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The $tingy Sailor

Diy trailerable sailboat restoration and improvement without throwing your budget overboard.

sailboat gin pole for sale

How to Step a Mast Single-Handed With or Without Using the Boom as a Gin Pole

How do you step the mast on your trailerable sailboat? With a gin pole? With the trailer winch? With the help of friends or family? With your fingers crossed? No single system works for every sailboat or for every skipper. If you’re new to mast stepping, you don’t like your current method, or you just want to simplify or speed up the process, this post is for you. I must warn you though, this is a long post, even for me. To make it as short as possible, I’ve included five YouTube videos that show how this system works. By the end of this post, you’ll know everything about how I step the mast on Summer Dance single-handed in minutes, even on the water.

I’ll describe two ways that I step the mast, including one way that doesn’t use a gin pole at all. Both are fast and mostly use the boat’s own rigging and very little extra gear.

I’ll also explain some topics that lead up to and follow mast stepping, like how I:

  • Use a DIY telescoping mast crutch for easier stepping and secure trailering.
  • Tie down the mast and rigging for trailering.
  • Keep my mast in tune without having to loosen and re-tighten the shroud turnbuckles to step the mast.

What do you really need?

When I started trailering Summer Dance years ago, I researched a lot about mast stepping. The Catalina 22 Owner’s Manual and General Handbook is pretty brief on the subject.

Walk the mast aft and drop the mast foot into the mast step on top of the deck, keeping the mast in center line of boat, insert the pivot bolt and locking nut. One crew member should pull on a line tied securely to the forestay while another pushes up on the mast and walks from the cockpit forward. With the mast erect, attach the forestay and forward lower shrouds.

Poorly written but pretty simple, huh? One crew member pulls on the forestay while another pushes on the mast. That’s how the mast was designed to be stepped and it works well if you’re young, strong, and there are two or more of you to do the job.

But what if you don’t normally have a second able crew member? What if you need to step the mast on the water? What if you want to lower the mast to go under a bridge? What if you or your crew have a physical impairment that prevents them from performing one of the tasks? That system may not work for you and you need an alternative. If you believe in the rule that you should have a backup for every critical part and system, then you also need a backup mast stepping plan even if you normally step the mast with the factory recommended method.

I’ve read about lots of different systems. Maybe you have too:

  • Factory-built gin poles, braces, guy wires, and mast-ups
  • DIY wooden gin poles with winches, bridles, and brace poles
  • Blocks attached to the pulpit to reuse the trailer winch cable
  • Electric winches on the trailer or in the tow vehicle
  • Jumbo bungee cord connected to the forestay
  • Assorted Rube Goldberg variations on all the above

They all struck me as overkill for the real problem. What do you really need once you have the mast bolted to the step? What do all of these system have in common? Some mechanical advantage to raise the mast and a way to keep it from swinging too far sideways until the shrouds tighten.

If you’ve read this blog for very long at all, you know that I’m really big on reusing or repurposing things for other uses. It’s something of a prerequisite to be a stingy sailor. If you’re lucky, it’s in your DNA and it comes easily to you. Being an armchair engineer qualifies too.

Let’s see — sailboat design is all about capturing, multiplying, and redirecting forces for mechanical advantage: the hull, keel, rudder, mast, sails, rigging, almost everything. What’s the most compact, portable piece of gear on a sailboat that creates mechanical advantage? The main sheet or the boom vang typically multiplies the force applied to it by three or four times. What are all gin poles in their most basic form? A big stick. Is there already a long, stiff, portable, stick onboard? The boom. Can we raise and lower the mast single-handed with the main sheet and the boom?

As it turns out, it’s really pretty easy to do. But it’s not very easy to describe in words, so rather than write an entire book about it, I’ve made a series of short videos that each show a different aspect of my mast stepping system. I’ll give you an overview of each aspect in the text below but to really get it, you should watch the videos.

Getting it to the water

Besides being simpler, one of the basic principles of this system is to make launching and retrieving the boat as quick as possible while also being safe. That starts with securing the mast and rigging for trailering. For me, it has to be secure enough to tow for a hundred miles over bumpy state highways and county backroads to my favorite cruising spots. This is in north Idaho, mind you, which is relatively remote compared to the Florida coast or southern California.

I use a combination of DIY mast supports, motorcycle straps, and inexpensive ball cords to secure the rig. The mast is supported on both ends and in the middle. This follows closely the Catalina 22 Owner’s Manual and General Handbook  recommendation.

Tie the mast and boom securely to the bow and stern pulpits. The spars should also be supported in the middle by the cabin top. Pad the mast at all contact points to prevent damage.

No tools or knot tying are needed for my system and any one of them works in seconds and stows easily either onboard or in my pickup.

Here’s a tour of the rig tied down just before I step the mast.

The previous video mentions my DIY mast stepper, also called a Mastup by a popular online Catalina parts retailer. I haven’t yet devoted a blog post to it but it was pretty easy to make. If you’re interested in a fabrication drawing and materials list, keep reading to the end of this post and a special offer.

I bought the steel myself from the cutoff pile at a local metal distributor. I took the metal and my drawing to a local welder who advertised on I painted and assembled it myself. The total cost was half the price of the commercial version and in some ways, works even better. I especially like the D rings, which make it simple to secure the top of the mast stepper to the aft mooring cleats while trailering. It holds the mast very solid that way. And because the pintles are welded in place instead of adjustable, they can’t accidentally loosen and drop the mast.

Following is a close-up video of just the mast stepper. You can see it in action in the last two videos.

Setting up the boom as a gin pole

The  basic theory of a gin pole is to lift a heavy object below one end while it remains stationary at the other end. Support lines called guys position the lifting end over the object that is raised. A mast raising gin pole has one end stationary near the base of the mast, uses the forestay to support the lifting end, and uses a winch or a block and tackle to theoretically raise the bow of the sailboat to the end of the gin pole. In reality, the bow stays stationary and the entire gin pole system including its base (the mast) are raised towards the bow.

Most C-22 gin poles use one of two methods to attach the gin pole to the mast:

  • A peg on one end of the pole that fits in a hole in the mast (the factory system for 2nd generation C-22s)
  • A saddle on the end of the gin pole that fits around and is strapped to the mast (most DIY systems)

Neither of those gin poles serve any purpose after the mast is raised. They’re useless extra weight that takes extra storage space.

