It All Hinges On Raising The Mast

Last August I purchased a 19 foot O’day Daysailer that is in fundamentally good shape but needed a few replacement parts and some attention paid to several old ones.  I had hopes of getting out on the water this spring but the vicissitudes of life get in the way whether you even know what a vicissitude is or not. One thing I do know is that it is not smart to trust your life and that of loved ones to the whim of the wind and waves before you are prepared.

The boat came with a plywood creation that in it’s better days was not worthy of being called a rudder. More on that at a later time. Life has opened up some small segments of sort of free time. It being an actual sailboat will require me to sew some patches on the sails and reattach the jib sheet turning block tracks to the wooden coamings. First I will talk about how I intentionally sawed my mast in two pieces.

This boat has a 24 foot 7 inches long aluminum mast that needs to be hoisted to a vertical position and dropped into a hole on the cabin top then lowered onto a rotating screw jack mast step. This is not a huge problem for healthy young men who are eager to run around the buoys in a desperate bid for low speed excitement. Sixty will soon tick off on the calendar of my life. There has been some wear and tear on both my body and my attitude. Enough so that I don’t want to screw up my back or drop anything in a way that adds more repairs to an already strained to do list. The problem is solved with a simple fitting that hinges the mast at a point just above deck level.

The job is not difficult although it gives one pause to contemplate sawing through a mast. It is the central structural element of the boats aerodynamic power plant, the large bone to which her feathers are attached.  It compares to an airplane’s wing which is formed of ribs and skin wrapped around a main “spar.” A sailor or pilot likes these elements to be strong and enduring. It has often been said that a dismasting at sea can ruin your whole day.

The tools needed are a hacksaw, drill, file, tap and a screwdriver.  I obtained the actual hinged mast fitting from D&R Marine who handles most anything you need to replace on various models of O’day sailboats. It came with the proper stainless steel screws and directions. Anyone finding themselves with a similar task may do well to remember the following points. Be sure to make your cut as square as possible. You will actually be making two cuts as you are removing a section of the mast about two inches wide so that the finished length of the mast doesn’t change. if it’s been a long time since you used a tap to thread a hole by hand this section is handy for practice.

Once the mast sections have been cut clean up the burrs made by the saw blade with some sandpaper or emery cloth. The fittings that slip into the mast are aluminum castings which will probably be a bit too large to just slide into place. Chuck them in a vise and use a flat file to remove just enough aluminum to provide a close fit. the fitting has removable pins fore and aft so that it is easy to separate the upper and lower halves for inserting in the mast extrusion.

If you are working with a different make and model of boat there will be some differences in the design so just use good judgement. think the process through and don’t ignore any printed directions that come with the parts.  When the job was done I was able to raise my mast solo although I am still planning to work out an A-frame and tackle system to make it even easier and to keep the mast better aligned as it is erected. Before it reaches the vertical where the stays can effectively limit sideways movement a crosswind can prove troublesome.

I am including a video to show the basics of what I did. I hope it provides encouragement for anyone needing to make similar modifications to their rig. In a future post I will do the same for my new rudder build.


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