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Gin Pole for Mast Stepping? Anyone have instructions / images to share?

Tide Eyed

Member
I plan to trailer launch my boat and I will need to get the mast up and down with only human power.
I would like to see other ideas / designs for Gin Poles to do this. I have found very little online. I assume this is a common practice, and it's always better to learn from someone else's mistakes.
Thanks !
 

VinceH

Member
Mine is 19 feet of the top of a J/24 mast. Shrouds are attached at a point 4-1/2 feet from the top. It’s somewhat heavy, but it’s no problem since mast stepping is a two-person job anyway, and it works great.

It gets stepped over top of the stand-up block for the foreguy to port of the mast partners opening in the deck. Aft shrouds clip on to the stanchion bases at the fwd end of the cockpit with simple snap hooks. Its forestay attaches at the bow and has a 3:1 tackle (like a vang from a dinghy) that is used to snug everything up.

The halyard goes through a turning block at the bottom (right at the deck), then up through one at the top and back down. This way, the person doing the raising can both pull up from the bottom with one hand and down from above with the other at the same time to raise the mast, which is somewhat heavy. I suggest a ratchet block for the upper block.
 

Tide Eyed

Member
Thanks Vince!
Only way to improve on that would be to add some photos of it in action.
( I know, that's the first thing you're thinking when you have your rig hanging in the air ;-) )

I may do the same but add a winch to the side of the mast, and a cam cleat.
 

VinceH

Member
The winch isn't needed. Once you're all ready to go, it takes a minute or less to raise the mast. Another couple of minutes to drop it in and put the pins in the lower shrouds and you're done with the gin pole. The two blocks permitting you to use both arms to raise the mast makes a winch unnecessary. Mine's about as deluxe as I've seen.

If I have reason to raise the mast in the near future I'll take some pix. But I don't have any now.
 

Tide Eyed

Member
The winch was more for smooth lowering into the keel step. I suppose a ratchet block performs this task as well.

Do you "hook" under the spreaders, or rig a line to keep it below them?
 

VinceH

Member
I put a loop around the mast under the lower shrouds, then tie the tail end to one of the spinnaker pole rings. That way you can avoid getting the thing jammed up there with no way to retrieve it. You want the effective lifting point to be as high as possible.
GinPole Halyard.jpg
 

Mzel10

New Member
I have a scrap JY15 that is 15", do you think I can use that as a stepping gin pole? Or should I get something that has more meat on it than a JY 15 mast?
 

kailolo

New Member
I would add to the VinceH info that if you use spectra or an old halyard that is good quality for the gin pole shrouds, it keeps the whole rig stable. It gets precarious and your first time you'll be nervous but it works well. Also, tie a line to the loop under the spreaders that you use to lift the whole thing up so you can pull it down once mast is in place. Often it's the same line as used for lifting. I secure it so lifting loop can't rise or fall if that makes sense.
 

Tide Eyed

Member
I know about the "recovery loop" from using a conventional crane. Fortunately I did not learn this the hard way !! I guess you could boat hook it or something.
 

james123

Member
I have a scrap JY15 that is 15", do you think I can use that as a stepping gin pole? Or should I get something that has more meat on it than a JY 15 mast?
I used a JY 15 mast from an old boat twice on my J/24. The problem is a lack of a lower set of stays which means the mast bends and looks like it's about to buckle. Also, the rivets in the spreaders (especially on an older JY mast which ours was) can't handle the load. The reasons we only used it twice were because it bent a scary amount and a spreader broke under the strain. I got tired of that show really quickly bought a 20 foot section of aluminum pipe from a friend in the construction industry for $100. I think he gave us a "friend price" because it was a lot lower than other sellers but you could probably still find a piece of aluminum in that price range. The aluminum pipe is heavy but we cut it down to 17 feet to lighten it and make it easier to handle. Having a purpose built gin pole is great because I've preset all the stays so it's simple to clip the stays to a pair of stanchions and the bow. I put a system similar to a boom vang on the fore stay of the gin pole to tension it and keep it stable. If you can find a more durable dinghy mast or an old broken keelboat mast that you could get for less than a strip of aluminum then I recommend because most warehouses sell aluminum in 20 or 25 foot sections, which is several feet more then you need. Either way from experience I strongly oppose the JY 15 mast.
 
