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I need to saw off a mast - need some advices

Discussion in 'Ask All Sailors' started by RobertFisher, Feb 3, 2019. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. RobertFisher


    Joined Feb 3, 2019
    7 posts, 2 likes
    Ericson 26
    Wings US Alameda, CA
    Hi, I have a sailboat that is half sunk. I need to pull it through some floating docks to get to the bank to dismantle it. The mast is getting in the way, so I am thinking to saw that off first.

    Can anyone advise:

    1. What are masts typically made off? It looks like aluminum to me, but I am not 100% sure.
    2. Is there a type of saw and sawblade to use for this task?

    Any other advice is appreciated.


    All U Get likes this.
  2. DayDreamer41


    Joined Oct 29, 2016
    1,292 posts, 640 likes
    Hunter 41 DS
    Un Port Huron
    Cut the cable which support the mast and it just may fall down on its own, unless of course it is keel stepped, which would be apparent as the mast will penetrate the deck and protrude all the way to the bottom of the boat.

    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
  3. Charlie Jones s/v Tehani

    Charlie Jones s/v Tehani

    Joined Mar 1, 2012
    1,699 posts, 654 likes
    1961 Rhodes Meridian 25
    us Texas coast
    never seen a sailboat that had other than an aluminum or wooden mast

    jon hansen likes this.
  4. RobertFisher


    Joined Feb 3, 2019
    7 posts, 2 likes
    Ericson 26
    Wings US Alameda, CA
    I am able to dig up a photo of the boat in its more glorious days. Seems the mast goes all the way through to the floor?

    I will examine it more closely to see the structure. If I end up having to saw it off, any particular type of saw is needed for this sawing?


  5. BlowMeAway


    Joined Nov 30, 2015
    1,105 posts, 595 likes
    Hunter 1978 H30 Cherubini
    US Cayuga Lake, Ithaca
    I’m not a mast sawing expert, but I would think a cordless reciprocating saw might be your best bet on an aluminum mast. I wouldn’t use a 110v corded saw due to the potential inherent issues in a wet area. What’s the back story on your predicament? Welcome to the forum!

  6. dlochner


    Joined Jan 11, 2014
    3,438 posts, 1,579 likes
    Sabre 362
    113 US Fair Haven, NY
    That looks to be a deck stepped mast. The section below deck is a compression post. You can tell because the most section is a different shape.

    The mast is aluminum.

    Before cutting it off, try removing the shrouds and lifting it off. You may have to cut the halyards or cut the shrouds. The shrouds will be stainless steel. The mast probably weighs about 30-50 lbs so it should be easy to manage.

    If you have to cut it, try a cordless angle grinder with a metal cutting disc. Other options would be a reciprocating saw or saber saw with metal cutting blades.

  7. Simon Sexton

    Simon Sexton

    Joined Nov 1, 2017
    547 posts, 250 likes
    Catalina 25 Tall Rig
    Valiant US Watergate Marina, Kemah, TX
    Sorry about your circumstances, @RobertFisher ...I would personally get rid of the standing rigging first, just like everyone else has previously suggested. When it comes to removing the mast, I personally wouldn't just saw it off with a hand saw (you'll be at it forever and probably at risk of injury). If you have access to a rotary metal saw, I would definitely use that. A fuel-powered one would work best, but seeing as those are hard to find, some hardware stores rent out portable battery chargers with outlets so an electric saw with an extension cord can be used. This process takes a lot of tactical thinking and preparation; if those electronics get wet...well, ya know what happens. The project isn't worth your life; if you don't feel comfortable doing the work yourself, I'm sure there are plenty of services that can help!

  8. justsomeguy


    Joined Feb 20, 2011
    6,884 posts, 1,174 likes
    Island Packet 35
    US Tucson, AZ/San Carlos, MX
    But have a couple of friends there just in case it does get unmanageable, okay?

  9. RobertFisher


    Joined Feb 3, 2019
    7 posts, 2 likes
    Ericson 26
    Wings US Alameda, CA
    The boat has been sitting at my dock for 10 plus years. Since I work overseas all this time, it's just been sitting there. Then, one day I got a call from family saying the boat sunk. I still have not been able to figure out what happened to the boat and how it took in water - could there suddenly be a hole in the hull? I know nothing could've slammed into it because it sat in a rather protected spot. I guess I can only know if I bring the boat up and again put it in water. But I don't think I'm gonna bother. Just gonna bring it to shore and chop it up.

