Removing a keel stepped mast


P1010626 (960x1280)As mentioned previously, we try to keep the stick side of the boat UP and the pointy side FORWARD, with the former being much more important than the latter. The stick is held up by its own strength and the wires connecting it to the boat. In our boat, the mast goes through the top deck down into the living space and then underneath the floorboards where it connects to a heavy duty piece of metal which is connected to the hull of our boat. It is connected to the hull at the front of our keel (the square-ish bit underwater in the middle of our boat).
This is pretty cool when you think about it because the power of the wind is connected not just to the top half of our boat, but all the way underwater to the bottom of our boat through a strong but slightly bendy aluminum mast.

Friends of mine who are swing dancers, think this one through. Interesting, huh?

Here we are at the bottom of the mast with the floor boards removed and the absolute disgustingness we found underneath when we pulled the mast.

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Also important to note is that there are wires and ropes inside the mast. The ropes are to raise various sails and the wires are for things like the light at the top of the mast that we light when we are at anchor, an antenna for our VHF radio and instruments that measure the strength and direction of the wind. Those wires have to be disconnected at the bottom of the mast before you pull the mast out (or you will be sad).

One wire that we wanted to disconnect outside was the wire for our radar. Our radar is about half way up the mast so we climbed up the mast (mostly cams, a few nuts*) and disconnected the wire. Then, again so we wouldn’t be sad later, we tied a small “tag” line to the wires and pulled the wire out of the mast with the rope inside tied on both ends so we can pull the wire back through the mast when we need to plug it back in.

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Pre mast removal prep work:
  • Remove floor boards and ceiling panel near mast inside boat.
  • Tape two yoga mats to wall to protect it from damage.
  • Remove all electrical wires.
  • Remove all sails.
  • Remove wind instrument at top of mast to prevent damage.
  • Tie all halyards to the mast at the deck using cleats.
  • Mark all turnbuckles above and below with electrical tape for guides when re-attaching.
  • Remove SSB antenna from backstay.
  • Remove any mastboot covers.
  • Spray some WD-40 at the base of the mast.
  • Just before removing mast – loosen all turnbuckles, put bolts in where the pins are and hand tighten turnbuckles. This makes removing the rigging easier and prevents losing expensive parts overboard in the chaos.
  • When removing mast, mark the wooden shims at the deck with numbers and mark those numbers on the mast where each shim should go.
How did it go? I was incredibly nervous. Other than a cosmetic scratch on the mast, in the end everything went very well. We removed the mast with the help of a bunch of experienced people and a crane at our sailing association (HI DANA!).

At one point, the boat moved, the mast went at a slight angle and Carol put his fingers between the mast and the bulkhead to “save the bulkhead” (bad Carol!). Hearing his cry of pain, I promptly lost my shit. Once that was sorted, and the boat moved into correct position again (it only takes a few inches when you need exact alignment) I was able to go back to breathing.

It is fascinating after owning a boat for 4 years to learn so much more about how really important parts of it go together. To see our mast step and the inside of our mast is very cool. Carol has spent a few days pulling all of the rigging off of the mast so we can take it to our rigger which is quite a chunk of cost savings for us considering most riggers in our area charge in the ballpark of $80/hour.


  1. Hi Livia & Carol, It was amazing how many volunteers came to help when they heard of the free pizza. We'll stress-test Carol's hand again when we repeat the process and reinstall the mast.

  2. I like "(or you will be sad)"


  3. Just curious, what work are you doing that required you to pull the mast? Also, are your wires captured inside the mast in some way to keep them from banging? If so how was it done?


  4. @Mic - It is more of a question of what aren't we doing. New standing rigging, about 3/4 new running rigging and the addition of a removable inner solent stay.

    The wires are contained in two conduits in the mast which are essentially PVC pipe with a slice cut into one side and then slid onto t-bar fittings that are part of the mast. Ours had slid down a bit we noticed after pulling the mast pinching the wires slightly and so we will push them back up with a long piece of wood and then add a rivet to keep them from sliding down.



Click on the dollar and buy Livia and Carol a cold frosty one:


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