SJ23 Tech Tip F18, (UPDATE 2022-10-16) Bob Schimmel


Step the Mast With an A-Frame.
Poles, Foot Hinge, Apex Hinge, Pull with B&T / Trailer Winch / Electric Winch, Hinge Pin, Temporary Shrouds,
Transom Post,  Mast Stepping Procedure, SJ Rigging Parts.

Stepping a heavy mast on a sail boat can be an awkward job.  An SJ23 mast weighs about 150 pounds, plus furling gear and whatever wind force there is.  It is difficult to source a replacement mast and expensive to ship across the country, not to mention paying for what it hit!  I wouldn't want to be under it when things let go.  For these reasons it is important to control the mast when stepping it. 

In a trucker's world an A-frame secured to the back of a flat deck truck is usually called a "gin pole" and is used to easily lift a heavy object on or off the deck or manoeuvre it across the yard.  It is a very convenient tool to "lift & walk" a heavy object for a short distance.  An A-frame mounted on the end of a work barge is a very robust yet simple crane.  You don't see this type of A-frame much anymore because it is quicker to rotate a hydraulic knuckle crane mounted in the middle of the barge than rotate the whole barge.  As late as the mid 1900s sail driven canal boats in the Netherlands were equipped with an A-frame as a permanent deck fixture to raise or lower the mast so the boat could slide under a fixed bridge.  The boat's momentum carried it past the bridge and the mast was raised on the other side to resume sailing.  This procedure had to operate very smooth and quick so the vessel would not loose way and block the canal to other commercial traffic.  It was considered a major blunder if you screwed up the procedure.  Unfortunately you don't see this technique anymore, diesel propulsion having pushed sail aside.

In the trailerable sailboat world, an A-frame can come into its own for stepping a mast.  The advantage of using an A-frame is the mechanical advantage to reduce the lifting effort.  The longer or taller the A-frame is relative to the mast length, the greater the mechanical advantage.  The huge control that you have leads to the second advantage, safety; in large part because you don't have to stand under the unsupported mast!  If you step the mast hand over hand, with the aid of a block and tackle connected to the forestay, then you must also steady the mast sideways so you don't twist the deck plate off.  The most difficult part of stepping a mast is the transition from standing in the cockpit to standing on the cabin roof.  It is during this CRITICAL TRANSITION that the deck plate is usually twisted loose.  This is also when the odds of dropping the mast increase and you twist your back out of alignment.  Suffice it to say that the less time the mast is in the unsupported transition zone the better.  If the wind is strong, it is much safer to point the hull into the wind and step the mast quickly during a lull.  If the wind is really strong, wait it out in a coffee shop or install some temporary shrouds.  

(1999) A-FRAME CONSTRUCTION - Fabricate your A-frame in the sequence that the components are described here to minimize your chances of making an error relative to the effort required to make each component;

  1. Cut the poles to length, about 101".
  2. Attach the foot hinge plate to each pole.
  3. Bolt it to the T-extrusion.
  4. Screw the T-extrusion on it's mating foot pad aligned to the toe rail.
  5. Cross the pole ends to form the apex and drill a common hole through both poles using a single long bit to make the hinge. 

By following these steps you eliminate complex measuring that will likely be off by several degrees resulting in a misaligned hinge that will bind or can't pivot.  The chances of you measuring it correct are minimal!  Remember, Murphy! 

1 - Poles - The 2" OD aluminum poles of my A-frame are 101" long and have 1/4" thick wall.  This thickness is overkill to the Nth degree but the price was right; 1/8" thick wall is sufficient, similar to a spinnaker pole or conduit.  See COMMENT below.  The distance from the pivot bolt at the foot to the hinge bolt at the apex is 99" with 1" of pole beyond the apex hinge.  With the A-frame laying on the deck, the apex fits just short of the deck forestay fitting, leaving room to easily transfer the forestay from the A-frame to the deck fitting.  If you decide to make your poles longer, keep in mind that the apex must not block the stem fitting for attaching the forestay.  It is prudent to attach the forestay to the fitting quickly to secure the mast and protect the safety of the people standing in the drop zone.  It is also convenient to leave the A-frame on deck for trailering or winter storage, as seen in these two  photos.

If you want to fabricate an A-frame for a larger sailboat, scale the dimensions up proportionally.  The length of the poles should be from the mast step to the forestay fitting.  The pole diameter and wall thickness should be equivalent (or bigger) to a spinnaker pole designed for your boat.  If the assembly is too long then consider two shorter poles joined with a sleeve.  This would allow you to store the A-frame in a small space.  This is a great way to go if you are a globe trotting sailor who wants to be independent of shore services.

