Gin Pole Mast Raising System for Tanzer 16 -- Hinged Mast

Tanzer 16 Raising the Mast Single-handed -- Six things can happen when  you step the mast, and five of them are bad:  You can drop the mast and break it, you can break the boat, you can be hurt, your vehicle can be wrecked, you can hit power lines, can successfully step the mast.  Come to think of it there are way more than five bad things.

I'm 69 years old.  I love my Tanzer, Iteration..., #1306, but it was obvious that if I wanted to keep sailing I had to have an easier way to raise my mast.  If you are young, strong, and tall you can step the mast with a bit of a struggle.  I could see the day coming (soon) when I wouldn't be able to raise it by myself.  (If you are not quite ready to take a hacksaw to your mast, see post April 23, 2016 for an idea that will take a good share of the grief out of mast raising.)

I have retro-fitted a hinged mast to my Tanzer 16 that makes the whole mast raising process easy. It takes time, a bit of money, and some guts --  At some point you will have to saw off the bottom of your mast.  All of the Tanzer Overnighters have hinged masts. The O'Day Daysailor has a hinged mast....  (At the very bottom of this page, you can see another approach to making a hinged mast.  It does not use a gin pole in this application, but does allow you to "walk" the mast up.  In addition there is a section describing another way to get the mast up with less fuss.  John Juday has come up with a way to keep the mast aligned to the keelson without hinges.  It is similar to D'Arcy Grant's method.  D'Arcy's plan works on early boats while John's set-up works on "newer" boats.)

From Tanzer 16 plans.

The Tanzer is a great boat, and part of that greatness is its simplicity -- non-tapered mast, no spreaders--but that mast is one heavy momma (31.5 lbs minimum) -- and it's long, about 24 feet.  At some point you have to get this thing up at the vertical, then pick it up at the bottom and drop it on the keelson while it is spiraling around in mid air 20 feet above your head.  Luckily, I have never dropped the mast (since I wrote this, I have dropped it twice--luckily no major damage), but it has been close every time I try to get that 1.25-inch wide fitting over the top of that 1-inch wide keelson piece. I see where my mast was once dropped and the head piece was repaired.

Picture of an older T16 that I found on line in an ad.  Hinge is
clearly visible.  It looks like a hinge from an overnighter, but the
picture was taken from a video and I can't really tell.

Putting a hinged mast on the Tanzer 16 is not too far fetched.  This is how I did it--and since I did it three times until I got it right, it is also how I would have done it, if I had known better at the time.

I am pretty satisfied that the system is working well--we have had the boat out in twenty-knot winds several times--and it always seemed to work well.

This information comes to you at no charge and with no certainty that it is safe or smart.  If things don't work out for you, you don't get to sue me.  I should point out that before I started, I bought a used mast. In case things went south, I still wanted to sail my boat.  Updates  --  May 24, 2015:  We have now sailed twice with the hinged mast.  In the last group of three races we tacked scores of times and everything seems to work fine.  Set up and take down were easy--no drama.  We did have a problem with the new Genoa.  Since the sail is bigger, the sheets tend to get hung up on the hinge and the cleats above.  We can't remove the cleats because we need them to hoist the mast.  

Creating a hinged mast retrofit on the Tanzer 16 has several parts.
  • Making an A-frame gin pole.
  • Adding some new deck fittings.
  • Making a mast crutch to help raise the mast.
  • Making a deck brace for the king post. 
  • Making plugs to go inside the mast and king post.
  • Making the king post--this is where you cut 25 or so inches off the bottom of your mast.
  • Attaching the plugs to the hinge and attaching the hinge to the mast and king post.
  • Adjusting, fixing, or re-rigging the shrouds.
  • Creating some temporary guys to center the mast while raising.

If you are interested in doing this for yourself, I would read through all of the information and think about it.  It's a lot of work--but, to my mind, it's worth it if it keeps you sailing a few more years.

I looked up gin poles and mast raising.  I have seen this done so I had a general idea of how it would work. Before boom trucks were so plentiful, every carpenter, logger, and sailor knew how to use these handy devices. I decided on an A-frame design and made it up out of 2x2 stock, some plywood, and hardware.  It looked like this. The legs fold in so it will fit in the truck more easily.

The legs of my A-frame are about 62 inches long.  

How long to make the legs?  That will depend on the location of the pivot points you put on the deck. These are fairleads that have spacers underneath to raise them off the deck a bit  At the same time you will need to add two fairleads to the deck centered on the mast.  These will allow you to use temporary guys when raising the mast.  These fairleads will be located on the deck in these positions:

The pivot point fairlead is raised up by a 5/16 spacer.  Note the 3/8 bolt and
how the end of the gin pole leg is rounded so it can rotate freely.