The system I use attaches using a small right angle bracket. I fabricated it out of a piece of scrap aluminum I already had. One side of the bracket is bolted through the mast step and the cabin top in front of the mast. The other side the bracket points upward and has a 1/4″ hole through it to act as a hinge for the gooseneck (stationary lower) end of the boom. If you’re a follower of this blog and have the password, you can find a scale drawing of this bracket on the Downloads page.

sailboat gin pole for sale

I connect the gooseneck fitting to the bracket with the same quick pin (drop cam or toggling bimini type) that I use to connect the gooseneck fitting to the mast slide while sailing. The pin is tethered to the boom with a stainless steel lanyard so it can’t get lost and it’s always near at hand.

I connect the forestay to a shackle on the top side of the (upper) end of the boom. On the opposite (bottom) side of the boom from the forestay, I connect the end of my main sheet tackle that doesn’t have the cam cleat. This is the same configuration as when the main sheet is attached for sailing. I connect the other end of the main sheet (that’s normally attached to the traveler car) to the stem plate where the forestay is normally attached.

To hold the boom vertical during raising, I sometimes use two pieces of pre-tied accessory cord. They connect to the sides of the boom with clips through the eye straps where my boom topping lift and jiffy reefing lines attach. The other ends of the cords have loops tied into them that I tie to the upper ends of the midship lifeline stanchions with girth (cow) hitches. The mast step is nearly in-line with the tops of the stanchions, so the cords rotate around the same pivot point as the mast and the boom.

If your sailboat doesn’t have the same style of gooseneck fitting as a Catalina 22 or you can’t use your boom for some other reason but you do have a spinnaker pole, you might be able to use it instead as this picture from a Westerly 21 owner shows. This picture also shows that a gin pole can be a great help with lifting the extra weight added by a furler.

sailboat gin pole for sale

That’s kind of hard to visualize, so here’s a short video that takes you on a tour of the setup.

This is a stickup with a boom!

After I rig the boom like shown above, the hard part is over. The rest is just pulling the main sheet with one hand while I steady the mast with my other hand. I also watch the stays and shrouds to be sure they don’t catch on anything as they raise off the deck.

With the main sheet cam cleat at the stem plate, I can easily stop raising the mast at any point, cleat the line with a sharp tug, and then clear snags or move to a better lifting position. Then I uncleat the main sheet at the stem plate first and hold light tension on the main sheet while I get into position to resume raising the mast.

The mast only needs to be held centered until it reaches about a 45° angle. Then the upper shrouds begin to tighten and they hold it centered the rest of the way up.

When the mast is vertical, I reconnect the forestay and forward lower shrouds using quick release levers . The mast is back in tune and requires no further adjustment. I disconnect the boom from the system and attach it in its normal place between the mast slide and the topping lift or backstay pendant. I disconnect the main sheet and attach it to the traveler car. All I need to put away are the two accessory cords if I used them, which I typically only do when it’s windy, when I’m setting up in a unlevel area, or on the water when its choppy.

Here’s a video showing the entire process completed in about 4 and a half leisurely minutes.

Single-handed speed stepping

In good conditions (light breeze, level area, or calm water), I skip over using the boom as a gin pole entirely and just use the main sheet to pull the mast up by the forestay. It saves several minutes and is nearly as easy to do but you should be fitter than average to attempt it. It’s the single-handed equivalent of having a crew member in front of the boat pull a line attached to the forestay. Bystanders seem to enjoy watching me raise the mast by myself in seconds.

Here’s what it looks like when it’s done on the water.

Back to the beginning

At the end of a road trip, I never look forward to tearing down  Summer Dance , pulling her out of the water, and tying her down for the ride home. I’ve had a great time but I’m tired and there’s many miles to go before I sleep. I don’t want to spend an hour lowering the mast and tying the rig down. I want it to be quick and simple.

Almost always, I lower the mast without using the boom as a gin pole even if I raised it that way. A gin pole is just not usually necessary so long as the mast comes down slow enough and lands in the crutch. You might not want to do it that way your first few times, so here’s what it looks like using the boom as a gin pole.

Then I tie it all down in a few minutes like shown in the first video.

Special offer for blog followers

Whew! That’s a lot of info. If you stuck with me through it, I really appreciate it. I want to thank you by offering not one, but two free bonuses to my blog followers.

The first is the launch checklist that I use to prepare and launch Summer Dance . It’s two pages of items that can help make sure you don’t forget something important for your next cruise — everything from an umbrella for the first mate while she waits for you to step the mast, to step-by-step instructions that you can have on deck for the gin pole method described above. Use it as a starting point to add and remove items to make your own checklist.

The second bonus is a dimensioned drawing and materials list for my DIY mast crutch that is described at the beginning of this post. Use it to build your own and save some money for something else.

If you’re already a subscriber to this blog, you can download both of the free bonuses from my Downloads page using the password that you received when you subscribed. If you’re not already a subscribed to this blog, sign up and you’ll join the thousands of other stingy sailors. Just enter your email address in the box at the bottom of this page and then click the Subscribe  button. You can unsubscribe at any time and I won’t share your address with anyone, ever.

I hope you’ve picked up some tips from this post that you can use to optimize your mast stepping system and spend more time on the water.

Would you like to be notified when I publish more posts like this? Enter your email address below to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. You will also receive occasional newsletters with exclusive info and deals only for followers and the password to the Downloads page. It’s free and you can unsubscribe at any time but almost nobody does!

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58 thoughts on “ how to step a mast single-handed with or without using the boom as a gin pole ”.

Love your vids on raising mast. Could you send a pic of quick release on forward shrouds and forstay and the pin you spoke of in vid.

Stay tuned here for a separate post on the quick releases and maintaining mast tune that’s coming soon!

I like the idea of using PVC tube & fence to make mast supports.

Just some scraps I had on hand; lightweight, strong, and they don’t look too ghetto.

Hey $tingy,

Thanks for another great post.

You mention the newsletter. I am definitely a long time blog follower, and look forward to every post, but I have never gotten a newsletter. Could you add me to whatever email list you use? I don’t want to miss any more.