COMMENT:  When I designed this A-frame in 1999 I had no idea how much force I could be dealing with so I erred on the side of safety by using heavy gauge aluminum.  After using this A-frame on sail boats as long as 30', I realize I overbuilt the assembly.  I now know that lighter poles are quite OK since the load is all compression.  In fact, I have seen poles made from 3/4" conduit, although 1.5" would be better as it is less apt to collapse under the load.  Conduit or light gauge aluminum poles would make it easier to carry the assembly.  I have also seen poles made from 1.5" spruce tree trunks, gnarled up 2" poplar trees and fir 2x4"s.   If you intend to use wood then choose clear, straight grain poles.  It would be relatively simple to cut a notch in the end of the wood pole to insert the hinge plate and fasten a hose clamp over the end to reinforce it.  Saturate the pole ends with epoxy for strength and coat the wood with Sikkens Cetol to protect it from the elements.  Another method is to slip 6" long 1/8" thick metal tubing over the pole end.  Flatten the protruding tube end, bending it to align with the T-extrusion on the foot pad to form the foot hinge.  Be your own judge in this design.  I have this habit of building everything to withstand "WWIII".  I hate flimsy Mickey Mouse stuff.  No offence Walt!   TOP


2 - Foot Hinge & Deck Pads - You can make a fully articulating hinge so the poles always align to the deck or you can make a simple hinge, aligned to the plane the poles pivot on.  I built the latter design because I had the material and was in a bit of a hurry to launch. 
The top half of the hinge plate consists of a 1/4" thick aluminum fitted inside the bottom of a pole and fastened with a 3/8" bolt with two centering spacers.  The spacers are short sections of
aluminum tube cut from an ski pole.  Click here for a cross profile of the hinge assembly. Notice the two notches cut into the pole to fit the plate into.  The spacers and notches hold the plate firmly along the center line of the pole.  The plate is bent 250 to align with the aluminum T-extrusion (bottom plate of hinge) on the deck pad.  The T-extrusions must lie parallel to the center line of the hull (the turning axis of the hinge) so the frame can pivot.  At the hinge location draw an imaginary line across the deck and another one over the hinge, fore & aft, parallel to the center line.  This is your pivot point and axis of rotation.  The curvature of the deck can fool you when taking measurements.  Be careful. (If you use a full articulating ball joint here, you can dispense with all of this critical alignment as the hinge would pivot freely regardless of the angle of the poles.  Aviation type ball joints are not cheap but they work very well.  The aircraft industry uses them extensively for perfect alignment of control arms).  The hole in the bottom plate is drilled slightly forward of center so the A-frame can lay flat on the fore deck.  The two deck pads are made of (2x8)" spruce to protect the gel-coat and are coated with tung oil to prevent rot.  The 3" long aluminum T-extrusions are screwed to the center of each deck pad.  Thus the hinge operates freely through the full 1350 arc that the frame must operate.  With the deck pad wedged against the toe rail and tied to the stanchion, the pad doesn't move.  All of this may sound complicated, as it takes a bit of finagling to bend the plates just right, but both hinges must turn freely.  Take your time with this part of the job.  Patience has its rewards!  

3 - Apex Hinge - The simplest way to create a strong hinge at the apex is to overlap the ends of the poles.  I was well on the way to making a fancy hinge when common sense prevailed!   The cross lap joint may look unsophisticated but is strong, it works, is easier to make and stores well. 
Assemble the foot hinges first, place the assembly on the deck with the poles bolted to the deck pads, cross lap the poles to form the A-frame, clamp them together and drill a pilot hole through the middle of both poles.  Be very careful in drilling the pilot holes as alignment of the moving parts is critical.  If you are off even by a little bit, the hinge will bind.  Drill out the holes to 1/2."  Then insert a 1/2" hinge bolt with a nut as a spacer between the poles to create room for the eye bolt nuts.  The two eye bolts (cast type are strongest) are through bolted just below the apex hinge bolt.  Finally, test your frame by swinging it through the full 1350 arc of travel. 
The forestay attaches to the aft facing eye bolt and the 4x1 block and tackle or winch line attaches to the forward eye bolt.  At right you see the apex of the A-frame with the block and tackle in place.  I tow my boat regularly with the A-frame hanging just below the mast, unless somebody has borrowed my A-frame! 

4a - Pull A-Frame with Block & Tackle - I have pulled the A-frame with a 4x1 block & tackle from 1999 to 2021.  If you pull by hand, you require ~90' of 3/8" line.  90' creates a long tail section that allows the tailing person to stand well out of the mast's drop zone.  Some people are squeamish about a stick falling on them!  Jam tarts!
NOTE - If you're going to crank the mast up using one of your primary winches, then make the line ~130' long.  If you ever had a desire to install self tailing primary winches, there is no better justification than stepping the mast.  With a self tailing winch you can safely stop in mid lift to correct a snag, although its safest to also secure the line around a cleat.

