to “lower away” (sounds nautical enough - I thought) the
rope fell out of the blocks and poor old George was leant over the A pole
holding the mast up. The first clue was that he wasn’t straining anything
holding the mast up.
Along with shouts of “Hang on George” and “I’m rethreading it I’m
rethreading it” I re-reeved (say that after a few pints) the blocks and
tied off to give George a rest from his laughing.
I forget to point out that trying to remember how to reeve to triple
blocks without a diagram is inestimably assisted by a watching gallery
shouting “In that one and then pull it, Oh No I meant the next one, I
think it goes the other way, I wouldn’t do it like that”, and such like.
By this point all fear had gone, as I knew that
gravity would win and I probably wanted a new mast anyway. But no, wonders
never cease, as soon as I began lowering it was clear that the three turns
around the Genoa winch and the feet braced against the cabin bulkhead were
unnecessary. In fact my ten year old could have handled the line. Without
an inch of swaying the mast came slowly down in one graceful slow lowering
straight into the home built crutch on the transom. I was genuinely
surprised how easy it was (and relieved). Even the chap next to me with a
Colvic motor-sailer said “I’m going to get me one of those poles” and went
back to smoking his pipe and looking at the seagulls. It was all he said
The rest of the afternoon was quietly spent with sorting the mast, crutch
and all the bits of string and wire ready for trailering the next day –
and a good few cups of tea with everyone else.
Sunday started bright and clear and then greater shock - a crane turned up
Being No.4 to be lifted out helped in the master plan to get strapped down
and away early enough to drive home and still do something in the house to
avoid “Sailors Wife’s Glare” – a condition I have suffered a few times
since buying my boat.
I thought my boat weight about 1.8 to 2 tons but the
crane driver had some fiendish device which said it weighed 2.6 tons –
this was with me on it so I suppose I was only a bit out.
However, once the boat was lowered onto the trailer in its
scientifically-calculated, carefully-measured-during-construction, axle
load and balance designed position it was obvious this wouldn’t work. It
was the fact that the front two tyres were almost squashed flat and the
whole contraption was bending that gave it away. What I needed to do was
quickly lift the boat again and move it backwards about 18” and I’d be
away in no time.
About an hour and three-quarters later I managed to get the crane back to
my boat and moved it backwards. The four tyres were now only partially
squashed so having strapped her on to the trailer and checked nothing I
needed could fall off it was off to the A27 and A3.
The tow home was uneventful and a gentle 40mph did the trick.
I even got her parked before dusk but decided to head out with a mate
rather than explain the vagaries of crane drivers and axle-loading to my
Now I’m adding a third axle to the trailer with the boat up on wooden
blocks and then in the Spring it’s the next
challenge – taking a trailer to Essex.
See you on the Blackwater (hopefully).