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VinceH

Member
I think your 15 inch :)... I suppose you mean foot... mast will be too short. And I'm not surprised that James says the JY mast bowed a lot. For purposes of lifting your mast upright when raising, you want to lift from a point near the spreaders. That's ~17-1/2 feet from the butt of the mast. So you need a pole to lift it higher than that. My extra foot and a half (19' gin pole) is hardly too much. The point is not to have the thing hanging horizontally in the air of course, but to get it vertical. Once you've lifted it 18 feet so the butt is clear of the deck, you'd like a little slack so you can maneuver it around to drop it in.

In the photo of my halyard above, the loop goes under the lower shrouds, NOT the spreaders. If you were to put it above the shrouds, you'd still need a ladder to get the loop off after pinning the lowers at the chainplates (which you really want to do before removing that halyard). And you don't want to pull the loop up tight under the shrouds. It could still get stuck. The tail ties to the spinnaker ring, and that's where the lifting force is. The loop is just to move the balance point up to near the spreaders. I could have made my loop smaller / more snug, but never did because it works fine as is.

At least that's my take on things!
-V
 

Michael Quaid

New Member
Looks like the proper length for the gin pole is around 19'. If I got an aluminum round tube section, any suggestions about minimum wall thickness and tube diameter?
 

james123

Member
My gin pole is 3” diameter and 1/4” thick walls. I wouldn’t go any thinner on wall thickness, but I might get a slightly smaller diameter depending on what you’re comfortable with because my gin pole is heavy. I cut mine from 20’ to 17’ to save a little weight. The drawback of the shorter pole is, as you’ve probably read in other posts on this thread, is the mast hoists horizontally and you’ll need a crew member dedicated to holding the mast butt down. I can step my mast with two people in a pinch but prefer three.
 

kobrien

New Member
I plan to trailer launch my boat and I will need to get the mast up and down with only human power.
I would like to see other ideas / designs for Gin Poles to do this. I have found very little online. I assume this is a common practice, and it's always better to learn from someone else's mistakes.
Thanks !
I use a cut down Lightning mast on a starboard base that fits over my pad eye in front of the mast to prevent the base from popping out under load. The base has rubber on the bottom (screwed in) and an eye bolt through it to handle the base of the lifting halyard. The forward stay is a clip that goes onto my forward ring (replaced cleat). The side stays are line 8" inches above the tweaker blocks. I use the winches to bone the pole and secure the tails ( I had a failure with an old fleet pole, when it pulled backwards through the tweaker blocks in heavy air!).

By clipping the forestay and putting in one of the side stays, while the pole is standing on the ground and loosely bungeed to the stanchion, you can set-up the pole by yourself. I take the lifting halyard to a block on the jib track then back to a Lopez block on the genoa track. I use a bowline on the mast for to attach the halyard to, loosely (have to let it down over the spinnaker cleat(s)), looping it around the mast with the line loop no more than 2" above where the spreaders attach.

My mast rides on the boat with the tip to starboard (stop hitting your head going in & out of the companionway) by an offset pushpit support, so all rigging is between the starboard side of the pole and the starboard pole stay.

I have set the mast up by myself once, but generally use one person (often a junior sailor) to guide the mast but out of the pullpit, through the mast plate and seated below.

I had a cover made for the gyne pole (red tip & 6' zipper). Do not want any of the lines to get free when transporting the pole below the boat and it is much faster to set up and stow.

I always check all fasteners on the pole before I set it up.