Hi, CapnRehab

You weren’t receiving the newsletter initially because you’re a WordPress user so if you follow, my posts should show up in your Reader list instead of by email. But I added your email address to the newsletter recipient list back on May 11. The last newsletter went out on May 21 titled What’s Your Favorite DIY Project? Did you get that one? I’ll probably shoot out the next one at the end of the month. If you don’t get it, I don’t know what more I can do on my end.

Brilliant repurpose of mainsheet. I’ve struggled with this procedure for years, just man-handling it up there. Can’t wait to try this!

I hope it works for you. Let me know how it goes!

For mast raising and lowering, I have it a little easier with a 16ft boat, and can raise the mast single handed juat by manually lifting and walking forward in the cockpit and onto the keel case with the hatch slid forward, although I usually have my wife tension the forestay for some extra assurance.

I like your use of the “ball ties” for securing the rigging on the trailer. I usually use the halyards to tie everything up, but that takes more time than it should. I use some “sail ties” which are very similar to your ball ties to secure the sail on the boom and the boom is stowed inside the cabin. I think I will either get some more sail ties for securing the rigging on the trailer, or make up some velcro webbing straps. At the bow, my mast is tied down using my bowline and the DIY timber A frame mast crutch tied down at the rear with a rope tied to cleats on either side of the transom. The boat is held to the trailer using a stern ratchet strap and a turnbuckle on the bow, and the winch cable attached.

I really like the idea of using the boom as a gin pole. Brilliant. I wonder if you could post a picture of the L-shaped aluminum bracket that you fabricated and how it is attached to the boom? Making that may be the tricky part for me to get this thing. I could not really see a clear picture of it in your videos. Thanks!

I’ll add a close-up shot of it soon.

I added a close-up picture of the hinge bracket about midway through the post.

Excellent blog and report. I struggle with the mast raising and have an assistant. I will give your system a try. I finally understand the function of a gin pole and how to use it.

That’s awesome, Richie. I’m really glad it helped. In the case of a sailboat, it’s just a long, temporary lever. Aha moments are great!

Excellent report and diagram on the mast stepper. What would you think about using aluminum to build it instead of steel?

I think aluminum would work great so long as the wall thickness of the tubes is adequate. You wouldn’t need to be concerned about painting or rust. The critical area is where the outer tube overlaps the inner tube when the crutch is extended. Depending on how close the fit is and how much overlap, when you’re rolling the mast back to set it in the step, there can be considerable strain on that “joint.” A thin wall or soft aluminum might deform so make it beefy there.

Thanks for your comment, Michael!

I spoke to my fabricator friend about using aluminum and, him not knowing about the stepping process was most concerned about the hinges holding weight while trailering over the road. He also suggested using a beefier thickness if choosing aluminum just like your suggestion.

thanks for all you do!!!

The gudgeons can easily handle the weight so long as the pintles on the crutch are sturdy.

Send us a good picture of the final product and I’ll add it at the end of the post as an example!

Great post. Just started following your site. You have a lot of good projects on here. Where did you find such thin-walled square tubing for your mast stepper? All I can find is telescoping 1-3/4 & 1″ tubing. I don’t think I need that much strength or weight. Also, I receive the posts by e-mail but I never received the password for the download section. Thanks

There are a couple of industrial metal suppliers in my area that sell their cut-offs retail to the public by the pound. One of them also sells small quantities of standard sizes. I found all the sizes I needed with very little cutting. You definitely don’t need much strength and as little weight as possible. Aluminum would be even better if you can get it welded.

I’ll send you the password by email.

Thanks for your question.

I really like the simplicity of raising the mast without a gin pole. I use a gin pole now but prefer a simpler approach. How to you lower your mast? Do you use your mainsheet tackle when lowering? Thanks for the great video.. Jim Mathews

That’s right, Jim. I lower the mast by the same method but in reverse, which helps to remember the steps in both directions.

Thanks for your question!

Hi. I’m making the mast crutch and downloaded the drawing. How far down is the second hole in the 1″ tubing? ie. the hole where I would put the lock pin when the crutch is raised. Thanks.

That’s an excellent question, Jim, since it wasn’t shown on the drawing. I’ve since revised the drawing to show the hole 2″ up from the bottom of the inner tube.

The distance isn’t critical but depending on how tight the fit is between the inner and the outer tube, the hole might work better even farther up the inner tube. Try it at 2″ and if the top tube is too loose for you and it wobbles around, drill another hole farther up the inner tube, say at 4″ and try that. The mast will sit 2″ lower but it shouldn’t affect how you step the mast other than by making the crutch sturdier. Then you will have two holes to choose from. You can even drill more holes at different heights for different purposes.

Hi Thanks for the blog. Some pretty interesting ideas here, I’m borrowing some, especially related to the sails… Seeing your “system” to step the mast, I’m trying to adapt it to my boat, a ’82 French Rocca Super Chausey. The mast step has no pin to lock to the mast foot, it just falls into place between two pins that limit its longitudinal travel. Hence, nothing for the mast to pivot on. Any thoughts on how I could achieve that effect? Thanks.

If you have the tools and the ambition, you could replace your existing tabernacle with a custom made pivoting one. Find a piece of heavy gauge aluminum channel that you can cut into a shape similar to the C-22 tabernacle shown in the picture above. The channel should be just wide enough for the mast to sit into and the height a couple of inches. Cut slots in the sides for the through bolt to slide up and down. Cut the channel long enough and drill holes in the bottom of the channel to fit your existing deck bolts.

Then drill a hole through the base of the mast to accept the through bolt. It should be close to the bottom of the mast, 1/4″-1/2″ from the bottom. Angle the aft edge of the end of the mast so that it will rotate without binding in both directions. As it rotates backward during unstepping, the bottom end of the mast and the through bolt should ride up in the slots. Put a wingnut on the end of the through bolt for easy removal and you’ve got a pivoting mast.

If you don’t have the resources to make one yourself, maybe you can find a friend or a metal fabricator to help.

Good luck with your projects and thanks for your question! $tingy

When installing the gin pole hinge bracket you drill through the cabin roof. Have you experienced any water penetration through this hole?

I sealed the plate and hole perimeters with butyl tape, so no problems.

Wow! Love the post and videos!! So clear and easy to follow. I’m going to try this for my Columbia 8.3. I tried to follow you but got an error code. Can you manually add me, please?

Please try following again and if the error repeats, send me the text or a screenshot of the error so I can investigate.

