Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mast Raising System

One of the biggest drawbacks to trailer sailing is the fact that the mast must be raised and lowered every time you sail.  On our previous sailboats the mast was relatively easy to manually raise with one or two people.  The Com-Pac 23 has a bit heavier mast which can be muscled up by a two or three people, but it isn't something you really want to be involved in. 

So, I decided to see what other sailors with similarly sized sailboats were using to assist them in raising their masts.  There are some factory supplied systems and even one or two aftermarket units that I found while searching the web.  A good friend of mine had a Hunter 22 and he had devised a version of the gin pole system.  After watching him install the gin pole, raise the mast and remove the gin pole I felt it was too much work.  I hadn't found any good descriptions or videos of a permanently mounted post system (although I have read about others building such a system) so I took what I liked of several systems and used some spare metal , used line, a few hardware pieces and a cheap winch to make my own version.

I had a couple of guidelines in my head of what the system should be like.  First it should be CHEAP!,  Second it should be simple to attach and operate. Third it should not require much time to use.  Fourth it should support the mast from side to side during its entire travel from horizontal to vertical.

Cheap - about $20 worth of simple hardware including a steel pulley and $25 for a winch
Simplicity - well I can operate it which proves it is simple
Time of use - the bridles take about 2-3 minutes to attach and the permanently attached post saves time
Support - the bridles maintain the plane of the mast even if you stop at any time during the raising/lowering

How to use;

Attach the two bridles using some kind of quick snap shackles and attach the main halyard to them.
Tension the main halyard and cleat it off.
Connect the mast winch line to the jib halyard with connectors or a simple easily removed knot.
Make sure all running and standing rigging is clear and ready to allow for the mast to rise.
Tension the mast winch to take the stretch out of the jib halyard.
I stand at the stern rail and assist the mast in its first couple of feet of rise to take some strain off the lines.
The second person starts winding up the winch as I walk along to keep an eye on things.
If any rigging is twisted or snagged, just stop cranking the winch and reverse it a couple of turns to ease it.
You can stop at any point in the raising to correct any issues.
Once the mast is vertical the winch will hold tension while the front stay is attached.
Release the winch pressure and disconnect the jib halyard and the main halyard.
Unclip the bridles and toss them in the lazarette.

Note:  In the video (our first time using the system) we found that we should have covered the roller furler drum with a towel or padded bag to keep it from scratching the topsides.

Re-attach the jib halyard.
Clip on the bridles and connect the main halyard.
Tension the main halyard.
Put some tension on the mast winch.
Remove the front stay clip.
Run the winch in reverse and slowly lower the mast.
Again I like to assist the mast the last couple of feet of drop to reduce the strain on the lines.
Unhook the jib halyard.
Leave the bridle hooked up and leave the main halyard attached as well.  Then it is ready for the next raising.

Com-Pac 23 Mast Raising Video

I'd like to make sure that I have properly stated that I didn't invent this system.  All I have done is take the parts of other similar systems and make my own version of it.


  1. When raising or lowering do you have sidestays and shrouds connected?

    1. We loosen the back stay several turns to give us the slack we need to unhook the forestay. We then loosen and disconnect only the shrouds closest to the bow. Everything as stays in the original position. The simple bridle does a great job of keeping the mast on plane as you raise and lower it. One full season of using this system and we love it.