4b - Pull A-Frame with Trailer Winch (2022) - In the Fall of 2021 I helped my buddy lower his mast and discovered how easy the job is using a trailer winch to pull the A-frame.  He used 2" wide seat belt webbing for a hoist line so it packs tight on the drum.  On Panache I have to run the hoist line over the anchor roller to get around the bow.  Since the flat portion of a roller isn't wide enough for webbing I use 1/2" (12mm) polyester line.  The 2 speed winch has a ratchet that locks in either direction so can pause in mid lift.
NOTE - An alternative to using this bow roller could be a block tied to the inside curve of the pulpit.  I have not tried this yet but the strain on the pulpit is related to the angle to the winch.
Panache's mast was lowered at end of the 2022 season with the greatest of ease.  Of course I had to try lifting the mast from horizontal, which the winch did quite easily by the way.  This is something we found impossible by hand pulling the A-frame with the block & tackle. 

  • The hoist line is 20' of 1/2" (12mm) triple plait polyester, (~5080 lb. BS & 710 lbs SWL). 

  • The trailer eye hook was spliced on the end of the line with 6 tucks into the standing line and a taper.

  • It took ~4 weeks to remove the construction stretch and harden the line by tensioning it in the rain and sun.  Hard line packs tight under load on the winch drum without an overrun; an absolute must for hoisting.  By tensioning the line to five hundred pounds it tests the overall strength to ensure it is strong enough.  Better to discover it can hold this now than see it fail while hoisting the mast!  It would be nice to know how much load is on the line but I don't have the tools to measure that.

  • The winch drum is full with 20' of 1/2" line.  This leaves 1 roll of line on the drum to start the pull during the heaviest point of the hoist, when the mast is horizontal and the A-frame vertical.

  • The alternative to polyester line is 2" wide polyester seat belt webbing (~6000 lb. SWL).  However, it must run over a flat anchor roller to load up the longitudinal fibres uniformly. 

For now the block & tackle will be left on the A-frame in the rare case the mast has to be stepped on water.  It could also go into storage if it gets in the way while hoisting with the trailer winch. 

A-FRAME ASSEMBLY - Once the A-frame is assembled on deck, mark the bottoms of the poles with a felt pen as starboard and port for easy reference when placing it on the deck the next time you hoist the mast.  It may not be obvious now but you'll thank me later for this tid bit of advice!  


4c - Pull A-Frame with Electric Winch (2022) - A variation of hoisting with the trailer winch is to use an electric off road style winch.  It can be fasten to the truck or if you have a long tongue on the trailer, fasten it there to get the hoist line past the bow.  That is what is shown in Figure 2 below.  Besides the large torque of an electric motor, this style winch has internal gears to increase the pulling power.  Electrical power comes directly from the truck battery and alternator, which is standard practice.  The operator I saw using this winch left his truck running while operating the winch, it draws that much power.  But that is OK as it is well within electrical limits of the system.  While I saw him use an A-frame, I also saw him hoist the mast directly by the forestay.  The nice thing about this procedure is that you have a remote control to operate the winch.  Not sure what his backup is if the winch quits.

Fig 1 - The winch mounted on trailer tongue.


Fig 2 - The bracket welded on the trailer to fasten the winch.


Fig 3 - Winch is mounted on the very long trailer tongue.  Almost like the trailer is for a longer sailboat.  The power cable is slung over the tailgate and clipped to the battery under the hood.  Its a fairly simple setup. 

The boat shown is about 25' long so this mast is heavier than an SJ23 mast.  The winch had no problem hoisting the mast.



I think this includes pretty well all the popular techniques of hoisting the mast.  If anyone has an alternate technique of hoisting the mast, I'd be interested to hear from you.  Bob.


MAST HINGE PIN - I found the factory hinge pin difficult to insert through four misalignment mast base holes or to remove since there is no hand hold.  For this reason I made a replacement pin from 1/4" stainless steel rod.  One end is bent back on itself to create a 1" diameter loop for easy handling.  The other end is slightly tapered for easy insertion through the four holes and has a hole drilled through the rod to fit a hair pin through.  You could drill a second hold near the ring for a second hair pin.



(2014) TEMPORARY SHROUDS to ELIMINATE SIDE SWING of MAST - Before I had temporary shrouds, I used to man handle the mast to control the side swing while my buddy handled the A-frame hoist line.  This worked for many years but I knew there had to be a better way.  I always have gusty winds when I do this job and its usually impractical to point the trailer into the wind.  What follows is the result of a successful experiment during my 2014 haul out by tying temporary shrouds to the mast to lower it in a side wind.

