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Mast Raising From The Bridge?
Don't Try This At Home
August 5, 2010

arly Tuesday morning the TownDock.net crew got up early to go for a short cruise onboard Webster, the TownDock news boat. We figured we’d use the morning light to get some great photos of boats and such. When we passed under the Oriental bridge we came upon an unexpected sight. A sailboat, having its mast raised – using the bridge.

We stopped and anchored. This we hadn’t seen before.

There it was. A sailboat under the bridge… a line from the bridge set to raise the mast.

Now there are various ways to raise a mast. On a dinghy, it can be erected by hand. On a large boat, sailors normally go to a boatyard and hire the crane to hoist the spar into place.

Then there is this.

Tuesday morning Rick Smith moved his 40’ English Ketch under the Oriental bridge, and proceeded to use the bridge to raise his mast.

Sailors sometimes have a reputation for trying to save a buck. The following may be an example of such…

Rigged to lift: the mast, which weighs hundreds of pounds, is readied. The line went from the mast spreader to a block tied up at the bridge, then down to the anchor winch on the foredeck. There was no second safety line rigged.
Visiting cruisers Kristy and Travis McGillicutty were helping Rick Smith with the mast raising. Here Kristy tails the line coming from the anchor winch.
The knot from which the mast hung
Marvin Bullock was out for his morning walk when he came upon the scene. He stayed around for a while taking it in….
The side view – initially a line came from the mizzen to the mast being raised. It bent the mizzen forward. It was scary to watch.


Sorting rigging. There was lots of it.

Lassoing the masthead
Hoisting the mast base aboard
Travis McGillicutty reaches through the bridge railing to free a jammed stay
Bridge traffic got an unexpected view
Fitting the mast into its base
While some of rigging was wire, the top shrouds were just rope.
The view from the bridge. Numerous boaters approached Smith to inquire if assistance was required.
The Boatyard Option

So what does it cost to raise a mast at a boatyard? We called both Deaton Yacht Service and Sailcraft Service in Oriental. Kathy at Sailcraft says “we can raise a mast in about half an hour.” This however presumes proper organization on the owner’s part – all stays labeled, all turnbuckle pins handy. If the rigging isn’t neatly organized it will taker longer – and cost more. Both yards have very similar charges. It can cost as little as $150 – $200 if all goes well, or more if the job takes longer. Karen at Deatons says “the average is probably about $300”.

The Bridge Option

It took Rick Smith, plus 2 helpers and assorted bystanders roughly 9 hours to raise the 40-plus foot aluminum spar. As noted earlier, it was rather scary to watch. There were some tense moments. In the end, the mast was raised.

That Legality Thing

Oriental Police Chief Jeff Casassa got a call from a concerned citizen after noon – Casassa says he arrived at the scene about 1pm, just as they were finishing up (Jeff adds they told him the work had started at 4am). “I couldn’t believe it – I couldn’t believe what I was seeing with my own eyes” said the Police Chief. He points out one cannot use state property (the bridge) for personal purposes in this manner. No charges were made, but Casassa says if the call were received earlier he would have stopped the operation.

Back in the anchorage Wednesday with the mast now raised. Both masts were a bit crooked. Rick Smith says “there’s a few weeks of rigging work to do”.

Posted Thursday August 5, 2010 by Keith N. Smith

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