Disclaimer: All boats and masts are different. These tips are generally applicable, however, you should carefully consider if they apply to your boat. The safety of your crew and boat is ultimately the owner's responsibility.
Stepping a mast isn't high on anyone's list of fun activities, however, it's an essential part of commissioning your boat for the season for many of us. There is a lot of preparation and planning that goes into every successful mast stepping. One of the easiest bits of planning that will contribute to a safe and stress free stepping is the placement of the boat and mast.
Step 1: Determining which side of the mast you will be using to lift the mast
Generally, you want to lift the mast by the side that has the least risk of damaging any instruments mounted on the mast head. If you have a wind sensor extended forward of the mast, you probably want to lift from the rear and vice versa. When placing the mast on saw horses by the mast crane in preparation for stepping. place the mast with the side you want to lift by, facing up.
Step 2: Determine the orientation of your boat at the dock
Most of the masts at the club are long enough that reversing them can be a major undertaking. It's far easier to change the orientation of your boat than your mast. The following table shows which direction your boat should be facing depending on which side you will be picking up the mast by and which way your mast is oriented
|Mast is being picked up by
|Top of mast faces
|Boats bow should be facing
Step 3: Alignment of mast crane
Generally, you want the mast crane cable to be plumb with the mast step both back to front and side to side with slight adjustments depending on whether the mast is being picked up by the front or back. It should be a little forward of the mast step if you are picking it up by the front and little back if you are picking it up by the back. This is perhaps the trickiest part of the placement. The end of the boom moves in an arc so adjusting the cable location side to side also adjusts it back to front and vice versa. The following table provides guidance on where you should align the mast crane pole relative to your mast step depending on the beam of your boat. It's best to check the plumbness of the cable from there and fine tune your location.
|Boat beam in feet
|Distance to locate mast step east of mast crane in feet
These measurements assume the crane boom is in it's normal position, raising or lowering the boom will affect the distance.
Hopefully, you find this info helpful and good luck in your mast stepping endeavors.