The problem of tying temporary shrouds to the SJ23 toe rail is that this elevation is below the pivot point of the mast.  As a result the shrouds go slack when the mast is lowered, rendering them useless.  To solve this the toe rail height must be artificially raised to the pivot height of the mast foot by securing a bridle to the toe rail on either side of the mast.  The steel ring, tied at the middle of each bridle, then becomes the elevated pivot point that is at the same height as the mast base.  With the A-frame supporting the weight of the mast and the temporary shrouds controlling the side swing you have total control of the mast.  As a result, I can handle the A-frame hoist line from the safety of the trailer winch, the fore deck or the side of the cockpit.  All of these are preferable to standing in the drop zone of the mast, the center of the cockpit.  The benefits of safety and control far exceed the extra setup time.

The bottom of each temporary shroud consists of a bridle e/w 2 small carabineers and a welded ring (above left) plus a shroud with a loop tied at the top (above right).  The bridle lines are unequal in length to position the rings relative to the holes in the toe rail.  Each ring is positioned beside the mast, at mast foot height.  To ease use, the bridle and shroud are permanently spliced to each other with the aft line marked.  Carabineers are used to clip to the toe rail.  Panache's temporary shrouds are 11' 7" long, fitting to about a foot below the spreaders to allow for a bit of give.  The line is low stretch 5/16" polyester. 
  (NOTE for 2023 - These photos will be updated to reflect the new mast sleeve that will secure the temporary shrouds to the mast.  The technique shown here chokes on the mast, making it time consuming due to difficulties sliding it along the mast.  The new sleeve will go through the loop on the end of each temporary shroud, eliminating knots, and be hoisted by the halyard.)


To attach the temporary shrouds to the mast I slip a Dyneema shackle around the mast, going through the loop at the top of each shroud, then hoist it with the spinnaker halyard cleated on the mast.   (It is important that the shackle around the mast be free to slide once the temporary shrouds are slackened off.  You have to pull it down once the mast is standing).  Both temporary shrouds must be snug.  Now you are ready to lower the mast using the steps below.  You'll be pleasantly surprised to see how well this technique works.  I consistently lay the mast directly into the mast support on the transom.  Talk about cool.  In 2015 I took this procedure to the final step and lowered the mast on my own with complete control.  Down is easier than up.  Keep in mind that the mast was lighter and easier then because I didn't have the weight of roller furling to contend with.  However, in 2019 I again lowered the mast on my own with the roller furling on the forestay.  Progress. 

  • IMPORTANT - Once the mast is standing, the temporary shrouds are quite easy to pull down by releasing the spinnaker halyard and pulling a temp shroud.  If that doesn't work, use your boat hook.  So don't hoist them beyond the reach of your boat hook! 

  • There is no give in the temporary shrouds.  I have stepped the mast in a 15 knot side wind with no problem and always settled the mast on the transom support.

  • Here is a variation of this technique using a sliding spinnaker ring on a track.

By the way, my buddy and I still launch our boats together each year.  The temporary shrouds on Panache make the job a lot easier for a couple of aging gents.  Sooner or later you have to get smart!  Isn't that what life is about? 


(2020) TELESCOPIC TRANSOM SUPPORT POST- Whenever I step the mast with the block and tackle, my buddy pulls the A-frame hoisting line while I stand on the cockpit seats and lift the mast from the middle for the initial lift.  It is a bit easier to pull the mast up from the 150 angle, but lifting it will get harder each year! 

Two problems;
   - The block and tackle with A-frame does not have quite enough mechanical advantage to lift the mast from horizontal.
   - I want to slide the mast without it falling off the roller. 


- 2 hand holds were welded to the bottom of the outer tube to eliminate hand slipping when lifting.
- A hole was drilled through the inner tube to push a locking pin through.
- The top 1' of the inner tube was painted white to indicate when to stop lifting the outer tube. 
- There is no slop between the extended tubes.
- The sides of the yoke were extended 6" above the roller so the mast stays on the V block when rolling it.
- The lateral tie down lines were lengthened to tie to the forward ends of the pushpit.  This prevents the post from rotating and offsets the push while the mast is slid aft.

I extend the transom support post 24" prior to sliding the mast aft, then place the mast on it for rolling aft.  My technique is to transfer the mast to my shoulder, extend the support post till the lock pin hole shows, insert the pin, place the mast on the roller, (about 150 up) then tie the lateral support lines to the pushpit


MAST STEPPING PROCEDURE (Using an A-Frame with Trailer Winch or Block-n-tackle) - Before putting the stick up, inspect the standing rigging where it attaches to the mast and deck.  All cotter pin ends must be rolled over leaving nothing sticking out and show no sign of fatigue.  All nuts must be screwed tight to full depth.  The standing rigging wire must have no strands standing proud of a swaged fitting, no broken strands ("meat hooks") sticking out and no kinks between the ends.  The changing tension of the wire (pumping), will eventually fatigue and break it at any of these spots.  This is the same process as flexing a piece of metal back and forth to break it.  While this A-frame makes it safer to step the mast, the job is easier with two people.  OK, lets put the stick UP.

