Like most boat owners, I’ve always assumed I only had two options with my mast: leave it at the boatyard when the boat is hauled, or have it transported either on the boat’s deck or slung alongside the hydraulic lift truck.
Well, I’ve just added a third alternative to my knowledge base: the mast trailer.
I own, or co-own, two boats — one 36 feet and one 40 feet — and I work on both during the winter when they are on the hard. More often than not, I also want to do work on the masts (lighting, rigging, winches, halyards — it never ends!). So, having a 50-foot mast sitting on the rails isn’t as appealing as it is in the way, difficult to work on, too long to fit into inside storage, or clumsy when it comes to building an enclosure over the boat.
The result is that when a boat needs to be transported to my yard or to inside storage (i.e., whenever the mast must be removed) I must pay extra to have the mast stored or moved with the boat. Added to that is the complication that if the hauler doesn’t have a separate boom truck (again, more money), it’s up to me to gather enough labor together to horse the mast off the trailer and onto sawhorses or a dolly.
The mast trailer solves most of those problems.
The one we use belongs to a friend who had it built to accommodate masts of up to 70 feet. It’s made of welded steel, features six cradles to support the mast, and rolls on a single axle. Because the weight of the spar isn’t excessive (the 55-foot mast weighs about 600 pounds), almost any car can pull it.
One of the other things I noticed is that, like any long trailer, it backs very nicely. You can put the mast into a tight spot with relative ease. The driver does want to be careful of the amount of mast overhanging the top of the car, though; we noticed it tended to swing quite a ways to one side when making sharp turns!
Loading the mast is no different than putting it on the truck or on deck: the boatyard crane simply drops it onto the waiting cradles on the trailer. If desired, you can even move the spar with the spreaders on; the additional width isn’t a problem, though it’s important to have the standing rigging well tied down.
Removing the mast can either be done with the previously-mentioned contingent of strong backs and weak minds, or by simply positioning it under a strong beam or tree branch. In our case, we tossed a line over a metal rafter in the storage shed and hoisted the spar off the trailer using a come-along.
Certainly not everyone will want to rush out and get one of these great devices made — they are clearly the province of folks who are serious about doing all of their own boat work. Cleave Horton, owner of the trailer and of Sea Frost, the marine refrigeration company, says the trailer can be built for about $2,000. Given the cost of storing a mast, that may take a bit of time to offset, but nothing beats the convenience of being able to move the mast anywhere you want, and to have it close by so you can work on it.
Peter Stoops is an experienced voyager based in Falmouth, Maine.