• Mobile App For Android Now Online!

    Download it here. The app is searchable in the Google Play Store under Sailboat Owners.

    Sorry iPhone/iPad users, we are still waiting on Apple. :(

    Click the X in the upper right corner to make this go away

Stepping the mast with just muscle?

Oct 1, 2020
36
catalina 310 Coyote Point, San Mateo
Hello! We are replacing our jib fuller, adding a windex, and replacing the anchor light... To do so we will lower and raise the mast for the first time. The owners manual leads us to think this should be doable with two people. To raise (step) the mast it says:

"...Walk the mast aft and drop the mast foot into the mast step located on the top of the deck... insert pivot bolt and locking nut... one crew member should pull a line tied securely to the forestay while another pushes up on the mast and walks from the cockpit forward... attach forestay and forward lower shrouds."


Sounds fairly easy, but then all the videos we can find show gin poles, mast crutches, winches, mechanical advantage, etc... it seems these are mostly focused on solo operations, and they look slick... but we don't have any of that.

So, my question is, is it possible to just do the two person method mentioned in the owner's manual? Is there anything we should know about?

Thanks in advance.

Jay
 

Lazy1

.
Aug 23, 2019
172
Catalina 22 13425 A driveway in Pittsburgh
Attach you fore stay to the top of your main sheet and connect the bottom of the main sheet to your attachment point on the bow where the forward stay is normally attached.
Stand behind the companionway and let the main sheet go slowly while pulling the rear stay to start the fall. When you get to about 45 degrees, use the rear shrouds to keep the mast in line and lower it to your rear support being careful to not let it go too low and crack the hatch. Having something like a crutch at the stern is worth while.
I do this method alone
 
May 24, 2004
6,765
CC 30 South Florida
It is very doable. Get a ladder or fabricate a mast crutch to rest the mast by the stern of the boat. Lay out the shrouds to avoid them getting tangled up. The mast will be light at first as half of the weight will suspended at the mast step. Pick it up from the mast crouch and start raising it as you walk forward. At the beginning while you raise you will also have to hold the mast in line horizontally. When the mast reaches about 45 degrees it will become the heaviest but at that time the shrouds will have streched enough to prevent side to side movement. At this point you can hand it to a 2nd person standing on the cabin top and he can bring it all the way up and hold it very easily by just keeping keeping his weight forward while you come around a secure the forestay. The raising sequence is best performed in a single fluid motion as if it is stopped in the middle that is when the mast will want to swing to the sides. The operation can be done by a single person by walking the mast and stepping on the bench seats and climbing atop the cabin in a single but firm motion. The head sail halyard can be used to pull and tie the mast in the up position while the forestay is secured. Walking the mast from the stern of the boat gives you maximum leverage. Knew a guy who could pick them up from the top of the cabin but even he struggled some.
 
Nov 19, 2019
6
Catalina 22 Gainesville, FL
I step mine solo every time I sail. I use a mast crutch and my mainsheet attached to the forstay for safety.
 

Sailm8

.
Feb 21, 2008
1,711
Hunter 29.5 Punta Gorda
We trailered ou C22 from St Louis to the Keys several times a year. The two of us stepped the mast using one of these. Mastup Mast Stepper with 3/8" Pintles
Helped with trailering too. The biggest problem was finding a good launch ramp in the Keys. They are all too short.
 

ShawnL

.
Jul 29, 2020
53
Catalina 22 3603 Calumet Mi
My son and I can do it with just brute strength, but there are better ways. When I first got my Catalina I figured I'm in my 40's but relatively fit, and the mast doesn't weigh that much. Just muscle it up and move on. That works, and I can even do it myself. Once. Then I'm whipped.

To do it the pure muscle way, we've found after attaching all the shrouds and making sure there aren't any tangles one of us stands on the floor in the cockpit, the other on the cabin roof facing aft and straddling the mast. He lifts it as high as he can from the cockpit, I grab it between my legs and hold it while he puts a foot on each of the cockpit benches. Then he pushes again, and I lift as he shuffles forward. Once he can't reach it anymore, he runs forward and pulls on the fore stay. It really does like to move sideways as you're lifting, which is a pain. If you break it, you're not going sailing for a wile.

One thing that's cheap, and really nice is a quick mast crutch as others have said. It doesn't have to be fancy. When we do it with brute strength, it seems like we always end up fouling a shroud on a cleat or a winch and have to put it back down. Then re-adjust and try again. That's the killer.

We made a simple crutch with an 8-foot 2x4 with a small chunk of plywood screwed to the end. The plywood has a rough U shape cut in it to approximate the mast. When we use this, the 2 of us stand in the cockpit with the crutch in the cockpit with the non-U end facing the cabin. I lift the mast up, he slides the bottom of the crutch aft. Eventually the crutch is vertical butted right up against the transom, the mast is 8 feet above the floor. One person can balance it here for a long time. Now we can check for snags and tangles. Then I move back to the cabin roof and start lifting and he uses the crutch to help push the mast up as he walks forward with it. He can either slowly walk the mast forward, moving the crutch along the floor. Or what we commonly do is that he lifts the crutch and uses it as a push-pole as I lift from the cabin. Added benefit is that by the time he's standing at the cabin, the mast is 90% up and he can put the pole down and go attach the fore stay for me.

Used a 2x4 because I wanted to see if the length and mechanics would work. Now, other than maybe sanding it down nice, I see no reason to get anything different, unless I was doing it all by myself.
 

