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Old 16-05-2012, 15:55   #1
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Pulling Wires Through Mast Conduit

I'm replacing all my old electronics right now and have a challenge in my mast. Coming out of the mast are:

- Skinny coax for old secondary VHF antenna
- Skinny coax for old cell antenna
- Cable for old wind vane - about diameter of TV coax

Going into mast hopefully:
- Fat coax for AIS antenna
- Cat5 for wifi antenna
- New wire for new B&G wind vane (about same diameter as old)

Remaining in mast:
- Fat coax for VHF antenna
- very fat multi-wire cable for tri-color light/anchor light/strobe

When I first looked at this casually I saw a big enough hole at the top of the mast to not worry, and certainly enough space at the bottom to not worry. As I got into, however, I discovered that inside the mast, starting several inches from the top and several inches from the bottom is a wiring conduit. All the existing wires are very snug in there, but I will be able to pull out the three I need to. The hard part will be putting the new ones in. Only the wind vane wire has a connector on it and it is fairly small. The other two wires can go in without connectors which I'll attach later. This is going to be super tight, especially if I mange to put in the fat coax in place of the skinny one for the AIS.

My question is are there any good tricks of the trade to do this? I'll use a strong messenger line and be sure I can always pull back, and I have a 100' long skinny wiring snake that I can use. What else should I know?

The mast is horizontal on the hard right now.

Thanks,

JR
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:00   #2
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

I am dealing with these very issues right now. The conduit prevents the wires from slapping the inside of the mast and driving you crazy. You ideas about the tools used are correct. Think long and hard about what wires you can re-use (Leave in place) before making your life miserable.
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:11   #3
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

I just had my mast serviced by the rigger. we ran all new cables but we don't have as many cables or the space restrictions as you seem to.

My rigger had very small diameter low loss VHF coax cable. Smaller than what was originally in the conduit. I also have a wireless wind vane and the mast head light is LED, so current draw is not as high allowing for smaller cable.

When the rigger pulled through the cables he had all cables out of mast and connected the "mouse" line and pulled the whole lot through. I am guessing it's easier to pull through the whole lot instead of trying to fit cables through the existing cable lying in the conduit.

Hope this gves you some ideas.

Scott
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:19   #4
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

Quote:
Originally Posted by jr_spyder View Post
I'm replacing all my old electronics right now and have a challenge in my mast. Coming out of the mast are:

My question is are there any good tricks of the trade to do this? I'll use a strong messenger line and be sure I can always pull back, and I have a 100' long skinny wiring snake that I can use. What else should I know?

The mast is horizontal on the hard right now.

Thanks,

JR
It is highly recommended to pull all wires out if possible. Arrange the new & old wires at the correct spacing for lengths and make one pull. Also, go to Home Depot and buy a bottle of plumbers lubricant. Its KY-Gell for wires. Make sure the wires are not twisted or tangled at all. Have a helper or two keep thing straight while the pull is made. Keep the lubricated, wet (sticky) wires out of the dirt. Consider the possibility of pulling an extra wire and leave a messenger in the bundle.
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:22   #5
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

there is a wire lube used for pulling wires thru conduits... but, you shouldnt fill the conduit to capacity... typically there should be 25% space / gap. not sure the reason, but guess it maybe for cooling or heat dissipation???
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:31   #6
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

JR:

The best solution to internal mast wires is to take out any conduits and send a line affixed with cushion foam every 3 feet the length of the mast. Have the messenger line along the side of this. It's lighter and you can send any number of wires or lines up or down and they will be held quietly against the mast.

