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Old 01-06-2015, 08:41   #16
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

Electricians often use air or vacuum in this kind of situation. The concept is to use air to carry a very light line first and then use that line to pull successively larger lines through. I've seen it work over very long distances on land. There's no reason it wouldn't work equally well in this situation. The easiest application is to hook a vacuum at one end and feed a light thread in at the other end but introducing air and the line at the same point could work equally well.
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Old 01-06-2015, 08:54   #17
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

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Originally Posted by kellyp08 View Post
I am re-wiring an old schooner with a mid deck flood light on the mainmast. It has not worked for some time. I determined that the electrical cable (wire ) no longer carries current. I attached a new cable to the old cable at the port just above the mast step in the main cabin, hauled myself up the mast with my TopClimber and hauled on the old cable with someone simultaneously feeding in the new cable in the access port as I hauled on the old cable (now attached to the new cable). This went well enough until the last 2-3 feet or so it became much easier to haul. You guessed it - when I retrieved the old cable at the masthead there was nothing attached to it!

OK, I'll admit it: I screwed up; should have sewn (not taped) the old cable to the new cable.

I have tried pushing the new cable down from the aperture for the light and in gets down, say, about 20-30 feet and then starts coiling on itself and does not go down to the mast step. I have tried to use electrician's snakes - both nylon and flat metal, these too will not make it to the bottom. I've twisted, jammed, rotated, etc. I've tried narrow gauge rigid stainless steel wire. That goes down about 20-30 feet and then hits other wires within the mast or whatever and ends up as a hurrah's nest within the mast and goes no further. Of course, I've rotated, tried changing the insertion angle etc.

It seems as if the new cable is getting caught on other wires within the mast or some structural component within the mast itself. Of course, within the mast are many other wires, VHF antenae wires, television aerial, hydraulic lines, etc. etc.

I am sure getting a lot of exercise going up and down on my TopClimber - but I'm out of ideas.

I'd welcome any suggestions.
You've certainly tried numerous options.

How about mig welding wire? What about a cheap borescope to see the obstruction.

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Old 01-06-2015, 09:54   #18
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Lightbulb Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

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Originally Posted by Roy M View Post
This may be a blessing in disguise. If the old cable wasn't working, there is a reason for that. That means any other cables may be on the verge of issues, as well. All masts need to be taken down, say, every ten to fifteen years, to be overhauled. It's the perfect time for a careful examination of fasteners, wiring, lights, chainplates, rigging wire and other hardware. It costs about $500 for an "up and down" in San Diego boatyards. I'll bet you that you find a good reason for having done an overhaul. It's a great opportunity to also change over stuff to LED lighting, check the spreader compression bolts and overhaul the masthead sheaves.
Best suggestion of all and my thoughts exactly! Do this right and not only no future problems of this sort but considerable improvement as well.
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Old 01-06-2015, 10:03   #19
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

I will second the idea to use a vacuum cleaner to draw a small string through. I have done this many times and it works pretty good.
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Old 01-06-2015, 10:06   #20
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

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Originally Posted by Roy M View Post
This may be a blessing in disguise. If the old cable wasn't working, there is a reason for that. That means any other cables may be on the verge of issues, as well. All masts need to be taken down, say, every ten to fifteen years, to be overhauled. It's the perfect time for a careful examination of fasteners, wiring, lights, chainplates, rigging wire and other hardware. It costs about $500 for an "up and down" in San Diego boatyards. I'll bet you that you find a good reason for having done an overhaul. It's a great opportunity to also change over stuff to LED lighting, check the spreader compression bolts and overhaul the masthead sheaves.
Either that or we can send him something to regrow the hair he will be pulling out trying to snake it. You are probably right about other wire issues and fishing around in the mast is likely to cause them to show up.
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Old 01-06-2015, 10:23   #21
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

The mast is aluminum, non-magnetic.

Tie a metal weight...maybe a large metal nut...to a piece of fishing line. Send it down the hole. Use a large magnet on the outside of the mast to PULL the nut down. If you can get the nut all the way down, then the fishing line can pull a stronger line, which can pull the new cable.