My Venture 21 tabernacle and mast look like yours (sans the plate for your swivel blocks) and I have often wondered if there is wear on the trailing edge of the mast foot after repeated raising/lowering? Or does yours have some reinforcement?

Also, have you ever noticed the boom baby stays pulling too much on the stantions? I wonder if mounting the ropes at the base would be less apt to damage them if the mast were to go somewhat off-center (to the exrent the upper shrouds allowed)?

Love your site. I shared the 2017 DIY competition on Small Craft Advisor Magazine’s Facebook page and I noticed the 10 most popular projects link…most of which are on my to-do list!

There is a tiny bit of wear after 36 years but not enough to matter. Tying the baby stays to the stanchion bases would be more solid but then their pivot points would be too low. The reason that I tie them up at the top of the stanchions is so that the baby stays keep in relatively constant tension throughout the range of motion of the mast/boom. They’re almost perfectly aligned with the tabernacle. The stanchions aren’t in much danger because the boom doesn’t weight much and it can’t wander very far at all since it’s held in tension between the forestay (running aft) and the main sheet (running forward). They really just help to hold the boom vertical while you’re setting the system up until you begin to raise the mast. The mast can wander side to side some until its raised about halfway, then the upper shrouds come taught and keep it centered.

Thanks for the share!

Your site has been a tremendous help and inspiration for me and my 1988 Cat 22. My mast step has welded loops fore and aft. Can you suggest a structurally sound way to secure the boom to the loop for lifting/lowering?

Link showing the step:

Hello, KGUNN

Since the loop is perpendicular to the line of the mast/boom rotation, it won’t work well using only off the shelf parts. I suggest you consider mounting a tang like the Garhauer BT-1 to the bottom of the mast instead. You can pin the boom to it similar to how I do it to my bracket. The boom will then rotate with the mast as it raises and lowers.

Great suggestion. Thanks!

Hmmm, this asks more questions for than answers. I don’t have the lower stays, nor do I have any of the attachment point on the mast that I can see. The thing is the boat is smaller 20′ vs 22′ I have no lifelines nor a rear rail, walking down the side of the boat would be a challange, never mind running lines while doing so. The mini stays have no place to attach to. Not sure how to go about raising the mast without help…even with this setup…

A smaller sailboat could indeed be trickier to step the mast single-handed since it has less rigging to aid the process. If you’re not committed to perfecting a single-handed technique, I’d suggest you consider a two-handed process with one crew member in the cockpit to steady the mast laterally while the second crew member pulls the mast up by the forestay or foresail halyard from the bow or on the ground in front of the bow. A mast crutch would also help in that case. Otherwise, you might be looking at extensive fabrications or commercial mast stepping hardware with a winch.

Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

How could your system be used with a furling 150 genoa on a Catalina 25?

Hello, Thomas

It could be used in a similar way on your C-25 with a couple of adjustments. First, your mast is longer and heavier than a C-22 so I would always use the boom as a gin pole. You’ll need the leverage for the extra weight, especially with the addition of the furler. Second and more importantly, you’d need to lift the furler as well as the mast somehow. I’d suggest using a main or spinnaker halyard to hold the mast and furler together. Wrap it around them from top to bottom before you lower the mast, then handle them as one unit until after you raise the mast again and unwrap the halyard to reconnect the forestay/furler. Use the jib halyard with its working end securely tied off instead of the forestay to connect the masthead to the boom/gin pole. The rest of the process would work the same.

Stay tuned because I’ll be publishing a post soon about choosing and using a furler with a trailerable sailboat.

Appreciate your reply Stingy. I need to carefully review your technique but it seems one’s boom would remain upward; although I’m sure you lower it when finished? Sorry for my ignorance. I’m also looking at the idea from the clever MacGregor 26 mast raising pole that uses a winch on the pole with baby stays with a special one to automatically keep the lowered furler up off the deck. I read about it on TropicalBoating ( ). I’ll have a look at your mast crutch but I can’t use the gudgeons for the rudder as I’ll need to motor over to the Cave Run Lake (KY) boat launch for the haul out. Thanks!!

Winch-powered mast raising systems are a good choice for owners with impaired physical abilities. I might have to resort to one as I get older and am not able to do everything I once could. Beats giving up sailing!

One needs to attach a mast bail with the MacGregor 26 solo mast stepping system. I’m reluctant to drill into the mast though. This is my first cruiser (purchased in July) and I’ve much to learn from your blog. I was only introduced to sailing two years ago when I bought a Sunfish.

My C-25 teak companionway/hatchboards need replacement after 20 years, probably all standing rigging needs replacement even though it all looks fine at deck level (in the Lake continuously since ‘08), etc., etc. I pulled two through hull Airmar transducers out to check them and found only thin layer of algae on them – tells me the lake water has been very clean. The old KVH display is dead so I’ll switch it out (plugging holes with marine plastic and epoxy) with a new RayMarine i40.

I see that the boom is removed of course in your video. I also see the stress on the mast crutch essentially dictates one use the transom gudgeons for support. I had thought I could use 1” pipe secured to the stanchions but then there would not be enough telescoping height available either. You’ve devised a very clever approach- I’ve never remounted my boom so will need how I can attach it to the fore ring on the step plate.

You might consider modifying my crutch design so that the bottom end rests in the cockpit sole forward of the transom instead of on the rudder gudgeons. It would probably need additional support or to be fastened to the mast to keep it from falling over. Offset to one side a little, you should still be able to use your rudder to steer. That, or use the outboard tiller instead of the rudder to get to the ramp if you can. I do that sometimes.

Just what I have been looking for to give me some information to guide me in raising and lowering the mast for maintenance on my 26 foot Grampian without the expensive use of a crane this spring.

Hi, I like your idea of the mast raising system without a gin pole. Does your block & tackle include a ratchet or brake? Thanks!

Hello, Laura

Since I use my mainsheet tackle, no, but if you want to use a separate tackle, that would be a good idea.

Thanks, $tingy

Sure beats my system of using 2 sons to help out, they’re never around when you need them !

Thanks for the video on the no pole lift, that’s pretty much how I need to do it though I usually am working on the hard before getting a lift in.

I have tried raising the mast as you show in the video. I have the same quick release. But when I try to lift the mast with the forstay can’t do. I’m wondering maybe your mast is lighter or do I have the wrong set up to raise mast. I have the mast step which I can raise for a better angle…but it’s not happening.