Worked like a charm on my K41.
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:34   #7
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailinman View Post
there is a wire lube used for pulling wires thru conduits...
Ideal "Yellow 77" Wire Pulling Lubricant - "Wire Ease".
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:35   #8
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

Yeah, pulling all wires together will be easier, also note that many conduits stop and restart at the spreaders for spreader lights w ires to exit.... which can be problematic. I've pulled out bundles that were taped every few feet. I would never do that... it makes replacing one wire almost impossible.
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:41   #9
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

Quote:
Originally Posted by jongleur View Post
JR:

The best solution to internal mast wires is to take out any conduits and send a line affixed with cushion foam every 3 feet the length of the mast. Have the messenger line along the side of this. It's lighter and you can send any number of wires or lines up or down and they will be held quietly against the mast.

Worked like a charm on my K41.
I don't know how you can get away with the wires hanting free in the mast. My rig is in-mast furling so all wires and 7 halyards share the space. Two conduits are anchored to the interior leading surface. Also, for us, 80 feet of unsupported wire hanging from the mast head would soon fail as its mass and motion would tear it apart.

I have wondered why there isn't a really good quality external conduit available.
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Old 16-05-2012, 16:41   #10
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

Thanks for all the advice so far.

In my case there are other conduits that run to spreaders and radar mount. The one to the mast head should be continuous (so it probably isn't!).
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Old 16-05-2012, 17:28   #11
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

JR,

As long as the mast is out and on its side, why not remove the too-small conduit and replace it with one of adequate size to accommodate all your current and perhaps future needs? I sure wish that mine was about an inch bigger in diameter...

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 16-05-2012, 17:54   #12
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

Take Jim Cate's suggestion and DOUBLE it. Seriously! Installing a new conduit is very simple. Have one that goes to the lower spreaders to carry spreader light wiring, radar cable, hailer speaker cable and steaming light/foredeck light wiring. Have a second conduit that goes to the masthead for AIS/vhf antenna, masthead running lights, anchor light, strobe, as well as masthead instruments. I add a jumper cable to the base of the Windex wind indicator for a white LED that is wired to the masthead running lights. At night you always have a light shining upward at the bottom of the the Windex as a backup to an analog instrument. If you don't know how to install another conduit, I'll tack some photos in a little bit.
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Old 16-05-2012, 17:58   #13
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

Maybe you should re-think some of your prior decisions, and make your life easier:

1) Why a thick AIS wire? You can use RG8X which is low loss and the roughly same diameter as RG 59U. Also, I don't see the need to put the AIS antenna up high -- Your range isn't that great and I get 12 miles with my AIS antenna mounted on my aft rail on a 4 ft extension, so it's about 10 feet off the water. Putting it on the rail means you also have a backup VHF antenna if dismasted.
2) Why put Cat5 on the mast? There is no advantage to height except in the marina if blocked by a bigger boat, otherwise out on the water height does nothing for you. If you find yourself in that situation you can always haul the antenna up a flag halyard. A WiFi signal will never get far enough for earth's curvature to be a factor.

On another note, I have had very good results by spraying wire with McLube dry lubricant. It makes a big difference, and no goop.
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Old 16-05-2012, 17:58   #14
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Are we soon to reach a point where mast section is not defined by rig loads and sail area but how many wires we can stuff inside? Amazing...
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Old 16-05-2012, 21:44   #15
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Re: Pulling wires through mast conduit

To answer Sailfast I'm kind of a neat freak and trying to prevent a lot of clutter on my aft rail. I bought this boat last Aug and it has too many antennas on the aft rail already: Navtext, WxFax, Loran, and a GPS mushroom. I've removed all but the GPS. So if it's easy enough to put stuff up on the masthead then why not keep the aft rail clear? That's what I'm trying to do, but can compromise if it can' be done. Incidentally the mast, about mid way up, also holds a radar, TV and Sirius wx and radio antennas. Have had no problem with these wires in their own chases. Also, RG8X is a good suggestion for the AIS wire.

Roy, would love your tips about a new conduit. I haven't looked close enough at mine to see how I'd pull it out and replace it, and I won't be back to the yard until next week. I've got about 66 feet to deal with, and I'm familiar with working with PVC conduit at home.
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