How to install/snake an internal halyard?

Jun 25, 2004
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
I want to install a halyard in the mast. There's already a halyard in there, but I think it's twisted around something else in the mast. There's too much friction compare to the other halyards. So I want to pull it out and re-lead it through the mast.

Are there any professional methods for "dropping" a messanger line throught the mast without snagging it on other things inside the mast?

The mast is up right now, but we can lower it, if needed.
There is one other halyard inside the mast(which is running free), a coax cable for radio and wires for lights.
The top of the mast is a welded assembly, but there is a 3" diameter plate that can be removed.

Thanks in advance for advice from folks with experience doing this.

1992 Farrier F24 Trimaran

Edit: there’s only one other halyard internal to the mast,not two as I originally wrote. The jib halyard is internal the main halyard, for some inexplicable reason is external for most of the run.
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May 20, 2016
Catalina 36 MK1 94 Everett, WA
Kite string dropped from the shive. Fish it out at the exit plate. Have other halyards pulled tight and keep boat upright. If you pull the mast use fiberglass pull rods from harbor freight.

Jan 7, 2011
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
I have not tried it, but I have seen a bunch of small nuts tied to a messenger line to give it enough weight to drop down the mast, and still have enough “flexibility” to pull the end through a sheeve or mast exit.

I am replacing my halyard this spring, and hope to use the old one to pull it. I bought a new halyard with the shackle installed, so plan to cut the shackle off the existing halyard, butt join the new one using a few tricks to join them, and pull the new one up the mast, over the sheeve and back down the mast.

Otherwise, you may have to pull the stick.

Good luck,



Aug 18, 2015
West Marine Kayak Tampa Bay
Never done it, so take the following ideas as ideas only.

1) You could attach a messenger line to the current halyard when pulling it out. However, if the additional friction you are experiencing is due to a conflict with any of the items you listed inside the mast, then sending the new halyard through the same routing, using the messenger line, may not solve your problem.

2) If you can send someone up the mast, you can fish a fresh messenger line from wherever the halyard exits the mast by tying a whole bunch of small washers (for weight) to a small line and letting gravity be your friend. Same issue though - you won't know if you've created a conflict with any other item.

I talked to a rigger last week about adding a halyard, and one of the many things he mentioned was the spreaders. In some rigs, they are through bolted, presenting an additional challenge. Fortunately the Hunter B&R rig is not one of those rigs.

You may want to attach a messenger to the current halyard just to take it out and inspect it, in the off chance that it is something specific to the line that is the problem, rather than the route it takes. Hockles, jacket separation, etc.

Edit- I see I type slowly on my phone.
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Mar 16, 2010
Beneteau 411 Oceanis Annapolis
Cord from the masthead with weight (section of bicycle chain or threaded nuts), fish it out with a hook bent from coat hanger. Stitch the new halyard to the cord, tape and pull thru.
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Jan 22, 2008
Beneteau 323 Annapolis MD
Tighten the halyards to keep them in the center of the mast. If that plate favors one side of the mast or the other, heel the boat in that direction. Use lightweight string and attach a few nuts to it. Poke the nuts through the hole enough so they rest on the downhill side of the mast so the nuts slide down the mast under their own weight to the exit plate or block opening. Once pulled out at the bottom, , you can pull the original line up the mast, tie it to the string, and pull it down the mast.
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Jan 11, 2014
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
If the mast can be lowered easily and placed on saw horses, it will be easier to rerun the halyards and insure that the don't get tangled up inside. And you won't be swinging around in a bosun's chair 30' above the water.

An electrician's fish tape will be a real help. Thread the fish tape up the mast making sure that it goes on the correct side of any obstructions and then pull the halyard back through. You can also do that with all of the wires making certain they all run fair.
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Feb 11, 2017
J/Boat J/160 Annapolis
It is possible that you halyard is not wrapped around another halyard or a wire. I have a topping lift for my Dutchman that is probably twisted.

You can have induced twist from a combination of winch or coiling when stowing the line (instead of flacking it).

You might try pulling a messenger line out, then untwisting it.
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Jun 19, 2013
C&C 30 Elk Rapids
is there another line you can feel the halyard conflicting with? it may also be a sheave problem.

chasing with the new or messenger line is a good idea. if you still have a problem with friction, then I HAVE HAD success with a short section of bicycle chain. it worked well wrapping around the top sheave. While up there check the sheave for friction UNDER LOAD.
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Mar 20, 2014
Hunter 31 828 Shoreacres, TX
I haven’t done it, but I’ve heard of people using the chain pulls for lights and ceiling fans to feed down the mast and using a magnet to pull the chain out of the bottom. You can buy that stuff at many hardware stores by the foot and it’s pretty darn cheap.


Nov 4, 2010
Beneteau 331 Deale, MD
I'd try sewing a new halyard to the old and pulling it through first. If it pulls through and runs freely, the friction was probably excess twist or the amazing friction that old rough lines can have--and now you've got a new halyard. If it is a snag or something, you won't have lost much and you can move on to plan B. I like the idea of tightening up any other halyards first.
Oct 26, 2008
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
I think that wires and cable are best run through a conduit that is fixed inside the mast. I suppose that it is not likely that the coax cable is kinked and causing a blockage, but wiring for an anchor light and steaming light could be causing problems. If you take your mast down, I would segregate the wiring through a conduit.
Jun 10, 2017
Catalina 1980 Catalina 30 Mk II John's Pass / Tampa Bay
I went from external to internal halyards 3 years ago.