Tedd

.
Jul 25, 2013
454
Between Boats near Vancouver, BC
So, my question is, is it possible to just do the two person method mentioned in the owner's manual?
When I first got my Mac 26S I was stepping the mast by hand, by myself. It was a bit of a chore, but manageable if only doing it from time to time. Since I tow and launch regularly a made a mast raising system. But I would think that it would be quite manageable on a 22 foot boat.

My main advice would be that, in general, your biggest risk is lateral sway of the mast.
 
Sep 14, 2014
1,047
Catalina 22 Pensacola, Florida
Took my mast down at dock to work on steaming light and mount a block on spreader for flag hoist, simple a frame style crutch made it easy to drop and raise
dropping mast at dock (1).jpg
singlehanded ( I am 71 at time).
 
Jun 25, 2004
1,108
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
My main advice would be that, in general, your biggest risk is lateral sway of the mast
Yup, That’s the most common problem leading to disaster.
When the mast sways laterally off centerline, it keeps going further and further because there’s nothing stopping it. The lifting line ( jib halyard or forestay) used to lift the mast up gets out of alignment with the mast and exerts a lateral force on the mast. No mast foot is strong enough to resist, and the mast hinge is either ripped right out of the cabin top or is bent badly. You need leverage applied laterally and high enough on the mast to counter-act the lateral force from the lifting line.

If you’re quite strong, there’s absolutely no cross wind, the trailer is perfectly level, and you have done it a zillion times before, you can do it with just one or two people and muscle (and a winch or tackle). But if you don’t have a lot of experience mast raising and you don’t have a mast raising system at the ready, then you need to safeguard against everything trick that wind and gravity can play on you. People drop them all too frequently.

one thing to note is that the furler adds some weight, making it more difficult than a bare forestay. Tie the furler to the bow or middle of the foredeck with a slack line to keep it from going overboard and yanking the mast laterally.

If it’s your first time, I recommend you find a couple more friends to help you.

2 people handling lines to control sideways sway (tie 2 lines to the main halyard and hoist to the mast head)
1 person to lift the mast from horizontal while standing in the cockpit. Then get out from underneath the mast!
1 heavy person to pull forward on the Genoa halyard after it’s lifted above horizontal.
1 person on the ground to free up any shrouds, lines or stays that get caught or kinked on the way up.

Judy B
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: Flying Jay

ambler

.
Dec 7, 2013
45
catalina 22 Watauga Lake, TN
As Tedd and Judy say lateral sway is the danger. If the boat is in the water it will heel to that side adding one more element to JudyB's vivid description.

Also, keep an eye on the attachment of the turnbuckles (upper and rear lower shrouds) to the chainplates while raising the mast. They can bind and bend.
 
  • Like
Likes: Flying Jay
Sep 30, 2013
3,283
1988 Catalina 22 central Florida
"...Walk the mast aft and drop the mast foot into the mast step located on the top of the deck... insert pivot bolt and locking nut... one crew member should pull a line tied securely to the forestay while another pushes up on the mast and walks from the cockpit forward... attach forestay and forward lower shrouds."
That's how we've always done it. It's stupid easy. A twelve year old girl can handle the rope-pulling part. Just make sure your shrouds are not tangled or in a position to get caught on anything while the mast is going up. If this happens, you will probably have to lower the mast back down and start all over, which can be pretty awkward.

We do have a mast crutch. Not absolutely required, but highly recommended.
 
  • Like
Likes: Flying Jay
Sep 24, 2018
1,434
O'Day 25 Chicago
At this point you can hand it to a 2nd person standing on the cabin top and he can bring it all the way up and hold it
Trying to step to/from the cockpit/cabin top while holding a mast is really difficult. Benny's suggestion is a good one

Also, keep an eye on the attachment of the turnbuckles (upper and rear lower shrouds) to the chainplates while raising the mast. They can bind and bend.
:plus:

I stepped a mast on a Cat 22 once. I was on the ground with a broken arm and a halyard in the other. The muscle and half a brain of the operation was on the boat. We were both pretty annoyed and frustrated with one another by the end. I would recommend coordinating a plan ahead of time and having a few cold beers ready to go afterwards.

Last time I did this without an electric winch we had a crew of four. Two guys in the cockpit for muscle and lateral stability, I was pulling on the main sheet and the last was handling a safety line in case the main sheet broke. We had a 10' gin pole with an additional 2x4 (upside down T). The extra 2x4 was tied off to the stanchion bases to provide some extra lateral support. Make sure there is nothing that the stays or other lines can get caught on. We found out the hard way and had to have the mast welded at the spreader
 
  • Like
Likes: Flying Jay

Tedd

.
Jul 25, 2013
454
Between Boats near Vancouver, BC
Last time I did this without an electric winch we had a crew of four.
At first I couldn't imagine how it could be that difficult. I can walk up the mast on my Mac 26 by myself. But then I realized that you probably had to attach all the stays after the mast was up, right?
 
Sep 24, 2018
1,434
O'Day 25 Chicago
This was on my O'day 25. There's no way I could walk it up by myself without mechanical leverage. We had all of the stays loosely attached except for the forestay. There was four of us at the harbor that day. I've done this solo with the electric winch on my trailer. Four guys wasn't necessary for a 60lb mast but I sure didn't refuse the extra hands!
 
Last edited: