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Old 11-03-2014, 04:14   #1
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How do I Install my Mast Steps?

I have bought a bunch of aluminium mast steps to be installed on my Beneteau Oceanis 411. Now, there are some questions I should clear up before drilling hundreds of holes in the mast.

1. What is the optimal distance between the (bottom of) the mast steps? I am 188 cm tall, my girlfriend is 160 cm. We should both be able to climb the mast without problems.

2. When installing the steps: what is the proper procedure? Do I start from bottom up, or from top down? The mast is 17,8 meters tall and have two pairs of spreaders. My first guess would be to start right below the first spreaders and work my way down to the deck. That way I can use the lower spreaders as a step. But how do I proceeed with installing the steps between the first and second pair of spreaders? And from the second pair of spreaders to the top of the mast? It's masthead rigged by the way. I assume it looks best if there's the same amount of distance between the mast steps all the way from the deck to the top.
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Old 11-03-2014, 05:49   #2
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Re: How do I install my mast steps?

We installed our mast steps from the deck up. You and your partner should figure out what step spacing works for the 2 of you by trying out some "step distances" somewhere. You also need to take into account where the spreaders fall in the spacing plan-use the spreaders as steps. Keep the spaces equal. Also install a pair of steps at equal height just below the masthead so you have a place to stand when working there.
Once we determined the spacing, we tied knots in a rope that we hoisted to the masthead and secured it. Starting just above the boom (work out the first couple of steps to get you above the boom-a folding step or two works well here) and sitting in my bosun's chair, I installed the first step. I then stood on that step and installed the next one.
We installed steps like you have but wouldn't do it again. I would have liked to have installed the type with 3 attachement points. The problem is that your main halyard WILL catch on the steps and get stuck there. One solution is to run a wire (1/16") along the outside of the steps, which will eliminate this possibility. If you are going to do this, I would recommend predrilling a hole(s) thru the outer edge of the step to pass the wire thru. The alternative is to wire tie it on.
I would also consider the ATN Mast Climber solution. Not ideal, but non-fouling.
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Old 11-03-2014, 06:31   #3
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Re: How do I install my mast steps?

Always best to figure these things out on paper first, I might suggest you consider a free drafting program such as SketchUp as a starting point if a hand sketch and calculator don't work for you.

It is very easy to learn through tutorials on YouTube and has functions such as "divide line into segments" which will help you create an accurate scaled drawing that provides equidistant spacing for your steps in a layout that does not conflict with your spreaders.

Once that step is completed, move to the mock-up stage where you screw a couple steps to a bit of wood to confirm the spacing is comfortable to climb up for you and your girlfriend to use. Good luck!

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Old 11-03-2014, 06:44   #4
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Re: How do I install my mast steps?

Doesn't answer your question, but a side note...

There are some of us who hate the look, the windage, and all the holes in the mast that go along with permanently fixed mast steps. Put them on and you are reducing the resale value of your boat, because you are reducing the number of potential buyers. By how much? I don't know. Maybe not much. I just know that I won't buy a boat with mast steps permanently installed unless it is SERIOUSLY discounted, and nearly perfect for me in every other way.
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Old 11-03-2014, 06:55   #5
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Re: How do I install my mast steps?

Well, we are planning on sailing around the world, so mast steps will be valuable to us. We don't think about the second hand value of the boat. We use it as it suits us, not the next owner :-)

Thanks for the answers about the mast steps. I see that I need to plan this properly before drilling away on the mast.
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Old 11-03-2014, 13:57   #6
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Re: How do I install my mast steps?

I would only put the steps to the first spreaders. They are nice to have to get to the spreader for a lookout when navigating lagoons and other area with clear water and obstructions like coral heads. Other than that, we never used the steps. If we had to do any kind of work up the mast, used a bosun's chair and now, the Top Climber ATN Mastclimber | Single Handed Bosun Chair | Climbing the Mast The steps made getting up the mast quick but were very uncomfortable to work from for even short periods and scary without a safety line and harness. They also had a habit of fouling the halyards which was only partially solved by running a line from one step to the next all the way up. When we brought the mast down for work after a couple of years, removed the steps above the spreaders.

As far as fastening them, drilled and tapped the fasteners on the previous boat. Current boat, used SS pop rivets. Faster as long as you have a compressed air rivet gun. Manually popping the rivets was a real PITA and nearly impossible without an extended handle rivet too.
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Old 11-03-2014, 14:47   #7
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Re: How do I install my mast steps?

I've done this on two boats.

Distance is a matter of opinion I can't remember what I used 12-15"?. You'll have to figure out something optimal. Not only distance but also which leg to lead with. I like the left lead. Solid right as a base.

I used the mast winch as a first step.

Basically, steps up to the spreaders, as far as natural, use the spreader as a step then start again.

Close to the top of the mast, I put two parallel steps so the mast head was just about chest level. Also a single step as close to the top as possible to hook in and hang a bag.

The trick is not to interfere with the wires or halyards, so you might have to have them off-center so they sweep back a bit.

I never had any problem with halyards being tangled.

I used stainless steel machine screws, drill, a tap, and locking liquid.

I measured on paper and planned everything before hand. Chalk line down the left or right of middle. Marked the mast step bottoms and double checked. Always done with mast down.
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Old 11-03-2014, 23:33   #8
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Re: How do I install my mast steps?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steinsvik View Post
Well, we are planning on sailing around the world, so mast steps will be valuable to us. We don't think about the second hand value of the boat. We use it as it suits us, not the next owner :-)
Well said, mate! All this worrying about resale value is so silly IMO, and your attitude seems realistic and proper. Good onya!

And when I put steps on our previous boat (only to the first spreaders BTW), I did it hanging in a Bosun's chair, drilling and tapping away. Used two battery drill motors, one with the correct tap drill, one with the tap... and it was still a hard job and a PITA. I used folding steps and found them pretty satisfactory: less windage and no fouling of lines (if I remembered to fold them back up when I descended!). As for spacing: don't go to the max that you (or the GF) can manage. Consider that you may be doing the climb under rolly conditions and when fatigued, and make the steps easy to accomplish. I wish that someone had pointed that out to me before I put mine on!

Cheers,

Jim

Oh... in your pic the steps are not predrilled. Do be sure that you do that!
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Old 12-03-2014, 00:56   #9
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Re: How do I Install my Mast Steps?

Look at step ladder and extension ladders at home depot or similar. Seems like all ladders have 12 inch spacing for steps. Seems like that is a smart lead to follow. Many forums I have seen suggest 18 inch, but if the ladders, designed for use on level ground, use 12 inch spacing, seems like on a boat, where the ground is moving, should use the same or less.

Many people also recommend putting two steps directly across from each other just below the masthead so you can have both feet fixed when working at the masthead. Makes sense to me.
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Old 12-03-2014, 05:05   #10
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Re: How do I Install my Mast Steps?

The “Safety and Health Regulations for Construction”, regarding ladders, might present a good starting point.

According to OSHA - 1926.1053(a)(3)(i):
Rungs, cleats, and steps of portable and fixed ladders must not be spaced less than 10 inches (25 cm) apart, nor more than 14 inches (36 cm) apart, along the ladder's side rails.

So, between 25 & 36 cm apart.

https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owa...rds&p_id=10839
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Old 13-03-2014, 20:29   #11
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Re: How do I Install my Mast Steps?

On my first boat I rented a hydraulic pop rivet gun from a rigging shop, and bought the rivets from the same shop. Monel, if my memory is correct. I used heavy nylon fishing line, lashed to the outside of the steps, to cure the halyard snag problem. My next 2 boats, I drilled and tapped. Both methods worked fine. ______Grant.
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Old 13-03-2014, 21:12   #12
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Re: How do I Install my Mast Steps?

You have all the hints and good advice. Mast steps gives you freedom and piece of mind - there are times when you must go up and quick.
A bit more detail here on some points:
You have to draw this on paper, it does not have to be fancy, but to scale somehow. Make sure you put the steps on the correct side directly below and above the spreaders otherwise you have to change legs as you climb.
The advice of installing two steps below the masthead is solid, but it also needs forethought: you may want to work at chest high, up there - in other words, the masthead needs to be at or just above your chest - you will not be able to work if the masthead is much lower due to all the rigging meeting at an angle and you needing to stand up around them, so measure from your feet to the top of your chest and this is, below the masthead where the stepping part of the steps will go.
Whether you are pop-riveting or drilling/tapping them, put a bit of epoxy in the head. Epoxy really sticks to aluminium and this will prevent the rivets/screws from coming loose due to the use and extreme vibrations the mast go thru.
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Old 14-03-2014, 00:47   #13
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Re: How do I Install my Mast Steps?

Here's how mine are done. Drilled and tapped, while the stick was on sawhorses. A coated wire runs through a hole in the steps' outboard ends, to help prevent lines from catching.
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Old 14-03-2014, 07:30   #14
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Re: How do I Install my Mast Steps?

You need to be especially careful also about chafe IN the mast if you have anything running through it and your screws / rivets are long
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Old 14-05-2014, 03:10   #15
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Re: How do I Install my Mast Steps?

A little update. I have now finally started the work. I got halfway up the mast in one day. I borrowed a compressed air rivet gun for the job. Without it, it would have been really hard to pop 4x rivets in each step.
I used 32 cm spacing between each step, so it's easy to climb.





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