The fairlead for the temporary guys is really a turning point so the guy can be secured to the midships mooring cleat.  The view in this picture is looking aft.

It helps if the fairlead is oriented at 45 degrees.  The
track for the jib sheet blocks was relocated by a previous
owner at an odd angle to make it easier to single hand. 

When the gin pole is set up, the deck layout will look like this drawing.

With the deck layout complete, it's time to make a deck brace that will support the king post.  Now would be a good time to order the hinge.  It takes about a week to arrive.  The hinge came from D & R Marine ( cost: About 51 bucks plus shipping.  It is a standard part for an O'Day 16.

To make the deck brace you will need to cut a very accurate hole in the middle of an oak, teak or mahogany board.  It will need to be the shape of the mast.  When you are done it will look like this.

To cut this shape begin by removing the base from the bottom of the mast. Have a coffee can ready.  A bazillion little polystyrene beads will fall out.  If you catch them, you can put them back into the mast.  They are not really there to make the mast float, but rather to keep it from filling up with water.  To get the shape of the mast cross section, just trace it onto some wood or really stiff cardboard.  I made up two 3/4-inch thick oak boards to go under the deck and cut the hole so it would be centered in the deck opening for the mast.

I was a little surprised by the beads, but a couple of strips of duct tape
kept them in place.

I used an elaborate system of making a template and then using template routing to get the hole.  Careful work with a jig saw and spindle sander (or sanding drums on a drill press) would have worked just as well. Whatever you do it will probably be a better fit than when the mast was just slopping around in the deck slot. Here is my original sketch and a picture of the installed brace.  Of course everything uses stainless fasteners and aircraft-style lock nuts along with plenty of bedding caulk.

As it turned out, eight screws was probably over-kill, but I always like to
add a little extra "for stout."  Shims turned out to be unnecessary.

Installed, the deck brace looked like this.  Teak would have been
better, but oak is more available, cheaper, and maybe a tad stronger.

You will need a crutch to help you hold up the mast while you are raising it.  Mine looks like this.
The first crotch was too narrow so we made it wider--easier to untangle halyards, shrouds, etc.

I made my own pintles so I could use the gudgeons to
hold the crutch.  A two x two works nicely.  I made mine
about 70 inches long.

The new crotch is about six inches wide and
eight inches deep.

Time to make the plugs.  They will attach the mast and the king post to the two leaves of the hinge.
Once again I overdid this and had a fellow with a Shop Bot machine them precisely.  Unnecessary!
When I had to remake them following an accident, I did it with the band saw and spindle sander and it worked just fine. First I captured the shape I needed by molding the bottom mast plug where it fits over the keelson.  Thusly:

Plug from bottom of mast.

I had Fix It All laying around.  Plaster would work too.

Now the shape has been captured exactly.

Trace it onto paper.  You have your pattern.

I made my plugs out of 2-inch thick oak.

You can find the centerline of the plug by using folded paper.

The plugs attach to the hinge leaves with 1/4 ss bolts.

I was able to use one of the holes in the hings and had to drill another. Use
a drill press and a sharp bit.  The steel is hard.

This drawing was just used to obtain the rough spacing.  Unfortunately
only one of the factory drilled holes would fit one of the plug holes.

Bolt the plugs to the hinge and check the fit one more time.

Later on you will use #12 stainless steel sheet metal screws to secure the
plugs to the mast and the king post.

Now it's time to cut the mast and make the king post.  I made a special mast step and cut off about 25 inches.  Honestly, I think there is an easier way.  If I were doing it over, I would just drill a hole in the bottom of the saddle that came with the mast and bolt that to the keelson. Detached it will look like this.

In this picture I drilled a hole in the base that fits over the keelson.  I did
not use this method to mount my kingpost to the keelson.  I wish I had
done it this way.

I recently repainted the boat and changed the mast step back to the original
design.  Of course that meant shortening the shroud hardware too.

We needed to cut 25 inches off the mast, and it took two of us to do it.  I made a miter box specifically for this task.  Tony and I put the mast inside and jammed it tight with wedges and clamps.

We added some blocks on both sides of the miter box to insure that the
hack saw blade stayed in plane.

Because we had spent so much time on preparing for this step, the actual
cutting was kind of anti-climatic.

In this picture you can see four clamps holding the mast.  We used six--
and that was barely enough.  The mast has to be locked down tight, and
the miter box even tighter.  (Yeah that's me--old huh?)

We had to make us a special support for the end of the mast.  Even at that the end of the mast was outside the shop when we made the cut.

With enough scraps, a few nails, some patience, plenty of clamps, and
some more patience you can rig up almost anything.

Drilling the hole in the keelson may be difficult; There isn't much room down there in the bilge area.  I used a spade bit  that I cut down chucked up in a right angle drill.

