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Old 10-01-2024, 11:38   #1
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Dismasting Tools

We've tested various tools on rigging three times now in our offshore sailing classes at Club Nautique in San Francisco. By far and away the cutoff tool works best although not perfect. (See PDF file at the bottom)

The one-handed cutoff wheel with its 1mm to 1.6mm thick aluminum oxide cutoff wheels will make mincemeat out of any rig -- Nitronic rod or heavy wire -- all on a single 5amp battery (or less). Just make sure not to pinch the blades as the loads flex and watch the sparks and tiny bits that might fly off (wear protective goggles and gloves).

I am of the opinion that the "bolt cutters" often found on cruising boats are near worthless, especially on rigging approaching 1/2". And on rod rigging, forget about it!

Crossing an ocean: pin/hammer, hacksaw, and cutoff wheel are all you need to clear away a dismasted rig. If you have carbon fiber masts, etc., then having top quality PPE breathing respirators is paramount. Treat CF like it was asbestos.

I welcome your opinions.

* I am an offshore sailing instructor for Club Nautique, America's largest offshore sailing school.
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Old 10-01-2024, 11:44   #2
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Re: Dismasting Tools

Thanks for that. I was thinking that my 115mm Makita angle grinder would be a good tool. I use it for boat work already and will make sure it comes on the cruise.
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Old 10-01-2024, 12:41   #3
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Re: Dismasting Tools

From my actural experience

BATTERY POWERED ANGLE GRINDER WITH A CUTOFF WHEEL !!!!!

Wish I had one at the time. It took me 2 hours to cut things, drive out pins, and hawksaw and it was calm out and if rough would have taken twice as long.
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Old 10-01-2024, 13:14   #4
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Re: Dismasting Tools

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
From my actural experience

BATTERY POWERED ANGLE GRINDER WITH A CUTOFF WHEEL !!!!!
And an extra (charged) battery or two!
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Old 10-01-2024, 13:16   #5
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Re: Dismasting Tools

An escalator that stops working is still a staircase, albeit a crap staircase.

With that said a cheap pair of harbor freight 18" bolt cutters should cut through anything up to 1/4" in one go (or if not, maybe two goes?) but a battery powered cutting tool that has a flat battery or breaks its cutting face immediately is of no use.
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Old 10-01-2024, 13:50   #6
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Re: Dismasting Tools

We do carry a battery angle grinder. I wonder if the sparks cause damage to the boat and I wonder if it would continue to work in heavy rain or spray. But we do have it.

I also saw a video where it was used to cut an anchor chain and that seemed useful.
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Old 10-01-2024, 14:17   #7
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Re: Dismasting Tools

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Originally Posted by cuthbert View Post
With that said a cheap pair of harbor freight 18" bolt cutters should cut through anything up to 1/4" in one go (or if not, maybe two goes?) but a battery powered cutting tool that has a flat battery or breaks its cutting face immediately is of no use.
Image your mast is broken and laying in the water and that your have a furling headsail, which is now also in the water.

Now go and look outside on your boat and look at what needs to be cut and tell me if your bolt cutters are going to do the job.

11 days ago I had to do this. Bolt cutters would have been unless. I even had to lower the anchor some in order to drive out the pins.
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Old 10-01-2024, 14:18   #8
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Re: Dismasting Tools

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Originally Posted by leecea View Post
We do carry a battery angle grinder. I wonder if the sparks cause damage to the boat and I wonder if it would continue to work in heavy rain or spray. But we do have it.

I also saw a video where it was used to cut an anchor chain and that seemed useful.
Trust me you wouldn't care
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Old 10-01-2024, 15:44   #9
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Re: Dismasting Tools

Took the CCS safety at sea class. Tried lots of things. Cordless angle grinder by far was the winner. No real discussion needed.
Get a brand you like and get the drill, grinder, circular saw, etc. spare batteries and charger too.
Make sure you only charge lithium cordless batteries where you can throw the battery overboard if it fails in flames while charging. You won’t be able to put it out.
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Old 10-01-2024, 15:47   #10
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Re: Dismasting Tools

Must agree ,a 20 volt angle grinder with a good selection of disc plus a saws all with the supply of blades ,same battery’s of course ,but they are dangerous to use especially at night in rough conditions ,good gloves essential .⚓️⛵️
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Old 10-01-2024, 18:06   #11
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Re: Dismasting Tools

Watch out for water ingress into your cut-off tool. It will almost certainly have air vents for cooling, and while it might be ok for long enough to cut with rain water getting in there, a very small amount of salt water could stop it for good. Maybe cover it with plastic film - it probably won't need to run long enough to overheat.



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Old 10-01-2024, 18:46   #12
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Re: Dismasting Tools

Traditionally the “Felco” cable cutters with aluminium handles were the cruisers choice but they struggled with 10 mm die-form cable, bolt cutters like the ones used to snip rebar work very well but the right size tool for rigging cable is bulky and heavy, all steel and cast iron.
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Old 10-01-2024, 23:38   #13
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Re: Dismasting Tools

I have a big manually operated hydraulic cutter. Cuts through 10mm 1X19 like butter and impervious to water. Probably wouldn't be effective on rod, but then I'd never have rod on my cruising boat.
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Old 12-01-2024, 05:45   #14
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Re: Dismasting Tools

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Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
Trust me you wouldn't care
I came here to say this... there is going to be so much other damage, a few sparks wouldn't be of any concern, and generally they aren't hot or intense enough to actually burn anything.

Agree on the bolt cutter being almost useless. Maybe have a pair on board as a backup, but in general as you said they won't do much. I've done a LOT of testing in this regard. A pair of 4' bolt cutters are somewhat effective, but HEAVY and tend to be heavily corroded by the time someone needs them.
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Old 12-01-2024, 06:16   #15
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Re: Dismasting Tools

Having worked in construction for over 30 years, I would not have the guts to operate a powered grinder in dark and stormy conditions.
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