Blue View - 10 Steps to Prep a Mast for Unstepping

 All hooked up and ready to unstep

All hooked up and ready to unstep

Nine of Cups is being winterized and stored for a month or two prior to her big road trip to California. The Atlantic Yacht Basin, where she is currently residing, has several huge sheds for storing boats. These sheds are home to dozens of motor vessels, some of which could use Cups as a dinghy. As big as these sheds are, however, they aren't tall enough to accommodate a sailboat's mast. Since we have to remove her mast prior to shipping Cups to California anyway, we thought it would be a good idea to unstep her mast now, allowing us to store Cups inside one of the sheds and keep her protected from the elements until her move. Cups seemed to like the idea. Not only would she stay warm and out of the snow, she was looking forward to hobnobbing with all those really fine yachts.

We've only unstepped her mast once before – in New Zealand - when we refurbished it and re-did all the wiring. This hardly makes me an expert on the subject, but, as you probably know, that teeny little problem has rarely stopped me from pontificating on a topic. Taking into account this vast knowledge on the subject, here are the things I did to prep the mast for unstepping, and to make the process as smooth and efficient as possible. I welcome input from those of you who have far more experience on the subject.

 Notice the well padded hook

Notice the well padded hook

  1. Pick a good yard. We've watched the AYB staff step and unstep dozens of masts while we were here. They have their own dedicated crane and on-staff riggers, and the professional crew seems to not only know what they are doing, but to care about their work.

  2. Remove and stow all the sails. This seems pretty obvious, but we have watched several owners pay riggers' fees to have their sails removed.

  3. Make a trip to the masthead and remove any fragile gear, like the wind instrument transducers and antennas.

  4. Remove all the cotter pins from the rigging turnbuckles

  5. Loosen all the turnbuckles a few turns to make sure none are seized.

  6. We have a cutter rig with a furler on the baby stay. We disconnected the stay and removed the furler. If you have a cutter rig with a boom on the baby stay, remove and stow the boom, then loosen the stay.

  7. Disconnect the wiring from the base of the mast. Hopefully, most of the wires and cables have connectors. On Cups, there were two wires that I was forced to cut and which will be reconnected using crimp terminals when she is recommissioned in California.

  8. If the mast is keel stepped, remove any fixtures or floorboards around the base of the mast. Cups had a couple of sole sections and a section of wood in the bilge that needed to be removed.

  9. Remove the mast boot. Cups has a decorative covering over a molded, elastomeric boot. I removed the decorative part a few days ahead, then cut away the elastomeric boot the morning of our scheduled work.

  10. Loosen the mast chocks.

 Guiding the base of the mast up and out

Guiding the base of the mast up and out

 Cups seems so much more roomy now

Cups seems so much more roomy now

Our day went smoothly and efficiently. It took just under two hours from the time the rigger started attaching the hook to the mast until it was lying safely on the padded saw horses. The only hitch was that it started raining just as the mast was being pulled out. We had a small plastic bin handy to cover the large hole in the deck as soon as the mast was clear.

 Keeping the rain out

Keeping the rain out

As we speak, Cups is safely ensconced in one of the boat sheds alongside several large, elegant power yachts, no doubt regaling her new companions with tales of her far flung adventures