Hello, Mark

Are you using a gin pole or trying to lift it only by the forestay? Either way, it takes quite a bit of strength to get the mast up that first few feet since you’re not pulling directly vertically on the masthead. If you’re not able to do it by yourself, you might need a helper for at least that part of the setup.

Dear sir My name is Mark Monteverdi. I have followed your web site for a while…and always turned out good. I have looked at the mast rising video countless times. I have the quick release for the shrouds. I’m guessing you are using a basic vang ? Well either I’m very weak or i have the vang set up incorrect or my mast is made of different material …when i go to raise my mast it will fall off to one side it just feels as though I’m pulling a truck up a hill. If you would be kind enough to send a pic of what ever type of pulley system i would greatly appreciate that very much. It’s hard to get any one to go sailing with me and that’s more just so i have some one to push and one work the winch. Thank you Mark

I’m sorry to hear you’re having trouble. When raising or lowering my mast, it too will tend to swing to one side or the other until it’s about half way up and the upper shrouds tighten and hold it centered the rest of the way up. That’s why I always have at least one hand on the mast to keep it centered during the lower half of the lift. I use the standard C-22 main sheet tackle which has a 3:1 mechanical advantage. You could use a stronger tackle (try 4:1) if you need the additional lifting power. You can see the whole main sheet in the video in Quit Spending Setup Time on Turnbuckles .

Hope that helps, $tingy

Hi Stingy Sailor, First of all, thanks for all your tips, tricks, and videos. Your site is awesome and very helpful! I have a C-25 with swing keel so most of all your tips are applicable, very nice, and handy. I really like your mast securing device located at the bow for trailering; easy and simple. I was wondering if you do have the drawings available for it so I could use it to build my own? Thanks! Alex

I did not make a fabrication drawing for the pulpit saddle because of the complex angles of the railing cutouts. Most readers wouldn’t be able to cut them accurate enough, so it’s a trial and error fit. Lay your material centered across the top of the pulpit, trace the railing edges onto the underside of the material, then cut a little at a time until the saddle sits down securely over the rails. Do the same with the mast on top of your material and you’re done.

Good morning, what a beautiful boat you have there ! that is an ingenious way to raise a mast,nice work ! I am curious about what the black,plastic/rubber item is that looks like it’s attached to the stern rail by the mast crutch @ 2:45 of the first video Please respond because my curiosity is killing me because I don’t get it. Thanks, Mick

You can read all about it in Add a Solar-Powered Flood Light in Your Cockpit .

Hi! I just subscribed to your blog, and I’d like the instructions for building a mast crutch like yours. Wasn’t sure whether that would be sent out automatically, or whether I needed to specifically ask for them. Thanks!

Lenny, You can find a dimensioned drawing of the mast crutch on my Downloads page if you’re a subscriber. The password to open that page was sent to you when you subscribed. $tingy

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No Fear Mast Stepping!

Posted by The Editors | Projects , Rigging

No Fear Mast Stepping!

In a previously published article, I touched upon the use of a quick and easy way for the lone sailor to raise or lower the mast on the typical small cruiser. Ensuing months brought a number of inquiries clamoring for more details regarding rigging. In truth, ponder as I might, I could never come up with a suitable mast-raising method on my own. However, I have a good friend, Gerry Catha, who is an airline pilot, aircraft builder, and fellow Com-Pac 23 sailor. He grew tired of my whining and worked out the following solution. I am grateful to him for redefining and perfecting the hardware involved and generously passing along the method to be adapted by his fellow sailors.

The instability of the stand-alone gin-pole has long made its use fraught with many of the same safety concerns associated with the use of trained elephants in mast stepping. The greatest fear factor involved in the process has always been the tendency of the mast-gin-pole combination to sway out of control during the lift. I can’t tell you the number of “wrecks” I have heard of, or been personally involved in (read, responsible for) over the years, due to a moment’s inattention, insecure footing, or errant gust of wind at some critical moment. All of this becomes a thing of the past with Gerry’s no-nonsense bridle arrangement.

While systems may differ slightly as far as materials and fittings go, the basic tackle remains the same: a six-foot length of 1 1/2-inch aluminum tubing, two 2-inch stainless steel rings, enough low-stretch 3/16-inch yacht braid for the bridle runs, a few stainless steel eyebolts, some snaps and, of course, a boom vang to take the place of the elephants.

Eyebolt installed

Eyebolt installed

My own gin-pole has a large eyebolt installed in one end, which can be attached by a through-bolt (with a nylon spool cover) into a matching eye at the base of the mast’s leading edge and secured by a large wingnut. This is the pivoting point for the gin-pole, which, of course, supplies the leverage. On the upper end of the gin-pole, two smaller, opposing eyebolts provide attachment points for bridles, halyard, and boom vang. Again, I must say that I have already heard of a number of different variations regarding attachments, hardware, and so on, as each individual adapts the idea to his particular boat, budget, and attention span.

The critical thing to understand about this mast-raising technique is that in order for the mast and gin-pole lines to stay tight and keep the mast and gin-pole centered over the boat, the bridles must have their pivot points located on an imaginary line running through the mast pivot bolt. If the bridle pivot points are located anywhere else, the supporting lines will be too tight and/or too loose at some points during the lift.

sailboat gin pole for sale

Clip the jib halyard to the uppermost eye on the gin-pole and bring it to an approximate 90-degree angle to the mast and tie it off. Next, secure one end of the boom vang (cleat end) to a point as far forward on the deck as possible and the remaining end to the top of the gin-pole opposite the jib halyard.

At your leisure

With all bridle lines taut and the mechanical advantage of the boom vang facilitating the lifting, you can slowly raise the spar at your leisure. Since the mast and gin-pole are equally restrained port and starboard, they will go straight up or down without wandering from side to side. Using the auto-cleat on the boom vang, you can halt the process any time shrouds or lines need straightening or become caught up. This reduces the stress factor tremendously and allows for a calm, orderly evaluation and fix of the problem.