You need to drill the hole in the right place in the keelson.  I dinked around with this for hours until I finally decided that having the king post perpendicular to the keelson was probably the best solution.

So now the king post is located and bolted into position.

King post in final position, mast step plate reinstalled.
This is more rigid than the mast ever was when it was
just rattling around in its slot.

Time to put the hinge into the king post.  I recommend this method.  Run a string from the center of the stern; I tied the string to the gudeons then I taped it in place on the transom.  I pulled the string tight to the bow fitting. Then I slathered the plug with epoxy and pushed it into place and lined up the hinge with the string. I love jigs and I had made one for this purpose, but the eyeball was more accurate.  When the epoxy set up, I came back and joined the mast and plug using three #12 ss sheet metal screws.  The front one was only 5/8" long; the two side ones were 3/4".  Any longer and they hit the bolts.

To put the plug in the mast.  I hung a plumb bob in front of the mast opening.  Rolled the mast around until the alignment front to back matched the string.  Slathered the plug with epoxy and shoved it into the mast.  It kept wanting to push out.  So I just held it in place and drilled the front pilot hole and drove a screw.  Then  added the other two screws.  Worked swell.

Okay -- so go raise the mast.

Tanzer 16 Hinged Mast Retrofit 3rd Iteration -- Works Well (no drama)  -- March 1, 2015.  With the help of crew, Tony, I have been working on this system to raise the mast for nearly a year.  After the third major revision, it seems to work well.  The only thing that remains is to try it out in 15+ knots with a little too much sail.  Today went well.  The big change for this iteration was to move the pivot point for the A-frame forward and so that we could  keep the shrouds attached the whole time, it went better than I hoped for.  Here is the procedure step by step.

The boat trailer must be secured to a vehicle.  Then look up to make sure there are no power lines.  I once snagged my windvane on a tree branch.

Pull out a goodly amount of winch rope say eight or nine feet.  It is important to use rope and not cable on the winch.

Attach the A-frame to the fairleads (pivot points) the most forward of the fairleads.  See drawings above.

Place the mast crutch into the gudgeons.

Set the mast into place on the crutch and secure the aft hinge pin.  Make sure you keep the forward pin in a place that is convenient--and where it won't roll away when you go to reach for it.

Now you will need to hook everything up.  The photos seem a little complicated.  Here is what you are trying to accomplish.

Attach the shrouds to the chain plates.  Notice that we use a small wire tie in addition to the pin.  At this point I am holding the shroud up.  I will lay down on the deck while you are raising the mast.

I like to cover all the shroud hardware with plastic tubes.

Attach forestay to A-frame (just to make it easier to find when the mast is up).  In this picture the on the right with a turnbuckle.   Attach the jib halyard to the A-frame.  It is the one on the left attached to the braided line.Tighten up and secure the jib halyard to the center of the A-frame.

Attach the temporary guys to the main halyard (actually I leave them in place when I lower the mast). The main halyard should hold these about halfway up the mast.  Secure the main halyard. Secure the guys through the fairleads that are on the same centerline as the mast.  Make them tight.  The temporary guys are what keep the mast centered while you are raising it.  The shrouds are slack until the mast is vertical.

Hook the trailer winch to the A-frame.  In this picture that is the line running in front of the canopy's rear window.

This picture shows a lot of "stuff";  here is an explanation.

Time for final check.  Make sure all the lines, guys, halyards, shrouds, etc are not tangled.  Make sure the halyards holding the temporary guys and forestay are secured.

Gently start to raise the mast.  Oh yeah! Things are going well.

Finish raising the mast.  Secure the forward hinge pin.  You may need to tighten or loose the winch just a tad to get in in.  I need to tap mine with a soft block of wood.

Attach the forestay to the stem fitting.  If it is a little too tight, gently pull the mast forward with the winch.  The mast will bend a little and give you enough slack to engage the forestay.

Congratulations the mast is up with no strain and no drama. I did it completely alone.  With practice this takes about 10 minutes.  It took me 14 minutes today, but I had to untangle all the bad stuff that happened when I dropped the mast last week.  I have done this in five knots of wind and it worked well.  No idea what will happen when the wind is really blowing, but it will be better than horsing it up the old way.

Lower and stow the temporary guys--you may need a boat hook to get them past the topping lift fitting.  Disconnect and stow the A-frame.  Take down is just the reverse, but you may need gentle pressure on the mast to get it to start its journey down.  I just put  a little pressure on the boom topping lift.

Here is another approach to creating a hinged mast.  You still will need to cut the mast, and, I assume, you will still need a second person to raise the mast.


  1. I guess my comment got lost. I just wanted to say thanks because I enjoyed reading your article even if I do not plan on doing it. I saw a T16 for sale and wondered if it was difficult to step the mast. Your description helped a lot. Jim Morrison, Hansville, WA