When we first bought our Precision 18 (hull# 280), we found that the mast was almost impossible to raise (and only slightly less difficult to lower), probably a combination of my average stature and two damaged intervertebral disks -- I couldn't reach high enough, nor push up, to begin tilting the mast forward. After finding no satisfactory solution, I devised my own, which allows me to lift (and lower the mast) without any strain or effort whatsoever, and I would like to share my creation with you here, a device that uses the trailer's winch to easily lift the mast.
I've provided a picture, which I would like to eventually explain in detail, but I would like to begin by simply saying that the main feature is a 5-foot long (length not too critical) piece of 2x6" wood that I will hereafter refer to as the "crane". This crane has, on its upper end, a 4-inch keel roller (the yellow translucent rubber variety, with about a 2-1/2" flat center spot to accommodate a 2" winch strap) on a steel (i.e., trailer frame) mount that is bolted to the end of the crane. All bolts in this project are grade-8, and are used with 2" washers and lock washers or nylon lock nuts.
The opposite, lower end of the crane has two cross pieces of 2x4" lumber, both fastened on the same face of the 2x6" lumber as the keel roller. One, about 10" long, is fastened at the very end with two bolts and therefore fixed in position, perpendicular to the 2x6" main structure. The other, fastened about 14" higher, is 13" long and is secured with a single bolt that, using a nylon lock nut tightened only loosely, allows this piece to rotate and yet is secure because of the large washers employed.
The crane is positioned by holding it, keel roller on top, so that the bottom crosspiece rests on the side of the center two rails of the bow rail (actually, it rests on the "ears" to which the safety cable are secured). As the crane is leaned forward, the rotating cross piece, initially vertical, fits through the rails and, when rotated 90 degrees to horizontal, rests against the forward side of the rails and locks the crane into place within the bow rail structure -- thus, the crane is held fast and upright.
In conjunction with this crane, a 5/16" line (the jib halyard, unused because I have a roller furler) runs from the jib cleat on the lower mast up to the block 3/4 up the mast, and then back down. About 3/4 of the way down, a snap shackle is tied into the line, and the rest of the line is allowed to hang.
To use this system:
1) the winch's strap is detached from the vessel's bow eye (be sure the boat is still held by bow safety chains instead) and the winch is set to spool out the strap. The strap is lifted up over the crane's bow roller and then rearward toward the snap shackle on the jib halyard to which it should be attached.
2) The winch can now be cranked to pull in the strap. As it does (assuming the bottom of the mast is lying in its slots in the mast step), the mast is pulled up, and the mast starts to rise with only a tiny bit of effort by me to initially lift and start its upward motion, after which the winch will do all the work lifting the mast to its full height. Lowering is done the same way, a controlled "drop" using the winch in reverse to slowly lower the mast.
While lifting (and lowering), all that is really needed (besides a second person as winch operator) is for me to walk forward behind the mast while pulling with both hands on the shrouds to exert some side to side control and prevent the mast from falling sideways -- but as the mast rises, the shrouds innately exert more control, until such time as the mast is fully raised.
The accompanying picture shows my wife at the winch while I -- aside from having to be off the boat to take this picture -- would otherwise walk behind the mast, in the boat, as it rises to ensure that it doesn't swing left to right. In this picture, the mast is about 60 degrees upright, and the roller furler (light colored) lies limp beside the mast. At the bow, the crane is seen extending upward from the bow rail, and the jib halyard is easily seen extending straight toward the keel roller on the top of the crane. About halfway to the crane's keel roller, the jib halyard ends and the winch strap begins (joined by a snap shackle) which then extends over the roller and downward to the winch. This is all evident in the picture.
3) When the mast is upright, the loose end, beyond the snap shackle, of the jib halyard is tightly tied to the bow rail, because it will have to replace the winch strap in temporarily holding the mast upright. That is, after the halyard is tied to the bow rail, the winch strap must be unsnapped from the snap shackle (to be rewound on the winch and made fast to the boat's bow eye) because the crane has to be moved away from it's place at the bow in order to provide space to attach the roller furler base, which is secured in the usual manner.
Of course, after the roller furler is attached, the jib halyard is untied from the bow rail and can be cleated to the mast to keep it out of the way.
Those of you without a roller furling jib can modify the procedure accordingly -- the only important thing is that the crane, with its keel roller serving as a pulley for the winch's strap, redirects the winch's applied pulling force from a high point, allowing the mast to be lifted (as well as lowered) without physical effort.
I hope this has helped you.
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