Ron's mast-stepping process

I might note that, due to variations in shroud adjustment and slight hull distortions, you may find the port and starboard bridle will be of slightly different dimensions, making it necessary to devise some sort of visual distinction between the two sides. I spray-painted the ends of the lines on each side, red or green, for instant identification. Stainless steel snaps on the rigging end of these lines make for quick and easy setup. I find that it takes us about 15 minutes to deploy the entire system and only 10 minutes or so to take it down and put it away. Each bridle rolls up into a bundle about the size of a tennis ball for storage. The bridles go into a locker, and the gin-pole attaches to the trailer until next it is needed.

Granted, launch time is extended by a few minutes, but the safety factor gained is immeasurable, especially for sailors who must perform the entire operation by themselves. I have used this method on masts up to 25 feet long and in quite strong side winds with no problem and have found it to be the most expeditious way to raise or lower a mast should trained elephants not be readily available.

Article taken from Good Old Boat magazine: Volume 4, Number 3, May/June 2001.

About The Author

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Gin-Pole Mast raising system

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I need to fit my Mac26 with a mast raising system. I know it just a pole and some blocks. I called bwyachts and they tell me I have to buy the new kit (crank wench) for $250.00! Anybody know a place where I can get my hands on a gin-pole?!  

sailboat gin pole for sale

Most gin-poles I've seen are dock-mounted, manual (hand winch) cranes used for stepping and unstepping masts from boats that pull up alongside. Are you asking about a system to raise and lower your deck-stepped mast, by pivoting at the tabernacle? If so, most folks just use a spinnaker or whisker pole, or the boom, as the offset.  

thanks for the clarification John I was guessing that it was called a gin-pole. Maybe I can just get a spinnaker pole. I would be hesitant to use me boom because I keep my sail folded up in it. I was hoping that someone might know of a good outlet website that may have a lot of spare parts.  

Here, take a look at this article from Good Old Boat .  

sailboat gin pole for sale

Are you positive that you need one? For my SJ21, I shackle my jib halyard (extra long for the purpose, I used to use a bit of stout line with a bowline in each end as an extension) to the bow eye, then just walk the mast forward and haul in the slack on the halyard as I go. Once I get the mast upright I haul the jib halyard good and tight into the cam cleat and then I can leisurely walk forward and secure the stays. If I get a snag on the way up I just cleat off and deal with it. I know that I have seen posts on other forums by mac 25/26 owners talking about performing a similar procedure.  

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You can also use a simple A-frame to do this. The advantage of an A-frame is that it can help keep the mast aligned fore-and-aft properly while raising or lowering it.  

Mast stepping A frame. I just finished a mast raising system on my Helsen 22'. It is 12v operated and is glass laid over my deck. When it is down, you can barely see it. This might be a little over the top, but take a look. You can see it on Youtube, just type in "mast stepping A frame" and you should reach it, also on my channel is a 12v operated keel, Bob.  

rbrown77138 said: I just finished a mast raising system on my Helsen 22'. It is 12v operated and is glass laid over my deck. When it is down, you can barely see it. This might be a little over the top, but take a look. You can see it on Youtube, just type in "mast stepping A frame" and you should reach it, also on my channel is a 12v operated keel, Bob. Click to expand...

lydanynom, I'm not really positive about anything on this boat yet. I new to cruisers. It seem that if I just use the bow plate, there would be too much tension on the 88 plate and cleats. without a pole the angle seem to acute and I thing getting the mast up would require too much muscle.  

sailboat gin pole for sale

The trailerable Hunters use a gin pole system for mast raising (I beleive Hunter has a video, or link to it, on using the system). Basically, the mast has a hole in the front section into which the pole is inserted. The pole has two opposing eyes on the other end. The jib halyard is hooked to the top one, and the mainsheet (4 to 1) is hooked to the other, as well as to the anchor padeye in the anchor locker. You then use the mainsheet to raise the mast (with the side shrouds in place). I could raise my 28 foot mast on my H26 by myself.  

sailboat gin pole for sale

Wow! $250.00 is a lot, I think I paid $160.00 for my new one and I still have the old one. The old one is for a 26X, the new ones are for the 26M but work on the others. What Mac 26 model do you have? The gin pole kits are specifically made for MacGregor boats that is why they charge a premium and the new ones come with a brake winch so they are a bit pricier. The old ones like my old one incorporate the use of the headsail winch to hoist the mast from the cockpit whereas the new ones have the winch on the gin pole so you can just stand there and crank up the mast. Perhaps you would like my old one???  

sailboat gin pole for sale

I'm resurrecting this older thread to get some clarification on an idea on saw on the Cape Horn site ( Mast Stepping System ). Gelinas describes using a "hinge" on the cap shrouds (upper shrouds), which, from what I gather, is something like this: . It's not clear to me how this would attach to the shroud, or how it would remain in position - in line with the mast step - while lowering or raising the mast. If someone could explain this to me better, I'd appreciate it. Is this hinge permanently attached, perhaps? (I realize there are other ways to skin a cat, I'm only asking about this one method and how this "hinge" works. I was planning on bringing my mast down using a pole and "shrouds" passing through a ring held in place by lines going in four directions, but this use of the cap/upper shrouds was new to me.) (bonus material: While trying to find an image for what I was just describing, I ran across this image, of what looks like a permanent setup to do the same thing Gelinas describes: )  

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In the book "Sea Wolf" Jack London describes raising the masts on that vessel by the captain alone. It might not help you much, but it's a great read. lol  

sailboat gin pole for sale

OK, a little bit more research indicates that it looks like Gelinas left out how he stabilizes the hinge on the cap shrouds, since I found a few descriptions that stress that the axis/pivot point should not change: "What you must do is stabilise the mast sideways as it goes down. Your SS plate lugs may be strong enough but there are many Al ones around here that snap off like chalk if the mast swings sideways. You can stabilise the mast easily with a mast head rig with cap shrouds square to the mast. You extend the chain plates with a tube so that the cap shroud can only pivot back from a point opposite the mast hinge. The tube is stayed forward by a wire or rope to stop it pivoting back. So the cap shrouds remain tight all the way from vertical to horizontal so no side sway. Read more at Is this mast foot designed for lowering without a crane? - Page 2 " I think I'll stick with the ring stabilized by lines and not worry about using the shroud for this.  

sailboat gin pole for sale

Klacko Spars Ltd. of OAKVILLE!!! Never tried this but it looks like a slick system using the spinnaker pole car.  

I haven't read all the replies so this may have already been said. Position the mast at the step. Lash your boom to the base of the mast at a 90. Use some nylon dock lines or anchor rode--you want stretchy--to guy it laterally by going from the top of your vertical boom, a full turn around the hull and up again on the other side. Set up the aft shrouds only. Use your mainsheet block from the top of your boom to a strong belay point near the bow. A helper can lift the mast as you work the block and tackle--the higher the mast gets, the easier it gets. Do it someplace/time when the water is calm. I did this a lot on a 22 foot boat so the forces on yours will obviously be greater, but if your gear will handle the weight and you set it up patiently, Archimedes will smile down on you. JV  

I recently fiitted my 1971 Ranger 26 with a Ballinger hinged mast step so that I could step my own mast singlehandedly without using a worked, but only after a lot of research & planning. Like many of this vintage, Rangers are relatively heavy boats with heavy masts. Mine is about 33' high and weighs maybe 150-175 lbs . Because the spinnaker pole attachment ring rides on a track, I was able to position the spinnaker pole about 3 feet above the step & use it as a gin pole. The advantages were that I already had the pole & a secure way to attach it in place. The slight disadvantage was that ideally the pole should be attached at the mast step for maximum leverage, but it worked fine at approx 3' above that. The boat is 26 feet long & the spinnaker pole was about 12' long. Ideally, your gin pole should reach all the way to your forestay fitting on the bow, & the spinnaker pole was close enough. The absolutely crucial thing is to prevent either the pole or the mast from swinging athwartships once it's in the air. That was solved using the ingenious "no fear" bridle method published in Goid Old Bost Magazine 20 years ago: No Fear Mast Stepping! - Good Old Boat . I followed this design to the letter, using 2 rings & 3/16" line, but because I had no attachment point on the mast for the temporary bridle rope stays, I just looped the line over my spreaders on the opposite side, so I could just pull the line through once the mast was up. This also gave me a nice high stable attachment point for the 2 temporary mast stays. Two more stays ran from the ring to the top of the spinnaker pole. The 2 rings MUST be more or less perfectly in line with the pin on the hinged mast step, per the instructions. Using rope instead of, say, cable for the stays allows for some stretch iif the rings are slightly out of alignment, I used my mainsheet tackle for the lifting muscle, which was attached from the top of the spinnaker pole to the bow fitting. I had hoped my mainsheet line would be long enough to reach either the winch on the mast or cabin top for extra leverage, but it didn't. It worked anyway with effort on my part, but it would have been easier pulling the mainsheet line using a winch. This will be even more important when lowering the mast, as the force needed will INCREASE rather than decrease as it did while stepping. You might also use a second person to help pull, but I didn't have one.The details can be found in the GOB article, but you will also need to support the mast on the aft end of the boat on some kind of roller so you can roll it back into position to attach it to the hinged step. I just added a 9" boat trailer roller To my existing string winter cover support & it worked fine. Warning: once you roll the mast back to attach it to the step, the attachment end of the mast might tip into the air! I was able to keep it down with one hand bc it was more or less balanced but yours might not be! Also important: pin all of your slack stays in advance, especially your back stay & aft lowers before you lift. I was able to preattach all but the forward lowers & the forestay, obviously. Otherwise you could be in for a VERY nasty surprise once the mast is up bc you will need the back stay & aft Lowers to keep the mast from falling FOREWARD once it's up. I actually forgot to attach the backstay but luckily the aft lowers were able to keep the mast in place. It worked amazingly well overall using the GOB no-fear method. Neither the mast nor the pole swayed out of line at any point, and I was able to use the mainsheet cam to stop the lifting at any point to make sure All shrouds & lines were clear. Once the mast is up it's too late. I didn't take photos bc I was alone & "focused" shall we say on getting it right. Happy to provide photos & more specifics if contacted. It saves me several hundred dollars a year in boatyard stepping fees, but it's not for the faint of heart or sloppy.  

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Hobie Mast Stepper II - In Use (Green Line)

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The Hobie Mast Stepper II is easy to install because it eliminates the trailer mounted gin pole. However, the Mast Stepper II system does require that the trailer's forward mast support be 30" taller than the mast step and an existing winch. Setup also requires a set of trapeze wires (not included). The mast is stabilized by tying a trap wire on each side to the front cross bar. The kit includes all necessary lines, shackles, blocks and instructions. Purchase winch separately. Recommended for Wave, Getaway, Hobie 14, Hobie 16, or Hobie 17 catamarans.

  • Easy to use Mast Stepper from Hobie Cat
  • Recommend for Wave, Getaway, Hobie 14, Hobie 16, and Hobie 17
  • Does not include mast stand or winch
  • Does not include trapeze wires, which are required for proper use
  • Installation Instructions



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Gin Pole Saddle?

  • Thread starter GorillaToast
  • Start date Oct 24, 2011
  • Catalina Owner Forums
  • Catalina 22



Has anyone used the Gin Pole Saddle available on CD? How well does it work, and do you have to drill a large hole in the front of the mast to attach it, then leave it there all the time? Thanks.  

Do you really need it?  

Yes, there is a big hole in the front of the mast, and a nylon fitting that fits into the gin-pole tube. This holds it secure. The gin-pole also has a saddle that fits the front of the mast. Then two baby stays to keep the mast kind of centered when it's going up. They will allow it to move side to side a bit, but not enough to damage anything. The gin-pole block and tackle is secured to a U-bolt in the anchor locker on our boat. Once the mast is up the gin-pole and baby stays are removed. It works pretty good. Don  

txtowman said: Do you really need it? Click to expand
CaptDon01 said: Yes, there is a big hole in the front of the mast, and a nylon fitting that fits into the gin-pole tube. This holds it secure. The gin-pole also has a saddle that fits the front of the mast. Then two baby stays to keep the mast kind of centered when it's going up. They will allow it to move side to side a bit, but not enough to damage anything. The gin-pole block and tackle is secured to a U-bolt in the anchor locker on our boat. Once the mast is up the gin-pole and baby stays are removed. It works pretty good. Don Click to expand

