Macwester Malin ketch mast-stepping

July 31, 2015

Macwester Malin masts down

One of this blog’s readers [Peter] asked for information on how we stepped our Macwester Malin’s masts, and so I thought that I would dedicate a post to that subject. As usual, please be advised that I’m not an expert and if you’re trying this at home you need to carry out your own due diligence and safety checks.

The shot above shows the goal; both masts down and the three points that we used to support the masts. You can also see the main boom on the foredeck.

Mast wooden support

The first task I performed was to make the wooden supports. As I wanted to keep the cockpit tent up, there was quite a lot of measuring to ensure that the masts would clear the canvas below. I made two crosses, one for either side of the cockpit and some flat wood across the pulpit at the bow. The green circle above shows where I inserted a heavy bolt, and the remaining four orange circles show where I attached rope to keep the supports upright. Note the bottom edge of the wooden support in the shot above fits underneath the grab-rails.

securing the supports

In the shot above, you can see that the rope is knotted on both sides of each of the four holes to help prevent the supports from falling over. Obviously, the closer the knots are to the holes the better, and the tighter you can make the rope the better. Note that we removed our booms leaving the sails attached. We stored the main boom on the starboard foredeck as you can see above, and the mizzen boom was kept inside the main cabin.

Before you start make sure you have some WD40, suitable tools, and heavy gloves. Additionally, if your rigging tension is well tuned then it might be worth marking the rigging threads with a dab of paint so that you can tighten them back to the same point. I don’t have any photos of the masts actually stepping as I was using every conceivable part of my body that might have been otherwise free to take a photograph. However the process went something like this…

We loosened off the rigging without removing the bottle screws, then we started with the mizzen mast. There are two bolts on our Malin’s mizzen tabernacle that needed to be removed. We loosened them and then the crane took the weight. We removed the rigging and the two aforementioned bolts and tied the rigging to the mast. With the exception of the stay that runs between the main and the mizzen mast – that was left to dangle freely.

Mizzen stay

We then carefully lowered the mizzen keeping a close eye on the wire stay that runs between the main mast and the mizzen mast. Once the mizzen was down, I was able to detach the wire stay from the mizzen [see shackle in shot above]. We then took the mizzen off the boat and parked it safely on the ground nearby.

Similarly we removed the bottle screws and the bolts from the main tabernacle once the crane had taken the weight. After strapping the rigging to the mast we slowly lowered the mast and man-handled it on to all three supports. The time taken to work out the measurements for the supports paid off, as the mast was pretty straight and didn’t foul the cockpit tent. Then we lifted the mizzen mast back on to the support leaving it on top of the main mast. Finally, we tied the whole lot down and checked that the supports were upright and stable.

Sail wheel

In the course of a couple of days the mast was taken down, put back up, and then taken down again. We had help on all three occasions, yet it was still a worrying time. However, having gone through the process, the crew and I decided that we would attempt getting the masts back up for the final time on our own (with the exception of the crane team). That too was stressful, but we managed it and therefore next time it won’t be quite as daunting.

The shot above shows one of the sail wheels that I installed while the masts were down.

Leaving River Carron

Prior to putting our masts back up, we had to get back under the M9 motorway and down to the sea lock. We didn’t rush putting the masts back up, and the Scottish Canal staff were both helpful and patient with us. That was a big plus, as it gave us time to double-check everything as we proceeded. So if you’re unsure of the process, try to arrange a slot that gives you plenty of time to think.

Dalgety Bay, Port Edgar, and East Coast Sailing Festival coming soon!


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