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Old 10-12-2017, 07:28   #1
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Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

Contemplating and planning some voyages on a bluewater mono of roughly 37'. Journey to include river segments as well as bluewater. There will be multiple times the mast has to be taken down for bridge clearance. The destinations that will require this include portions of the Great Loop as well as some river cruising in Europe.

I would like to bring the mast along rather than shipping it to the other end of the river.

Wondering whether the lighter weight of a carbon fiber mast would simplify the process and reduce the expense enough to be worthwhile. Thoughts?
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Old 10-12-2017, 07:38   #2
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

After doing the Erie canal with our mast on deck. The only suggestion I have is to go for a boat with a deck stepped mast. The extra 6-7' length of keel stepped sure makes maneuvering a lot more difficult.

I would also try to estimate how many times you'll really drop the mast. Unless you have a great tabernacle set-up, you'll still need assistance, and a crane rental would be a heck of a lot cheaper than a carbon fiber mast.



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Old 10-12-2017, 08:09   #3
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

SS rigging will weigh a lot, also hard to store and scratch/mark up the boat. Maybe replace that with Dyneema etc people like now days? Still going to be a big mast to handle though. I wonder what a CF mast weighs compared with alum?
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Old 10-12-2017, 08:16   #4
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

Stepping and un-stepping for canal transit is a fairly simple process. Leave the main on the boom. Leave the headsail on the furler. Leave the spreaders on the mast. Build a nice crutch that lets the mast clear the dodger as, sure as shooting, it's going to rain.

Leaving the main on the boom saves space (which will be at a premium) and leaving the headsail on the foil not only saves space but protects the foil. It also saves a lot of time and effort. Stainless rigging is not a problem. I did it many times with rod rigging which is difficult to work with.
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Old 10-12-2017, 08:40   #5
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

Youíre still going to need a crane....so I see no added benefit.
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Old 10-12-2017, 09:11   #6
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

Boats larger than yours have been set up to self lower the mast with a tabernacle. It used to be quite common in Holland and the low countries to get under the many low bridges just to go sailing. Don't know how easy it was to do but for a while Westsail equipped most of their 32's with a pedestal though most weren't set up to self lower the 43' stick. The impetus was an owner who had a slip in Santa Cruz on the wrong side of the bridge that splits the harbor. Weight of the mast would certainly make a difference though tabernacles were done with wood as well as aluminum sticks. The height of the mast will be a factor as a high aspect modern rig is going to be more of a challenge than older boats with shorter masts. Dyneema standing rigging would also make life easier as it wouldn't ding up the cabin paint, rough up bright work, or kink as well as being lighter.

If you are going go to use a crane or a convenient bridge, weight of the stick isn't going to be such a big issue as long as you have a spare hand or two to help move it about once it's horizontal.

As they say, most anything is possible with enough time and money.
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Old 11-12-2017, 10:29   #7
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

Not sure how carbon fiber masts are constructed but in my experience, carbon fiber does not take "impact" damage well. With what you're saying, you run the risk of damaging a very expensive mast. While the mast may look okay on the outside it's the inside of the structure that you must be concerned about. Non Destructive Testing (NDT) is about the only way, I am aware of, that this type of damage can be detected. I think I'd stick with your present mast. IMHO
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Old 11-12-2017, 11:33   #8
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

I was hoping to see some comparative numbers, aka "facts." (e.g., My old aluminium mast weighed x kilograms, but the new carbon fiber version weighs x minus kilograms; it was also expensive, but the old mast for my Westsail had was failing). What does SS rigging weigh compared to Dynema?
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Old 11-12-2017, 11:41   #9
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

I did come across one distributor of mast extrusions who said that carbon fiber masts are typically half the weight of comparable aluminum masts.

That's just a comparison of the aluminum extrusion to the carbon fiber mast blank (not really an extrusion as the manufacturing process is different). The weight of any rigging or other hardware would remain the same.
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Old 11-12-2017, 12:18   #10
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

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Originally Posted by Sailmonkey View Post
Youíre still going to need a crane....so I see no added benefit.
Bingo. That's the OPs answer. The rest of this thread is just added info.

I'll add that the stainless parts, rope, radar, and wire rigging will weigh more than the CF mast itself, and you might be surprised how much that is. I replaced just my 47' upper shrouds with Dyneema, and weighed the 8mm dyform steel wire which came out to about 14 pounds (I don't remember whether that was "each" or "both"). That might not seem like a lot until you think about trying to hold that out at the end of a 50' + pole.

Also, a 50+ foot CF mast with all the needed custom fittings will cost upward of $50k plus rigging labor. That can hire a lot of cranes.
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Old 11-12-2017, 12:50   #11
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

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Originally Posted by Vasco View Post
Stepping and un-stepping for canal transit is a fairly simple process. Leave the main on the boom. Leave the headsail on the furler. Leave the spreaders on the mast. Build a nice crutch that lets the mast clear the dodger as, sure as shooting, it's going to rain.

