Copyright 2017 - Woods Designs, Foss Quay, Millbrook, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL10 1EN, UK
  • home built Flica 37

  • plywood Romany 34

  • lightweight 14ft Zeta mainhull

  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran

This photo sequence shows the safe, reliable way one person can lower or raise a mast. It will work like this on boats up to about 10m long with 12m (40ft) long masts. However I have lowered much bigger masts this way with extra help.

Everything is very controlled and you can stop at any time to take pictures or have a beer. The load increases the more horizontal the mast is, so it gets easier as you raise it and more stressed/stressful as it lowers.

This shows the general view just prior to lowering. The boom is being used as a lever.

The photo below shows the simple "gooseneck" I made that goes on the front of the mast. You can also see the simple pivoting mast step

The genoa halyard is attached to the end of the boom and will be used as the "stay" when lowering. There is less load on the system if the "stay" is not at the masthead, so the genoa is a convenient halyard to use. The mainsheet takeoff below the boom is used to attach the winching rope (sorry, slightly hidden behind the furling drum). The rope goes to a (silver) block on the netting beam, or, in this case, on the bowsprit

You can do this as a single purchase, or use  a couple of blocks to reduce the winching loads. But be careful that you don't run out of rope, go "block to block" or foul things as the blocks move

If you now tension the winching rope you will be able to release the forestay. However before doing that you want to fit the two temporary "guy ropes". These are absolutely essential for a safe system as they stop the mast falling sideways as the real shrouds slacken. So they must be fitted as wide as practical and, essentially, their bottom take-off point must line up with the mast foot pivot bolt, both vertically and fore/aft.

I find U bolts in the deck convenient. Normally they are used for barber haulers. In this case the "guy ropes" are the masthead shrouds. If you don't have them you'll need to use halyards or fit temporary ropes from the diamond spreader roots. They should be tight (black lanyards)

You now also need to fit two more guys (white rope below). These go from the forward end of the boom to this same U bolt, one each side and stop the boom falling sideways as it goes up. See later photos.

This shows one of the advantages of the deeper mast beam. With a lower beam you have to fit the U bolts on the inner cabin sides to get them to line up properly. That's OK but the support angle is less. On some designs, like the Strike 18 for example, the mast step is the highest point so you need (removable) extra long chain plates. See the Strike 18 updates page for a photo

Once the mast is safely "stayed" you can remove the forestay and tie it out of the way - but keep an eye on it as you lower the mast

All is now ready to lower, obviously you don't need to winch as gravity does the work. But you may find you need to push the mast to get it to start moving backwards. Then slowly ease out the winching rope, remembering that the load will increase as you lower it.

Cleat it off at any time

Almost down, in these pictures, above and below, you can also see the "guy ropes" from the boom end (now the top) that also go to the deck U bolts. These stop the boom (now really a "mast") from falling sideways. You can also see you don't even need the complete cockpit floor to work safely. And you can do it when afloat as I did

Note: you can use exactly the same system and lower the mast forwards. Clearly you then fit the boom on its normal gooseneck. However I prefer lowering this way as otherwise what do you do with the forestay - especially if you have a jib furling spar that doesn't like being bent

This method works on large boats as well! This Nimbus has to take its mast down every time it goes to sea as it is moored the wrong side of a low fixed bridge. In 25 years the boat has sailed over 50,000 miles so mast lowering is commonplace!