If that doesn't work, saw the mast into two smaller pieces.
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Old 01-06-2015, 10:42   #22
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

You are probably screwed and will have to pull the mast ---but as a last resort I might try one or two of the following:
1) try to get the boat to list far over to one side and then try any number of the suggested fishing techniques--this might cause the rat's nest of lines and wires inside the mast that is catching your fish line to move or re-arrange so that your electrician steel fish tape might bypass it and reach your exit point at the base of the mat OR
2) using strong monafilament messenger lines pull out all of the other lines and wires that are inside your mast and then try to fish the new problem line down the mast using a torpedo fishing weight on a strong monofilament messenger line that you can hook at the bottom exit hole

Sure, you might get snagged again on re-running all your lines again but in that case then you will have to pull the mast but you'll probably need to do that anyway. Of course you may go to all of the above trouble and still not have any success --depends on how much trouble you want to go to before pulling your mast.
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Old 01-06-2015, 10:53   #23
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

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Originally Posted by bobofthenorth View Post
Electricians often use air or vacuum in this kind of situation. The concept is to use air to carry a very light line first and then use that line to pull successively larger lines through. I've seen it work over very long distances on land. There's no reason it wouldn't work equally well in this situation. The easiest application is to hook a vacuum at one end and feed a light thread in at the other end but introducing air and the line at the same point could work equally well.

I was just about to suggest this. You can pick up a small container of Klein "pulling line" from the Home Depot/Lowes/etc in the electrical department. The premise is to tear off a one inch square of plastic grocery bag (or some similar light weight material) and tie it to the running end of the pulling line, insert running end of the pulling line into the FAR end of channel to route your cable/wire, then have your partner stick a shop vac on the other end and suck the pulling line through. Then attach your cable and pull it through. It is often a GREAT idea to pull another section of pulling line with your cable in the event you need to add another cable later.
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Old 01-06-2015, 10:58   #24
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

I had this problem a couple years ago and tried various things... Maybe someone already said this and I missed it, but what finally worked for me... If your halyards run inside the mast, tie a line to the end of a halyard (or topping lift), pull it all the way through the mast, tie the cable/wire to the halyard & line, pull the line back through bringing the halyard and cable/wire with it.
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Old 01-06-2015, 11:44   #25
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

Is there a halyard winch you could remove that might give access to the region where the stoppage occurs. Consider, too that there may be a track in the mast to which bundled wires with slugs attach. Did your wires slap back and forth when the boat rolls at anchor?
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Old 01-06-2015, 15:09   #26
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

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Originally Posted by Old Swampy View Post
Did your wires slap back and forth when the boat rolls at anchor?
OldSwampy, I'm curious what this question is getting at. Because I have this problem and am trying to figure out how to fix it. If the OP's wires do slap back and forth at anchor does that mean they're not in a track? Or that they are? Are there any tricks to fixing loose wires without pulling the mast?
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Old 01-06-2015, 15:32   #27
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

Sometimes there is a length of PVC in the mast through which wires are bundled. The PVC is typically riveted to the mast in order to keep it in place. Of course it's more difficult to introduce a wire into the smaller diameter PVC when it's already filled at least partly with wires. Best bet is to use a wire already in the PVC pipe as a means to pull up new wire... Consider 'sewing' vinyl clad wire ends together rather than using tape. I do this when replacing halyards.
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Old 01-06-2015, 16:11   #28
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

As a couple of others have suggested, take the mast out and do it properly. You don't want cable's banging around inside the mast even if you do manage to get it down.

Roy M suggested $500 to do this, I'm sure it would cost far less to do this if you can find a local mast lift/crane on a jetty somewhere. Even here it would cost about $120 just for the rigger to do it or nothing to do it myself (not that I would). And you can usually get it done in a single tide too if all your doing is running the wire.

You can end up spending so much time trying all these 'solutions' to something that is really, with an aluminium rig, a very easy and quick thing to do. Just my opinion without knowing your boat.
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Old 01-06-2015, 17:49   #29
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

I've spent a colossal number of hours on this same problem and I do sympathise, it can be very frustrating.

Try to find the wire conduit. There should be one or more tubes in the mast to carry wires. You may have to go to the mast head to find the top, which may be under a panel or blocked with silicone. Then feed using a line with a weight or failing that the snake or wire pusher. If that jams then try a six inch string of small nuts on the end of a thin line. The nuts will flow over obstacles. These all failed with me, maybe you will be luckier.

I used a bore scope to help. My mast is so jammed up I also needed to drill a new small access hole at the mast base. If you know where the feed tube is you can access it directly through the new hole. You may need your spar maker to advise you where it is. In the end I pulled up a loose wire to act as a mouse line and then fed a real mouse line back down with it, then pulled up the new wire through my new hole.
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Old 02-06-2015, 00:42   #30
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Re: Can't get electrical wire to pass though mast

If you tape the new wire to the old (or new halyards to the old), athletic tape from the pharmacy seems to adhere better than anything I've found. On wire, as previously mentioned, I'd tape about 3 ft of new to 3 ft. of old, and be sure the tape is tightly wrapped around the wires.
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