Raising the mast


Lottie's A-frame ready to lift mast using the genoa halyard and main sheet shackled to the stemhead


Foot of the A-frame attaches to forward chainplate with cord

To raise and lower the mast we use a simple wooden A-frame made from two lengths of carcassing studding (about 3″x1.5″).  The slightly rounded bottom of each A-frame leg is secured to a forward chainplate with a bit of string.

The apex has two steel strips which bolt together and provide a fixing point for the genoa halyard and the mainsheet which provides the hauling power.

The backstay, shrouds and aft lowers are loosely attached with their bottle screws before raising the mast.


Mast crutch supports the lowered mast. When the mast is in the tabernacle ready for lifting almost half the mast extends beyond the stern - the crosstrees can be seen just forward of the crutch

This provides the mast with stability as soon as it is up. The bottle screws are loosely tied upright to the guard rails (more string) to prevent them jamming and bending as the mast goes up.

The mast is supported aft on another pair of the same timbers bolted together to create a crutch.  A 2×1″ cross piece screwed to these is long enough to lash it to the pushpit. This prevents the crutch falling over as the mast is lifted and holds it in place to receive the mast when it is lowered.  The mast lives on this crutch over the winter and in strong winds can rock enough to cause the crutch to “walk” about and step off the stern.


A crossbar on the crutch enables it to be lashed to the pushpit (click to enlarge)

The base of the crutch is also lashed to the pushpit upright.


The mast raising gear is a simple set-up but invariably – as we use it only once a year to raise the mast – we manage to forget important details which we have to learn over again.

The first of these is that the shrouds go outside the guard rails (not inside as in the picture below).

The second is that the forestay and reefing spar has to stay outside the A-frame, the apex of which ends up aft of the forestay attachment point and prevents the forestay from moving forward enough to attach it to the stemhead.   As the mast is raised the reefing drum and spar has to be negotiated between the A-frame and pulpit.


The shrouds pass outside the guard rails (not inside as shown here). We know its one or the other but always guess wrong.

A reefing spar is a bit of a nuisance during mast raising. In the top photograph the spar is conveniently suspended by a loop of rope which manages it nicely and enables it to slide forward as the mast rises.  But once the mast is vertical the spar is in the wrong position and has to be bent to clear the A-frame before it can be secured to the stemhead.  Resting the spar on the outside of the A-frame with loose ties to support it while enabling it to slide forwards would be better… but we always manage to forget this until the mast is vertical.

It is also very easy to find you have hoisted the mast up with halyards or lazyjacks the wrong side of the crosstrees.  And if the enormously long coils of backstay can foul the mast crutch, pushpit, tiller, dinghy or whatever, they will.

Raising and lowering the mast can be achieved reasonably comfortably by two people, we find, provided as least one of them is reasonably strong and fit. A third person to deal with snags as they (invariably) arise can also be very handy provided they don’t dash about and make the boat heel over if afloat.  Generally we prefer to lift and drop the mast when aground.

Over winter the mast is stowed between the crutch and the pulpit (which has a short length of 4″x2″ timber across it – visible in top picture and below) and supported in the middle by an additional crutch just aft of the tabernacle.


Mast stowed for winter with central support - click to enlarge

Before the mast can be raised, it has to be manhandled aft so that the pivot tubes sit in the tabernacle. This requires almost the whole weight of the mast to be lifted by one person aft near the crosstrees as the overhang means there is virtually no weight at the bottom end of the mast. A crutch with a roller to ease the mast aft is one of the many things on the to-do list.

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