With a mast cover, you can leave (if you like) the lowers, forestay and bowline on the mast to make for faster set up and tear down.

WIth two crew members, I can have my boat, unstrapped, set up and tuned in 1.5 hours.
 

VinceH

Member
Here's my experience. I'm not suggesting that it's better than Mr./Ms. O'brien's version above. That sounds pretty good.

Sorry there aren’t more pictures. When you actually do it, stepping the mast is an exciting 5-minute process, and you don’t always have a totally focused documentarian at the ready. This is about my pole and experience. Your mileage may vary, as they say.

The pole is the top 19 ft. of a J/24 mast. It’s heavy, but not too bad (easy enough to erect on the deck), and very stiff, which is great. Some small boat masts can work, but are kind of scary if they bend under the weight. It needs to be tall enough to get the butt of the mast above the deck when you hoist, and you want your hoisting point to be high enough on the mast that it hangs vertically, or close to that.

As you see it rigged, it sits over top of the foreguy turning block on the deck, on a piece of carpet with a hole in it to fit over the block. That’s directly forward of the partners, the hole in the deck for the mast. The aft shrouds attach to the base of the stanchions near the cockpit with snap hooks, and the length of them is set with a simple rolling hitch to tie them and make them adjustable.

Its forestay attaches via a line with a bowline to the snap shackle on the bow for the jib tack. It has a small-boat vang 4:1 block and tackle with a jamb cleat, so once the after-stays are attached and the pole is held upright, you just clip the forestay on and snug it up tight with the tackle. Very tight.
The stays should all be made of strong and low-stretch line to prevent scary situations. I suggest not stepping the mast with a cross-breeze, but with the wind from the bow or stern instead. That’s from experience.

As you see it in the picture, I set it with the gin pole angled forward to allow room to maneuver the mast and get it set on the beam in the forepeak once it’s upright, but I think it would have been easier if I hadn’t set it so far forward. It’s been several (like 5) years since I’ve done this. I also think that it would be better if my shrouds were attached at the top of the gin pole rather than where they are, so that it’s easier to get the mast aft of the pole as it’s raised. When you start to raise the mast it tends to want to swing forward and you need to push it aft through the gin pole shrouds to raise it. More room is better. I always set the mast to go up to port of the gin pole; just opposite of O'brien's procedure. Helpful to do it the same way every time. The backstay hangs behind the boat; other shrouds are draped overboard ahead of the forward stanchions. Make sure you pull down your halyards so they're not out of reach when it's up.
The Halyard
My halyard is a former spinnaker sheet: dacron, 3/8 in. Totally adequate to the task. I put a little loop and snap hook in it about 8 or so feet from the end. This clips around the mast so that the effective lifting point can be just below the spreaders. The tail then ties to a spinnaker pole eye on the mast such that it’s not quite long enough to jamb the loop under the spreaders. You use this tail to pull the loop down after the mast is in place. When you step the mast, you attach the headstay, backstay, and uppers before pulling down the halyard, then you attach the lowers.
I used two blocks, one at the top of the gin pole and one at the bottom, for the halyard. One is a ratchet block. This way the person doing the raising pulls down with one hand and up with the other, while the ratchet block helps to keep from slipping . It works well, and the two-handed arrangement is less strenuous.
Two people can step the mast. No problem.

Warning: If the mast falls after being inserted through the partners, it can destroy your deck. Attach the shrouds before releasing the halyard. Also, the fitting for the butt of the mast that sits on the beam must be held in place with screws. You don’t want this thing to slide.

I fabricated a fixed mast-block setup that inserts at the partners. This was done after determining just where the mast should be fore/aft and side-to-side in the partners. It slides onto the mast, and when the mast is set, it ‘plugs-in’ to the partners, and is then held from below via a piece of plywood with a screw pulling down on the mast block.

IMG_20210927_141900520_HDR.jpg IMG_20210927_141834.jpg IMG_20210924_153702.jpg
 
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