I have used ginpoles for 10 years to raise or take down masts of 4 different manufactures sailboats. They range from C22's to H26's. On my ginpole I used a 8 foot piece of 3/4 inch galvanized pipe with an end cap that I drilled for a 1/4 inch forged eye bolt. It must be forged as cast is not strong enough. The other end has a round flange used to bolt the flange and pipe to the floor. I then attached that round flange to a chunk of 2x4 cut to 3 1/2 inched wide and 8 inches long. On each side of the 2x4 I attached a piece of 1/2 inch plywood 8 inches long and 5 1/2 inches wide. You now have a pipe mounted on a 3 sided box 8 inch long that neatly slides over your mast. I tie this onto the mast base about 3 feet up from the bottom. I tie this with 1/4 to 3/8 inch line. Since this is a compression fit the line just acts to keep the boxed wooden base from sliding or falling off. You now have a ginpole that will work on most small masts. If the box is wider than a different mast you want to raise just slide a scrap of plywood into one side of the box to take up the play. This assy required no holes in the mast. You will need someone to help keep the mast from moving side to side as you raise/lower the mast as there are no small shrouds to center the mast. I'd post a picture but I know nothing about computers or how to do that. Ray  

Thanks Ray. That's a creative idea. In fact, just yesterday I was thinking of having a 3 sided stainless steel box made up with slots on the sides (ala a tabernacle) to slide over the 2 cleats near the bottom of my mast. With a short stub welded onto the face, I could slip a 6'-8' pole onto it. I'll try a mock-up with plywood first. Bill  


here's a thought. Has anyone ever taken such a fitting as Ray Bowles' and tried applying it to using the boom as a gin pole?  

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    Setting up the boom as a gin pole. The basic theory of a gin pole is to lift a heavy object below one end while it remains stationary at the other end. Support lines called guys position the lifting end over the object that is raised. A mast raising gin pole has one end stationary near the base of the mast, uses the forestay to support the lifting end, and uses a winch or a block and tackle to ...

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    Mar 7, 2002. #1. I am thinking of making my own Gin Pole to help raise the mast on my 26D. Everything else is on the boat; baby stays, hinged mast plate, the triangle on the fore stay and the block and tackle. I just need a pole.u000bI was thinking of using 1" electrical conduit attaching eye bolts to the forward end to recieve the jib halyard ...

  7. Gin Pole Mast Plug,Mast Raising System

    Mast Raising System. Part #: Z3390. $6.23. Add to Cart. Add to Gift List. Personal Wish List. Plug for mast raising gin pole. Curved on one side to match up against inboard side of sail track where it is through bolted. Is located opposite the hole in the forward side of the mast to provide a support for the tube and gin pole when it is ...

  8. No Fear Mast Stepping!

    This is accomplished by the location and lengths of the two bottom lines. Clip the jib halyard to the uppermost eye on the gin-pole and bring it to an approximate 90-degree angle to the mast and tie it off. Next, secure one end of the boom vang (cleat end) to a point as far forward on the deck as possible and the remaining end to the top of the ...

  9. Ideas on building a DIY gin pole.

    Posts: 512. Re: Ideas on building a DIY gin pole. On my previous boat I used the boom as the gin pole to raise the mast. I bolted a matching fitting to the front of the mast for the boom. Took a line to the windlass and cranked it right up. I set up the lowers and backstay first of course.

  10. Gin Pole for Mast Stepping? Anyone have ...

    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.

  11. Gin-Pole Mast raising system

    The trailerable Hunters use a gin pole system for mast raising (I beleive Hunter has a video, or link to it, on using the system). Basically, the mast has a hole in the front section into which the pole is inserted. The pole has two opposing eyes on the other end. The jib halyard is hooked to the top one, and the mainsheet (4 to 1) is hooked to ...

  12. Rigging the Catalina 22 Boom as a Gin Pole for Mast Stepping

    Demonstration of how I rig the boom of a Catalina 22 sailboat to work as a gin pole to assist with mast raising and lowering.For details about this method, g...

  13. sailboat gin pole for sale

    Find great deals on eBay for sailboat gin pole. Shop with confidence.

  14. Hobie Mast Stepper II

    Description. The Hobie Mast Stepper II is easy to install because it eliminates the trailer mounted gin pole. However, the Mast Stepper II system does require that the trailer's forward mast support be 30" taller than the mast step and an existing winch. Setup also requires a set of trapeze wires (not included).

  15. Schaefer Marine Gin Pole Block Kit MF-21

    Safe Working load 2200 lbs, 6:1 purchase Hoist those large fish into the boat with ease. Gin Pole Kit. Includes 70' - 3/8" line and Stainless Steel hook. Safe Working load 2200 lbs, 6:1 purchase Hoist those large fish into the boat with ease. ... Sale Price $575.99 Regular Price. Save -Infinity Sold Out. Unit Price / ...

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    3 bedroom apartments. 41 553 Rub/m². 671 $/m². 62 $/ft². multi-bedroom apartments. 45 204 Rub/m². 730 $/m². 68 $/ft². * calculated weighted averages values of apartment prices per 1 square foot (sq. meter) for different numbers of rooms in Saratov secondary housing market. 1 foot = 0.3048 meter; 1 meter ≈ 3.2808399 feet.

  17. Michael Farmer Meteorites

    These fragments are very nice and fresh. Saratov 1: 153 gram fragment. $306.00. Saratov 2: 373.8 gram fragment. $748.00. Saratov 3: 155.3 gram fragment. $311.00. Saratov 4: 83.5 gram fragment. SOLD. The Michael Farmer Collection of Meteorites has one of the web's largest selections of meteorites for sale, and features photographs of Michael's ...

  18. Saratov models: Radon, Tantal, Agat, Litan etc.

    Karma: 792. These models have been sold under a whole bunch of different names, so one common way to refer to them all is to simply call them all Saratov models, after the region in which they were built. Models made BEFORE 1994 can mostly be classified as either Radon or Tantal. In 1994 a restructuring took place and models made after that ...

  19. Gin Pole Saddle?

    Nov 19, 2008. 2,129. Catalina C-22 MK-II Parrish, FL. Oct 31, 2011. #3. Yes, there is a big hole in the front of the mast, and a nylon fitting that fits into the gin-pole tube. This holds it secure. The gin-pole also has a saddle that fits the front of the mast. Then two baby stays to keep the mast kind of centered when it's going up.

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    Properties features in Saratov, Russia. with Sea view. with Swimming pool. with Mountain view. with Lake view. cheap. luxury. Find Residential properties for Sale in Saratov, Russia Large selection of residential properties in latest listings Actual prices Photos Description and Location on the map.