The DIY Restoration of a Small Yacht: Un-stepping the mast- Short-handed (#3)

seb-profile-photo-ytSeb, originally from Portsmouth in Hampshire, is the Sales Supervisor for the Gael Force Marine Megastore in Inverness.

He has agreed to write a series of posts following him and the restoration of his 26 foot, 54-year-old fibreglass yacht.

This series of blog posts so far can be read here.

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes.

BLOG POST #3: Un-stepping the mast- short-handed

The next priority for this boat is to get it transported closer to home. It’s currently an hour’s drive away from where I live which makes the restoration progress slow going.

I was initially considering sailing her to a club/yard close to Inverness but given that she’s going to be out of the water for at least a year, I decided it would be better to get her transported across land directly to my house.

The idea of being able to spend my evenings grinding out fibreglass and tinkering around in the bilges seems strangely appealing.

However, she can’t be transported anywhere with her mast up, so un-stepping her mast was the next logical step and the subject of this blog.

The boat’s mast is deck-stepped, so thankfully it doesn’t have to be lifted 3-4 feet to get it clear of the deck. Still, having the use of a crane to lift and remove it would be the easiest, safest and most sensible way to get the mast off.

Despite this, I had different ideas. And being someone that, when possible, likes to get things done myself, I opted for a method of mast removal that in theory can be done single-handed – the A-frame!

1.boat-diagramThe idea behind this system is that you keep constant tension on a line (the genoa halyard in my case) that goes from the mast top to the apex of the A-frame. You then have another line (we’ll call it ‘the lowering line’) going from the apex of the frame through a block at the bow and back to the cockpit.

Once the forestay and the lower shrouds have been removed, the only thing preventing the mast from dropping backwards is the lowering line. This can then be eased off and in theory, the mast will gradually fall back as the A-frame rises up in a controlled and stress-free manner.

The key is that the A-frame remains at 90 degrees to the mast at all times, maintaining your angle of pull on the mast.

The lower legs of the frame must be positioned amidships in line with the base of the mast and the apex going all the way to the bow. I built it from some cheap stud timber that I had lying around in the shed.

The length required was longer than the 2.4m lengths that I had so I bolted two bits together to make it the right length. The two pieces were joined at the apex with a door hinge (again, lying around in the shed) and an eyebolt put through to fix the lines to.

I drilled some holes through the bottom of the legs so that I could tie them off to prevent them from slipping when under load. I also used a jigsaw to round off the edges of the feet so that there wasn’t a sharp point digging into the deck as the frame rose up.


The mast should really be on a tabernacle when using this system, but that’s not the case with the Invicta, so I had to improvise. I needed something to keep the base of the mast in position but also allow it to tilt down whilst it was being lowered.

My rough and ready solution can be seen in the picture below. I bolted a small piece of plywood to the deck through a hole left over from one of the deck plugs and fixed an eye plate to it. I then used a long dee shackle to join the eye plate to the foot of the mast.


This shoddy arrangement was definitely the area of the system where I had the least confidence. I was worried that if the mast twisted or drifted over to the side too much, the forces exerted on that eye plate could cause some damage to the deck.

Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, I guess.

To catch the mast as it came down, I built another frame from some flimsy treated frame timber. As it turns out it was only just not too flimsy!


On the day of the un-stepping, I was grateful to have two helpers in the form of my wife and father-in-law. Their jobs were to steady the lateral movement of the mast by taking the topping lift well astern of the boat. I had to extend it by tying on a length of Marlowbraid rope that I had kicking about.


When we were all in position, I began removing the lower shrouds, slackening off the backstay, and then with some difficulty, I removed the forestay (it has a Rotostay roller reefing on it).

For journalistic reasons, part of me wants to record some kind of drama or unforeseen problems that arose, but the truth of the matter is that everything went exactly according to plan.

My wife kept a small amount of tension on the topping lift and as I eased off the lowering line, the mast slowly but surely began its descent into the cross-tree.


Admittedly, it was pretty nerve-wracking at times. Especially at the point where the mast was nearly down and began swaying from side to side as my wife desperately tried to guide it into the cross-tree.

All in all, it was a success and the following day I returned to remove all the rigging and get the mast off the boat.


You can see in the picture below that the boat is now beginning to look more stripped down and is getting closer to the blank canvas that I’m working towards.


Until next time!

COMING UP NEXT TIME: There’s not too much that I can do now until I get the boat moved to my house and put under cover, so the next blog will most likely be a wee recap of my progress on stripping it down.

If you have any questions for Seb regarding this post, please feel free to comment below.

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