  10. cb32863


    Joined Jun 29, 2010
    951 posts, 179 likes
    Beneteau First 235
    US Lake Minnetonka, MN
    Hose on a through hull probably let go. As others have said, recipricating saw with a demo or metal cutting blade. I know you don't have much free time but, if you could disconnect the rigging and with some help pull the mast out, it would at least be salvageable. There may be some things that are still salvageable on the boat.

  11. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    8,748 posts, 3,746 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Boats can be neutral buoyant in the water. You might be able to get some air bags. Attach to boat or stuff in the cabin and inflate to get the boat to the surface. I would first try to unattached the rigging from the mast this May allow the mast to come free and be lifted off the boat. Next step would be to cut any lines and cables with a cable cutter that are holding the mast on to the boat. Last resort would be to cut the mast. Battery powered saws-all would do it with a metal blade. Mast is aluminum. Like a hot knife they butter.

  12. Tom J

    Tom J

    Joined Sep 30, 2008
    1,365 posts, 264 likes
    Catalina 310
    US Quincy, MA
    It looks like from your avatar that the boat is sitting at an angle in the water. Normally, you would pull the clevis pins from the bottom end of each shroud and stay, and then remove the mast. In your case, you will have to cut the shrouds and stays with a bolt cutter or very heavy duty cable cutter. The mast should then be free to remove or it can be cut as described previously.

  13. Rick Webb

    Rick Webb

    Joined Jun 2, 2004
    2,808 posts, 176 likes
    Hunter 23.5
    US Fort Walton Yacht Club, Florida
    For what you're doing any cordless saw will do. I use a circular saw on aluminum all the time. Don't use an expensive blade though. If you don't have one finding someone who does and enticing them with a burger and beer should not be difficult.

  14. Ron20324


    Joined Jan 22, 2008
    6,785 posts, 833 likes
    Beneteau 323
    US Annapolis MD

  15. dlochner


    Joined Jan 11, 2014
    3,438 posts, 1,579 likes
    Sabre 362
    113 US Fair Haven, NY

  16. All U Get

    All U Get

    Joined Oct 2, 2008
    2,868 posts, 526 likes
    Pearson/ 530
    US Strafford, NH
    Chainsaw, bolt cutters, and a big hammer, I’d be done in 30 minutes and loading the PU truck.

  17. Davidasailor26


    Joined May 17, 2004
    1,615 posts, 387 likes
    Beneteau Oceanis 37 LE
    US Havre de Grace
    One consideration will be the order in which you do things. If you try to cut the mast with the rigging still attached you may find that the mast is still under tremendous compression. Now, I've never tried this myself, but I'd imagine that compression might bind the saw blade, or it might make the mast move very quickly and very unsafely once it is cut through.

    In contrast, if you cut the rigging first then the mast will be unsupported and will fall, potentially quite quickly and potentially in a direction you don't want. Just things to be conscious of as you make your plans .

    Last edited: Feb 3, 2019
    NYSail likes this.
  18. MikeHoncho


    Joined Dec 28, 2015
    233 posts, 96 likes
    Laser, Hunter H30 Standard
    Un Tacoma
    Taking the time to unload the standing rigging or cut with bolt cutters while the mast is still in place would be easier than trying to do it with the mast cut off and moving all around. My first pick for a saw would be a cordless recip saw with a hand full of fine tooth blades, second would be a hacksaw with a bunch of blades also but I wouldn't cut it because once you remove the standing rigging (which you would have to do anyway) the mast will just fall off.

  19. Charlie Jones s/v Tehani

    Charlie Jones s/v Tehani

    Joined Mar 1, 2012
    1,699 posts, 654 likes
    1961 Rhodes Meridian 25
    us Texas coast
    My first choice would be to un fasten the head stay, lower the mast aft, unhook the shroud and back stay, then carry the mast ashore and advertise it for sale- it's worth a few hundred

    jrussnogle, DrJudyB and jssailem like this.
  20. RobertFisher


    Joined Feb 3, 2019
    7 posts, 2 likes
    Ericson 26
    Wings US Alameda, CA
    The tip of the mast is now resting just above the deck of the other boat. So I can easily reach the fastenings and remove most all the rigging. I would do that first.

    I don't think the mast will come off just with the rigging removed, because I tested the tension just now and they are not very tight (the port side rigging is already missing); so it looks like I have to cut it. At very low tide this evening (-0.5) the base of the mast is still about 1/2 foot below water. I will first try to lift the boat a few inches higher, then just cut as close to water as I can safely do so.

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