  1. SAFETY FIRST - Ensure the sailboat is on the shore side of any overhead electrical line or other obstruction.  A boat with an aluminum mast should keep at least 57' away from a high voltage electrical line to prevent arcing to the mast. 
    (National Electrical Safety Code, NESC Handbook).

    When I step Panache's mast on land, I keep the trailer hitched to the tow vehicle
    so it can't rock or roll away.  Geez that would be embarrassing and the wrong reason to be on YouTube.
    HINT - If you step the mast on water, the water should be calm and use temporary shrouds to control the side swing of the mast.  The only time I tried this without temporary shrouds is documented in the photos below.  I will NOT do this again without them.  The boat rocks too much when walking on the deck and the risk of twisting the deck plate loose is too great.  I have stepped it once on flat water using temp shrouds and all worked perfectly fine.
  2. FRUSTRATION SAVER - Wear a tool apron with a shallow pocket across the front to hold tools as you walk around the boat.  It saves the frustration of stumbling over loose rigging to grab an errant tool lying at the other end of the deck.
  3. WINDEX & ANTENNA - Attach the Windex and VHF antenna while you can still reach the masthead from the cockpit.  Do a double take on both to ensure they are snug.  Its a real pain to have to lower the stick just to tighten a set screw. 
  4. PLACE A-FRAME - Lay the A-frame on the fore deck with the apex at the bow and the deck pads wedged against the forward side of each mid stanchion.  Secure each deck pad with a short line tied around the stanchion & toe rail to prevent slippage.  Panache's A-frame stays on deck over winter and the poles are marked starboard and port for quick reference while man handling it on deck.  OK you can than me now!
    HINT - In practice the deck pads on my A-frame stay wedged against the stanchion and seldom slip, but security is a good thing.

  5. RIGGING - It is assumed the mast was not removed since the previous take down and the shrouds are still attached to their respective mast tangs, spreaders and chain plates; the backstay is still attached to the mast head and chain plate; the forestay is attached to the mast head with the turnbuckle ready to connect to the stem.
    HINT - If this is your first time assembling the SJ23 rigging, read the SJ23 manual to install it correctly and ensure that no wires are crossed that would prevent the mast from standing.
  6. LOOSEN SHROUD TURNBUCKLES 3/8" - It is assumed that all shroud turnbuckles are still loosened 3/8" from the tuned sailing position since the previous take down.  The 3/8" slack prevents straining the shrouds, turnbuckles, chain plates, deck seals, and bulkheads when the mast pivots up on the hinge; stretching the aforementioned hardware as the mast approaches ~300 aft of vertical. 
    HINT - Tape wrapped around the thread at the tuned sailing position can reveal the required 3/8" of exposed thread when the barrel is loosened.  Ensure there is at least 1/2" of thread screwed into each barrel. 
    - Tape the 2 shroud turnbuckle toggles together in the upright position.  Do this for both sides. 
    - Tape the back stay turnbuckle toggle in the upright position.
    Now all turnbuckles can pivot safely on their T-bolts without the toggles binding and breaking as the mast goes vertical.
  7. SPLIT BACKSTAY TURNBUCKLE - It is assumed the backstay tension control line was loosened 8" to the knot that limits travel since the previous take down, and the turnbuckle barrel was removed and stored.  Retrieve the turnbuckle barrel from where it was stored and place it in the back of the cockpit, ready to install.
  8. TEMPORARY SHROUDS (To eliminate side swing of the mast during the lift) - It is assumed the bridles are still clipped to each toe rail, the top of the temporary shrouds are clipped to the spinnaker halyard (wrapped around the mast below the spreaders) and the lengths have not changed since the previous take down. 
    HINT - If the temp shrouds have been loosened, the lengths can be set again once the mast is slid aft and the foot is in the deck hinge plate.
  9. TRANSOM SUPPORT POST - The telescopic post is left short for trailer winch hoist.  The two lateral support lines are tied from the top of the post to the front of each pushpit to steady and support the post for rolling the mast aft. 
    (If I have to raise the mast on the water using the block & tackle, I temporarily transfer the mast from the post to my shoulder, extend the post, and place the mast back on the roller.  Then I slide the mast aft).