At the same time & I also added a conduit for the (clanging) wiring.
Stepping the mast, I noticed problems in how the wiring was run.
I also noticed water leakage problems from the original installation
& thus corrected this. So, it's really not just your halyards, but maybe also your
wiring & deck sealing that you need looking into. Why not look at each to avoid future problems.

Do-it-yourself is one way however, your size boat & mast length
should be stepped & all mods be done on the ground.

I also purchased a 2 halyard internal to external mast fitting & with a little
cutout, I now have internal lines without the constant clanging
when the wind blows. I did this 3 years ago & am very happy
with the results.

Remember, To always work smart & not hard. Yea, it may
cost alittle more however, you can end up with what you REALLY want.
Ask around to see what info you can find pal.

Through my experience, stepping the mast was the best way to go.
Jan 22, 2008
Montgomery 17, Venture of Newport, Mirror sailing dinghy, El Toro sailing dinghy Mound, MN -- Lake Minnetonka
An electrician's fish tape will be a real help. Thread the fish tape up the mast making sure that it goes on the correct side of any obstructions and then pull the halyard back through. You can also do that with all of the wires making certain they all run fair.
I second the electricians' fish tape suggestion. It has worked for me. You can get a cheap one at the home improvement store. It can also come in handy for other projects such as snaking wires or hoses behind bulkheads or other inaccessible places.
Aug 22, 2017
Hunter 26.5 West Palm Beach
I've had good luck blowing lines through tubes with compressed air. For the diameter of mast you are likely working with, it would probably need to be a high capacity compressor, like the kind they use for jack hammers.

If you already have a "good" halyard next to or near the one with the problem, you might try taping a piece of fishing line to the good halyard & pull it around.

Otherwise, if you have access to the top of the mast, a fishing rod, with about a 3 oz sinker on the line, might get you started. You could tie 1/8" nylon line to the fishing line & pull that through, then tie or tape your halyard to the 1/8". 50' of 1/8" line is less than $10 at Home Depot.
Sep 11, 2013
Catalina 25 6106 Lake Erie Metro Park
Oddly enough, I just went through this today. The end of the messenger line was lost somewhere inside the mast so that option wasn't available. Since the mast is down, I removed the backstay cable and used it as a "snake". It worked great. I stitched a small piece of safety wire through the end of the halyard, removed the turnbuckle from the end of the backstay and threaded it through the mast.


Mar 23, 2017
Belliure 41 Now on the Chesapeake
I'm certainly not a professional, but this past summer I rebuilt my mast and ran all new halyards. I discovered that one of the halyards originally had been twisted around another one from original installation. My mast was down so this wasn't being done with it up. When I finally figured out what was going on, that in fact the original halyards had been twisted, I took as large a washer as I could, attached it to one of the halyards and pulled the twist out to the top of the mast. Then I could undo the twist from the outside.

One thing I would caution you about is to understand how your halyards run inside your mast. On my mast, there are two through bolts, one that holds the spreaders and one higher up (can't think of what it is holding at the moment - I think standing rigging connections near the top of my mast). My main halyard goes under the first one and over the second, while the jib halyard goes over the first one then under the second. I imagine this is to help keep them from interfering with each other while being used as well as helping to quiet down halyard slap on the inside of the mast when anchored. I say this to let you know it may not be as simple inside the mast as just dropping a weighted line down from the top. It would depend upon what your mast has inside.

I did run 1 new halyard that I did not have an original for. I used a large iron nut on the end of a light line and dropped it down inside my mast. I had to weave it around the through bolts as explained above - I did that by rotating my mast and getting the heavy nut drop to first one side and then the other. When it reached the area of my mast where it was to come out, I used a magnet on the end of a line to pull the nut out of the side of he mast where the line was to exit. I can tell you it took me much more time than I thought it was going to take to get everything positioned just right....

Jun 25, 2004
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
ps, what happened to your c27 Judy?
We sold it after 14 years of ownership to our dock mate. As time went on, we found ourselves using it less and less while we used our trailable sailboat more and more. We love trailering to new locations at 60 mph, even for a two day weekend. So the new-to-us boat is a Farrier trimaran, which folds up for trailering and easily does 10+ knots on the water. It's tiny inside, but it's roomy outside, and it really covers some territory when we want to cruise for a couple of weeks. And it's a hoot to sail.

But there's something screwy going on with the jib halyard.....
Jan 11, 2014
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
But there's something screwy going on with the jib halyard.....
With the mast down, shine a bright flashlight up the inside of the, see if there is any thing obvious. Also check the halyard sheave. Often these are simple aluminum sheaves riding on a SS bolt or axle. The corrosion adds resistance. Sometimes the axle develops a flat spot that makes it difficult to turn. Either sheave won't turn easily or the halyard simply rides over a non-rotating sheave.