Dropping the Mast On a Catalina 25 (or Similar Boat)

Dropping the mast aft with a custom-built A-frame rig is popular among Catalina 25 owners.  Other Catalina 25 owners have good reason to prefer dropping the mast forward.  Rumor has it that Catalina intended for the mast to be dropped forward, which is why the factory specification for mainsheet length is longer than necessary to sail the boat.  Dropping the mast forward is convenient on boats with a bimini mounted over the cockpit.  Dropping the mast forward is less ideal for boats without biminis if the mast is only being dropped to motor under bridges.  Leaving the mast dropped forward but still attached to the mast step leaves the mast in a precarious position, and dangerous for navigation.

Dropping the mast forward requires no A-frame rig, gin pole, or other additional hardware.  Having an assistant is helpful for two of the steps but not necessary.  The boom acts as a gin pole.  The mainsheet tackle provides the leverage to ease the mast down and raise it.  The topping lift (or backstay pig tail attached to the aft end of the boom) counters the mainsheet.  Guy lines run from the aft end of the boom through the foresail fairleads around the foresail sheet winches to the foresail sheet cleats stabilize the boom laterally (See photo.), and importantly keep the boom vertical as the mast comes down.  Sail track stops, like those made by Davis, (or one sail track stop and the cleat for the downhaul) prevent the gooseneck on the boom from sliding along (and possibly out of) the mast track.

Steps:

  1. Disconnect all wiring at the base of the mast.
  2. Fix the forward end of the boom in place using a sail track stop above and another below the gooseneck, or a sail track stop above and the downhaul cleat below.
  3. Put tension on the mainsheet and the topping lift so that the boom is approximately level and perpendicular to the mast.
  4. Move the foresail fairlead cars as far aft as possible.
  5. Run a guy line from the aft end of the boom through the port foresail fairlead, around the port foresail sheet winch (1-2 turns on the winch), and secure it on the cleat for the port jib sheet.  Run another guy line the same way, but to the starboard side of the boat.
  6. Disconnect the backstay.  For boats with adjustable backstays, first move the adjuster upward to ease the tension on the backstay as much as possible.
  7. Disconnect the aft-most lower shrouds.
  8. Loosen the upper shrouds with 7-8 turns (more or less) on the turnbuckle.
  9. Loosen the bolt at the base of the mast so that there is 1/4” of clearance between the nut and the mast step.
  10. Ease the mainsheet a few inches.  Then ease the port guy line a few inches.  Then ease the starboard guy line a few inches.  Repeat this process, carefully going from mainsheet to port guy line to starboard guy line, round after round, until the mast is down and resting on the bow pulpit.  Keep tension on at least two of the three lines at all times.
  11. Lash the mast to the bow pulpit to prevent it from sliding laterally off the pulpit.
  12. Ease both guy lines to determine to which side of the boat the boom will tend to fall.  One guy line will fall slack while the other remains taught.  Ease the guy line that remained taught until the boom is down laterally.
  13. Remove the upper mast track stopper, slide the gooseneck out of the mast track slot, and bring the boom inboard.
  14. Unlash the mast from the bow pulpit.  Having a helper do this step and ensure the mast does not slide laterally is convenient.
  15. Sit on the end of the boom (or wedge it in an armpit to hold it down) and remove the bolt securing the mast to the mast step.
  16. Carefully lift the end of the mast, and move the mast aft until the end rests on the aft pushpit.  Having a helper lift the mast above the pulpit while moving is convenient, and prevents scratching the mast and the pulpit.

Warnings:

  • All running rigging should be in good condition.  (Check the topping lift!)
  • If using the downhaul cleat to help fix the gooseneck in place, make sure the cleat’s mounting screws are tight.
  • Take it slow until experienced.  Of the three lines in play (two guy lines and the mainsheet), two of these lines should be taught at all times until the mast is down.
  • The boom may flop violently to one side of the boat or the other if the guy lines are not used.
  • The top of the mast will tend to tip into the water when the mast step bolt is removed, until the mast is carried aft.

This article originally appeared in the May 2018 Catalina Yachts owners’ magazine, Mainsheet.

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