  10. SLIDE MAST AFT - Close the companionway sliding hatch and avoid stepping on it to protect the solar panels.  Stand on the deck and push the mast aft on the roller until the holes in the mast foot line up with the holes in the deck hinge plate.  While holding down the foot of the mast, insert the hinge pin followed by the hair pin to lock it.
    HINT - The condition of the fasteners that hold the foot casting to the bottom of the mast extrusion MUST be very secure.  The mast foot undergoes a tremendous amount of torque when the mast is stepped.  If the fasteners are worn loose, replace them with 1/4" NF stainless steel machine screws.  Drill out the rivet holes and tap a thread through the foot casting.  Snug up the screws and secure them with marine sealant to prevent movement and corrosion.  If the hole is tapped correctly, NF machine screws are stronger than pop rivets.  -  Not comfortable with machine screws?  Install the biggest SS pop rivet you can find.
  11. CONNECT LINES TO A-FRAME  (Assume the A-frame is still on deck since the previous take down) - Stepping the mast hand over hand is risky.  You can step it with control using an A-frame pulled with the trailer winch or a block & tackle.

    - Tip the A-frame aft and attach the forestay to the aft eye bolt. 
    IMPORTANT - If you have roller furling you must protect the foil when stepping the mast.  I leave it to your understanding of your system to take the necessary precautions.  The advantage of a flexible furler is that it can safely flex under its own weight while stepping the mast.
    - Attach the 2 jib halyards (in case one breaks) to the top of each arm with 2 wraps around the pipe, clipped to itself.  Tension the 2 halyards equally to divide the strain by cleating the free ends to the bottom of the mast.

    A - (2022) Pull A-Frame using trailer winch
    - Attach the winch line to the bottom eye bolt of the A-frame.  Let out enough line to tilt the A-frame to ~800 between it and the mast. 
    - Set the winch ratchet to secure the drum for hoist.  Use low speed for raising or lowering the mast.  Don't let go of the handle.
    - Tie all loose mast lines to the butt of the mast to eliminate clutter. 
    SAFETY - While I could now step the mast on my own, it isn't the goal since the job is safer with a helper.  Our group of aging sailors here is running out of able bodied help and anything to make the job easier allows us to continue sailing.

    - GO TO STEP 12.

    - Pull A-frame using block & tackle

    - (Assume the top of the block & tackle is still attached to the forward eye bolt of the A-frame).  Attach the bottom end to the forestay fitting.  (I have NEVER attached the bottom end to the ram's horns for fear it may slip off or the horns bend back).
    - Take up the slack of the block & tackle, winding the free end around a winch & secure it to a cleat.  A self tailing winch is even better and the safest type for this job.
    - Tie all loose mast lines to the butt of the mast to eliminate clutter. 

    - GO TO STEP 12.

  12. LAST INSPECTION & PULL A-FRAME - Take a last look around the deck to ensure all rigging is free from obstruction and all turnbuckle toggles are free to pivot fore and aft.  Breaking one can really spoil your day!
    HINT - If the adjacent turnbuckle toggles (bottom flexible portion) are taped together or tie wrapped together (photo is not an SJ23) in the upright position it keeps them inline to prevent buckling while stepping the mast.  In lieu of taping, shove a screw driver shaft through the adjacent toggles.  Similarly prop up (Panache) the backstay toggle with vinyl tubing or tape it in the upright position.  It is also helpful to tape the shrouds to the cabin top hand holds or life lines so the turnbuckle is slightly up from the deck to keep you from stepping on it while the stick is down.

    SAFETY - If you use a tie wrap around the toggles, cut off the tail with micro shears.  Unlike side cutters, micro shears cut flush to leave a smooth finish that is safe to pass bare skin over.  If you poke your hand into a tie wrap that was trimmed with side cutters you will puncture your skin.  This is extremely painful.  If the tie wrap has any dirt on it, the wound may get infected which can be lethal.  Use a micro shear.  It can be bought from an electronics supplier and sometimes a tool shop.

    A - Pull A-Frame using trailer winch - If I'm on my own I will stand at the bow to crank the trailer winch keeping an eye over the deck for a snag.  If I have a helper I will stand on deck next to the mast looking for a snag while the helper cranks the winch.

    B - Pull A-frame using block and tackle - My helper pulls the A-frame hoist line and I check for snags while standing on deck.  I have never been able to hoist the mast on my own using the block & tackle.
    - If I ever get self tailing primary winches for Panache I plan to stand to one side in the cockpit to pull the A-frame hoist line. This is a good place to watch for jammed turnbuckles, snagged lines, etc.  

    If I feel resistance with either technique, I STOP to investigate the problem.  You can do serious damage to a toggle by bending it or to the wire by kinking it.  Pull the mast up to standing quickly.  Don't dilly dally with the mast half way up. 

