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Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lowering the mast

Today was a really good day.  Siempre Sabado, like all (or at least most) of the Westsail boats, has a deck-stepped, tabernacled mast.  This means that the mast doesn't go through the roof of the cabin all the way to the keel and the base of the mast is hinged so it can be lowered.  We thought it'd be kind of cool to lower the mast so we'd know what that procedure is all about.  And, with the mast down it seemed like it would be much easier to install mast steps (for climbing the mast), check out the instruments on the top of the mast (wind speed indicator, primarily), check all the lights and change some of the fixtures if need be, and inspect all the rigging.  Sounds like a no-brainer, huh?  Well, the other side of the coin is that the mast is very heavy and therefore, lowering it can be pretty scary.  Bud Taplin, former general manager of Westsail and general guru of all things Westsail, has a video on DVD of the mast-lowering procedure.  They filmed the job at a Westsail rendezvous at Lake Mead, NV, a few years ago.  So, armed with the knowledge imparted by the video, I screwed up my courage and decided to give it a try.  It's a cool procedure because you get to do lots of very sailor-ish stuff with rigging and blocks and line and such.

Well, I'm happy to say, the mast lowering went off without a hitch.  It was a nice slow, controlled procedure that was never really very scary.  And, we're no longer mast-lowering virgins.
With the mast down, it was really easy to attach the mast steps up to the spreaders (the cross-piece about halfway up the mast).  I could do that from the deck of the boat or out on the bowsprit.  However, the rest of the steps had to be installed from off the boat and that mast was WAY up in the air.

Although it was Saturday and the yard was closed, Steve, the owner came out in the afternoon to haul a power boat.  While talking to him I said that I wished I was 12' tall so I could reach the mast from the scaffold that you can see in the photo.  He said that he thought he might be able to help.  Next thin you know, he's towing this insanely tall scaffold deal over to our boat.  It can be moved by hand but it takes a bit of muscle and finesse.

However, this rig worked great for allowing me to get up close and personal with the upper end of the mast.  Even though we spent a good 4 hours visiting with our friends Dave & Suzanne who dropped by from Scapoose,  I was still able to install all the steps and even do some initial inspection of the rigging and lights

Tomorrow I'll finish inspecting the rigging and try to fix the wind speed indicator, which turns like crazy but doesn't seem to send a signal to the meter in the boat.  We also may be able to take advantage of having the mast down to install the components of our headsail roller-furlers.

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