Leaving the main on the boom saves space (which will be at a premium) and leaving the headsail on the foil not only saves space but protects the foil. It also saves a lot of time and effort. Stainless rigging is not a problem. I did it many times with rod rigging which is difficult to work with.
Not sure that's good advice. I've yet to run across a marina that will unstep or step a mast with the sails on. And I'll admit that we didn't see a single sailboat on the Erie canal this fall with the sails still on. It's just not practical and you'd be more likely to accidentally damage your sails.
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Old 11-12-2017, 13:36   #12
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

The marinas at either end of the Erie canal charge by the length of the mast not the weight of the mast. So a CF mast would have no financial advantage in this area.

While a CF mast might be light enough to man handle, you're still talking about a ~45 foot stick. Not all that easy to pick up with a gin pole or crane.

Take the sails off, it is better for the sails and the least of the issues with stepping and unstepping a mast. Getting the tune right is a bigger concern.
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Old 11-12-2017, 13:59   #13
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

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Originally Posted by SailFastTri View Post
Bingo. That's the OPs answer. The rest of this thread is just added info.

I'll add that the stainless parts, rope, radar, and wire rigging will weigh more than the CF mast itself, and you might be surprised how much that is. I replaced just my 47' upper shrouds with Dyneema, and weighed the 8mm dyform steel wire which came out to about 14 pounds (I don't remember whether that was "each" or "both"). That might not seem like a lot until you think about trying to hold that out at the end of a 50' + pole.

Also, a 50+ foot CF mast with all the needed custom fittings will cost upward of $50k plus rigging labor. That can hire a lot of cranes.
Cheaper to ditch the boat and spend 48k for a boat on the other side.
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Old 11-12-2017, 14:12   #14
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

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Originally Posted by pcmm View Post
Not sure that's good advice. I've yet to run across a marina that will unstep or step a mast with the sails on. And I'll admit that we didn't see a single sailboat on the Erie canal this fall with the sails still on. It's just not practical and you'd be more likely to accidentally damage your sails.
Well here's a couple for you. Oswego Marina on Lake Ontario and Riverview Marina in Catskill on the Hudson River. Usually you take the boom off yourself, that's how it works. Easy to take a boom off with the main still on and covered. Please tell me how I could accidentally damage my headsail on the foil. Hoist the mast lash the foil to the mast, very easy. I have done this about twenty time on my CS36 when I used to take it south. And about eight time on a buddy's boat.

The reason you might not have seen a single sailboat on the Erie Canal this fall with the sails still on is that most folks on the Great Lakes only take the mast down in the fall and naturally you take all the sails off for storage in the winter. That's the way they've always done it. I can tell you that everyone I've told of the method I use adopted it and wondered why they didn't do it the first time. Much easier, no sail storage problems, and a lot less work. As for not being practical I think it's much more practical. Think about it and better still try it on your way home.
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Old 11-12-2017, 14:53   #15
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Re: Carbon fiber mast conversion for ease of stepping and unstepping

In the city of Perth, Western Australia, the Swan river has many yacht clubs.
However, the popular sailing destinations are off shore (Rottnest, Garden Islands etc.). To get from the Swan River yacht clubs to these destinations requires passage under three bridges at Fremantle and mast lowering is essential.
If you contact any of the riggers in Perth with details of your vessel I am sure they will show you how this is done (optimized) for your vessel. Yes, you will need to add some bits, and the mast will need to be lifted to install the tabernacle with a pin axis. A common arrangement is to use two equal length spinnaker poles that create a triangulation on the fore-deck. The poles are fixed to deck pivots near the sheer and the apex is where the fore-stays are connected. A pulley reduction system is then used to allow the formed apex to move upwards thus allowing the mast to start "falling" backwards. But best to talk to the experts.
Potential advantages would include - minimal cost (one off), no cranes etc. - no stored mast on your deck hindering your use of deck space - independence from others.

I would suggest you do some research work to find the lowest clearance required for your trip as the Perth process does not necessarily lower the rigging to a horizontal orientation. It also may leave two poles pointing skywards. Highfield levers are commonly used to simplify the disconnection of fore stays and forward lowers. These lever release systems generally mean you do not have to reset tensions. I recently watched a 14 m catamaran lower its rigging (with roller furling) while at a Perth yacht club. It took less than 10 minutes and was done single handed. Check it out.

My own yacht (a ketch) has the required gear and although I am not in Perth now, I found it a fairly simple procedure. (the first time was a bit heart stopping). I agree that Dynex rigging would make damage due to steel rigging less likely, but it isn't necessary. Use Dynex for other reasons like rigging weight reduction and longevity.
Carbon fiber masts are insanely expensive and OK for racing yachts and very deep pockets. Nearby to my boat a catamaran with a carbon fiber mast took a lightning hit. The mast itself suffered a lot of damage where rigging and electrical components made contact with the mast. I believe the mast was a write off or at least, required extensive repairs. Alloy masts generally survive lightning strikes.
Finally, why not leave your yacht in a marina and hire a proper canal boat for the trip. Probably cheaper and will give you a vessel specifically designed for the European canals. The hire company will provide you with lots of handy information/options to maximize your enjoyment.
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