    CAUTION - Using a winch to pull an A-frame presents both safety and a danger unto itself.  If you let go of the handle the weight of the falling mast can spin the winch handle at a speed that is extremely dangerous.  This applies mostly to a trailer winch and to a lesser degree a primary winch.


    A - If I have to stop and let go of the trailer winch, I will ensure the ratchet is set and secure the handle with a line to the trailer frame.  Slip the line loop over the handle.
    B - If I have to stop and let go of the primary winch, I will secure the line around a cleat. 


  13. MAST STANDING - Once the mast is standing, secure the free end of the A-frame hoist line to a cleat to keep it standing. 
    - I then walk forward and push the A-frame down with my body weight (this pulls the mast forward via the halyards) and transfer the forestay (no tension on it) from the A-frame to the stem fitting.  Line up the holes, slip in the pin and install the locking ring.  On Panache this is only possible with a slack backstay.  Then I tighten the back stay tensioner line and screw in the turnbuckle barrel.  The mast should be raked aft with the mainsail halyard touching the deck ~(6-8)" aft. 
    HINT - If the mast is pulled up using just the forestay have your helper push and hold the mast forward while you transfer the forestay from the A-frame to the deck fitting.  Alternatively pull and hold the mast forward with a line around it and the free end secured to the deck.  Your choice.
  14. SNUG TURNBUCKLES - With the mast reasonably vertical snug up all turnbuckles by turning the barrel while holding the wire from turning.  Use the free hanging mainsheet halyard to determine if the mast is standing straight (left / right).  Tension the rigging and lock the turnbuckles.  See Tech Tip F33.
  15. REMOVE A-FRAME & TEMP SHROUDS - Now that the forestay is in place it is safe to remove the halyards from the A-frame and place it on the trailer.  Store the transom support post and temporary shrouds in a bag for the mast take down in the Fall.
  16. Run all halyards and reef lines to their respective terminations at the cockpit.  A really easy way to "push" a line through a rope clutch is to use a fid.  Stop using a little screw driver.
  17. INSTALL BOOM - Install the boom on the mast. 
    - Connect the boom topping lift and main sheet. 
    - Connect the boom vang. 
    - Install the lazy jacks. 
    - Run the mainsail up the mast and  install the reefing lines and lazy jacks. 
    - Lower the mainsail for storage on the boom. 
    - Install the mainsail cover.
  18. INSTALL JIB - If you have a roller furling jib now is the time to slide the jib up the foil and store it in the rolled position.  See Tech Tip F10.
  19. LOWER THE MAST - Reverse the hoisting procedure to lower the mast.  Hope you can remember all this?
    There is one consideration when lowering the mast on your own.  The mast must be pushed aft to overcome the initial resistance of the mast foot that keeps the mast standing.  After attaching all the necessary lines:
    A - Lower A-Frame using trailer winch - Tie or clip (karabiner) a 25' long line to the backstay (as high as you can reach) and send the loose end over the deck to the trailer winch.  Tilt the mast aft by pulling the line and simultaneously releasing the winch line.  Pull the line to lower the mast until it naturally starts to fall.  Once gravity takes over, continue lowering the mast with the winch line till it nestles in the transom post crutch.
    B - Lower A-frame using block & tackle - Push the mast aft while letting the A-frame lift line (block and tackle) slip through my hand till it naturally starts to fall.  Once gravity takes over, let the lift line out till the mast nestles in the transom post crutch.

If you have never stepped a mast before, rehearse this procedure in your mind so you know it cold when you do the job.  Go through the motion, doing several dry runs if you have to.  Nobody will pass judgment on such an important job as this.  Everybody appreciates a job well executed and done safely.  Practice, practice, practice till everybody understands.  The astronauts do it all the time.  If I have a "green horn" to help me, I always go through at least two dry runs with them till I know they understand.  You know they understand when that squirrelly look on their face changes to a "light bulb" smile.  If you don't get that light bulb moment, change your description of the process!  Go slowly so no steps are missed. 
"I once helped a guy lower his mast and quickly discovered he knew very little about the procedure when the mast stuck at just above horizontal on the way down.  His lines were too short (tightened to violin tension) preventing the mast from being fully lowered.  It was scary how quickly he was willing to cut a crucial line in the urgency of the moment to prevent a deck fitting from being ripped out.  Had he done so, the mast would have dropped and likely bent.  As it was, some kind hearted dock watchers supported the mast so we could release the lines and then we all lowered the mast gently to the deck.  After discussing the problem, he still didn't realize the physics of a mast base that pivots on the cabin roof, well above the deck where the A-frame pivots.  Sometimes the obvious isn't obvious to all!  But it does demonstrate the need to fully understand the physics of the job."   TOP

NOTE - Words are all fine and dandy but photos demonstrate the procedure better.  These were taken in 1999 the first time I used the A-frame; years before Panache had roller furling, the transom support post was a fixed length and I removed the solar panel from the deck.  Shown below is the only time I stepped the mast on water without the temporary shrouds that eliminate sideways movement of the mast.  Never again!

