Pulling my Stick!

Seriously.. I know why you clicked.. You sick bastards, I’m not talking about that!

Pulling your stick is sailboat slang for removing your mast. This is not something sailboats do often as its costly, dangerous and difficult.

Before I owned a sailboat, I never gave any thought to masts or how they work. Turns out they are highly complex pieces of engineering with components that actually wear out. I can hear you saying “Bullshit, its just a chunk of aluminum sticking up from your boat”. Not true, a mast is essentially a bridge turned vertically and without an other side. All the same forces (and more) that would need to be calculated for a bridge, are required on a mast. However a mast is a little different as it experiences “cyclic” loads. This essentially means we can’t predict the load as the wind goes up and down. However, this “jerking” load puts more wear on the components than on something like a bridge.

So it was time to pull Party of Five’s mast as it was 13 years old and had crossed the Atlantic 3 times. The most concerning part was the broken wires on some of the stays (dismasting is the second most scary thing on a sailboat, other than fire).

So I contacted the yard manager and asked him to book a crane to take the mast down. He shook his head and said “Damn, the wind is supposed to kick up, we should do it today. All my boys are busy though, I will let you know.”. I was wise to this game, “I will let you know”, means when the crane shows up, you will know! So I stuck close to the boat and waited till the day.

I heard the diesel rumbling down the causeway 2 days later. The time had arrived, they were ready. Initially, the crane rolled up with 2 other staff. One staff conversed with me as it was my responsibility to remove all the connections (called stays). While the other staff was pulled up by the crane to secure a line below my spreaders (part of the mast that keeps the stays at the right angles). I had worked with these guys before and we worked well together. While they were completing the preparations, I was running around disconnecting my turnbuckles (they tension my stays). In just 20 min, we had my 5 story mast hanging by a rope completely disconnected from the boat. Unfortunately that was the easy part.

You see, Robbies boat yard is completely packed.. Like boats still hanging in the slings (the machine that lifts them out) kinda full. There wasn’t anywhere to put a 5 story mast (remember it also has 10 foot spreaders, so its 10 foot wide). They decided the spot beside my boat would work. It was exactly 54 feet long and 10.5 ft wide. Seriously, we were going to wrestle a 600 pound 53ft mast into a space with 6 inches of extra space…. In 25knot winds. At this point, the staff decided we needed more hands.. Including me, there were 5 people in total to get that monster put to bed. I’m happy to report that no one lost a toe, no new dents in the boat and the mast is in one piece.

Now comes the crazy part.. I need to replace all the stays (the highly engineered wires that hold the mast aloft). You would think it just an easy job of measuring some wire. Nope, not even close. Every wire has a different termination at each end. There are toggles, toggle forks, turnbuckles, sta-lock fittings, right hand thread, left hand threads, ect.. In total there are 14 pieces of wire I need to measure
and detail the correct connections on each end. That 42 different details I could get wrong (length, upper termination, loser termination times 14 pieces).

The worst part, any mistake not only costs $600-$800, but will delay the erection of my mast (quite picturing an erection)!

Wish me luck.

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