View Full Version : ok to leave mast up ?

rick o'brien
11-01-2011, 03:45 PM
Curious to know if it would be ok, to leave the mast up on my boat
over the winter ?
It's a 40' sitka spruce box type. Toronto climate.


11-01-2011, 03:54 PM
I'd say it's OK but not ideal. The stresses on all your stays shrouds and fittings are much greater on land than they are in the water. Unstepping the mast is the perfect time to inspect it also.


S.V. Airlie
11-01-2011, 04:13 PM
Agree Steven..Withwinds and ice especially. I prefer a low profile and storage for the masts.

Ian McColgin
11-01-2011, 04:24 PM
A similar question was asked on Brion Toss's forum. Thus far I'm the only one to weigh in so no diversity of opinion yet.

The main reason for leaving the stick up is to avoid the crane charge. Against that, taking it out makes a more thorough inspection possible. It also prevents an aluminum stick from electrolyticly welding itself to a stainless step. I've dealt with three boats where this became a problem and in each case in the end we had to cut the mast.

If you leave the rig up you need to block and support the boat better to prevent any side winds from knocking her over. Like at least three poppets on each side, chained athwartships in pairs, and at least one maybe two centerline poppest at the bow and stern, plywood pads under the poppet legs.

There's always some argument about slacking the rig. Firstly, you don't want to slack very far, if at all. A slack rig will vibrate in the wind and may cause damage. It does not harm to not slack.

Some, by no means all, wooden hulls can loose some shape if left in the water year after year without their rig and, somewhat oddly, also can deform if left on land with their rig. The former is less uncommon.


S.V. Airlie
11-01-2011, 04:30 PM
Ian you know the rigging I have on Airlie, I took the masts out..Do you agree with what I did?

Dan McCosh
11-01-2011, 06:42 PM
We store in the water in Detroit in the winter, but remove the spar. We left it up a couple of winters, but varnishing aloft is difficult. Also, I like to inspect the rig, particularly the main halyard and sheave, etc. We also cover it when stored outside, which saves four months of UV on the varnish. Slapping halyards in the winter also are problematic, although this can be dealt with.

Ian McColgin
11-01-2011, 06:59 PM
A boat like Airlie is a good example of a boat that is possibley better off with the masts struck if dry stored, but just as possibly it makes no difference. In the water, on the other hand, she's quite possibly better off with the rig up. In the water the boat is held most by buoyancy in the center. If the rig is down, she won't have the fore and aft truss effect of the rigging to counter the longish ends, leading over a period of years to hogging. I don't think any hogging is too likely to happen in a winter but it is quite visible on boats with long ends left unrigged and afloat for years.

With Goblin - varnished spars - I struck the masts almost every haul. I never took out Granuaile's aluminum masts. On both boats I spent lots of time aloft, much for fun, and routine inspection and maintenance was not an issue either way.


11-01-2011, 07:01 PM
Interesting thread.

Mickey Lake

11-01-2011, 07:34 PM
Mr. Boyle, I have aluminum masts on my wooden boats. I will pull them down periodically to check halyard sheaves and things like that, but I leave my masts up because usually the covers are cut to have the mast up and the boom on and that's the only way that they will work properly.

Of course, I am down south. Northerners have to get a lot more fancy with tents and things than we do.

Mickey Lake

11-01-2011, 07:47 PM
This thread has convinced me to always pull the sticks even aluminum spars on plastic boats.

Can I broaden the question? What are the feelings on winter covers? I assume airtight is out, so is canvas better than plastic? Do you want it partly open, or just not air tight?

11-01-2011, 08:06 PM
45 years of dealing with wooden masts in Toronto has taught me this: Take it down and cover it well. Our Winters are hard, hard, hard on coatings, especially varnish. Between the dirt, the sun, the wind, the snow, the sleet, the freeze-thaw cycles and the never-ending bird-crap (yes, even in the Winter), the only defense is to strip off as much gear as you can and cover it with a breathable water-resistant fabric - and IMO it should be either canvas or Vivitex. Genco made me a 40 foot tube-like cover for under $200. Come on out to Bluffers Park, Rick, and I'll show you a spar that's been stripped only three times in 30 years, and still looks near perfect after 4 years, Winter and Summer, on the hard under a Vivatex cover. You'll be convinced.

BTW, nice to see another local guy around here!

- Norm

11-01-2011, 09:09 PM
Arguments for taking the mast down:
Less weathering on the mast finish and hardware, running rigging (if you don't reeve messengers) and masthead paraphernalia.
Except for boats subject to hogging, it removes loads from the hull and the poppets. Some boatyards are windy places in winter.
Rigging a cover is easier.
Easier to inspect and maintain the mast in the spring.
Avoid fatiguing standing rigging and hull structure.

Arguments for leaving mast stepped
Cost of crane and storage
Might save some labor.
For boats that need the support, might reduce hogging.

For me, I've always felt it better to drop the masts. For someone with a naked aluminum rig and a short layover in a moderate climate, it's a different tradeoff.

rick o'brien
11-02-2011, 07:58 AM
Thanks guys. It will only be for this winter.

wizbang 13
11-02-2011, 08:13 AM
I cannot buy into the idea that a boat needs the rig to PREVENT hogging.

Dan McCosh
11-02-2011, 08:21 AM
I'm assuming the boat is being hauled, rather than being stored in the water. Our issue here is the winter gales which can reach 50-60 knots, the climate being about the same as Toronto. The windage of a mast is substantial in those conditions, which is one reason I've never tried it all winter. Our hull is relatively narrow, and the mast height is about 65 ft., however. If you are using a good cradle rather than jackstands, This wouldn't be much of an issue. Most of the sailboats stored here do leave the mast up--oddly, most of the blowovers have been power boats.

Ian McColgin
11-02-2011, 08:41 AM
Wiz, it depends on the boat's shape. While even short-ended vessels have hogged for lack of the truss effect of rigging, it's worse for long ended boats. Look at the buoyancy curve and then imagine duplicating that on land with blocking under the keel - highest blocks under the area of maximum buoyancy and lower out towards bow and stern. It's just gravity at work.