Fig 1 - This was my first time using the new A-frame and my buddy Ron was curious about my latest gadget so he came along to help.  The road tie down lines were released, deck cleared of gear and Windex and VHF antenna attached.


Fig 2 - Mast was carried aft and the foot aligned to the tabernacle.  Here I'm rotating the mast into alignment so Ron can insert the hinge pin to full depth.  Note that the mast is still supported by the transom support post.


Fig 3 - Hinge pin is inserted.  I made this custom hinge pin because it was difficult and time consuming to insert the factory pin through the tabernacle and mast base.  The end of the pin is slightly tapered to facilitate easier insertion.  The loop on the end makes it real easy to manipulate the pin.

Fig 3a - Hinge pin is made from 1/4" stainless steel rod.  I bent one end back on itself to create a loop for easy handling.  There is a hole drilled through the pin to lock it with a SS safety pin.


Fig 4 - Final check of A-frame, forestay is attached to the apex of the A-frame, block & tackle hoist line is attached between the apex and the bow. 


Fig 5 - Turnbuckles loosened and standing up.  Halyards are attached to the A-frame as back up to the fore stay.  All lines clear.  Mast is ready to be raised.

Fig 6 - Steady the mast sideways during the bottom portion of the lift to protect the mast step and foot when the boat is floating or during a side wind.  Its a bit wiggly on a floating boat.


Fig 7 - Mast is vertical with the A-frame pulled down to the deck.  It is important to hold the mast fully forward while attaching each jib halyard to the bow after which you can safely transfer the forestay to the bow fitting. 


NOTE - With the addition of my Scheafer flexible roller furling I no longer use just the forestay to step the mast.  Instead, I use both jib halyards (two wraps around an A-frame arm, then clipped to itself) with the forestay attached to the apex of the A-frame.  Once the A-frame is down on the deck (mast is standing) and the hoisting line is secured, I walk to the bow to transfer the forestay to the stem fitting.  Next I tighten the shroud and backstay turnbuckles.  I also use temporary shrouds to eliminate sideways movement of the mast.  In the photo below Roy and I stepped the mast in a 15 knot side wind, with no side movement of the mast, totally protecting the mast, hinge plate and mast foot.
PS:  My buddy Roy passed on in May 2022.  TOP


COMMENT - "Using an A-frame to step the mast takes all the worry and frustration out of the job.  There is no sideways movement of the mast when using temporary shrouds.  We stopped several times during the lift to check on things and to take these photos.  I wouldn't dare stop in the middle of a lift using the hand over hand method.  The deck pads stayed in place and the hinges worked perfectly.  I've used this A-frame to step the mast of several other SJ23s and an SJ7.7M and only tied the deck pads with a short length of line.  This poses no problem as they stay in place with the slight force that pushes them towards the stanchions.
Despite the ease that I describe of stepping the mast, I still recommend it to be a two man job.  That is, unless you use temporary shrouds to eliminate side swing.  The reason is that steadying a 27' mast in a side breeze can be a daunting load.  Better to align the hull to the wind.  If it is too windy, go find a coffee shop!"  TOP

Replacement SJ23 Mast - If you "intend" to break your mast or want other replacement rigging parts, contact:

Stephen Jensen
1(206)714-9661 (4:30-7:30 PM Pacific, please)

He has lots of parts and can get just about anything else that isn't in stock.  Alternatively, the masts for the New Bern SJ23 hulls were built by Kenyon Marine in Guilford, CT.  Tom Hukle at Yacht Riggers in Seattle was the mast builder for the SJ23s in the west but he basically assembled the parts shipped from Kenyon.

Rig-Rite, Inc
1(401) 739-1140
(Sell parts for Keyon)

The masts for the SJ24, 26, 28 or 30 were made by Spar Tech which is no longer in business.  They used to be at:

15230 NE, 92 St.
Redmond, Washington.
1(425) 883-2126

NOTE 1 - If you wish to leave the A-frame in place while towing, then suspend the apex of the frame from the mast with a line.  This prevents the frame from pounding on the deck and punching a hole through the gel-coat.  In addition, you could use a tie down line to prevent the frame from bouncing up to the mast!  To date I know of 10 A-frames that have been built using these plans.  Mine has stepped dozens of boat masts.  Hmmm, I should say this qualifies for a free grog!  

Here is a U-Tube video of exactly my system

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