This was a crazy thing to see (and be a part of).
I would call this one of the most significant benefits of being able to choose a life-style that involves hanging around on docks.
Chardonnay is a double headsail ketch (like Red Ranger) but bigger. Her main mast stands 74' tall (Red Ranger's is only 56'); Chardonnay won't fit under the 65' fixed bridges on the ICW. *
She has a mainmast that comes in two sections. The bottom eight or so feet are properly stepped on the keel and rise up through the deck. Above this, there's a big hinge pin and a "retaining" pin that holds up the top ~70 feet.
Chardonnay can lean her mainmast back so that she can fit under 65' ICW bridges.
Lean the mast back.
Skipper Scott (Scott #1) said that it can be done with just two or three people. More crew makes the job a little easier. Not really much faster, though, since it's 60% preparation, 20% patient execution and 20% final tie-down.
As Crew Scott (Scott #2) said—like everything on a boat—it's all in the preparation.
Lowering the mast is a collection of details.
There's a compelling logic to each step, so it's a matter of making sure that you have two rules firmly in mind:
(1) you have control of the mast at all times and
(2) you have all the unused rigging cleared out of the way.
There's a lot of rigging and it all has to be looked after.
Essentially, the two forestays are both going to be removed in order to lay the mast back.
However, you can't just unscrew the turnbuckles, or you'll lose control of the mast.
See rule 1, above.
Also, you'll need some grip on the forestay to stand it back up again.
The outer forestay has to be supplemented with a long (maybe 10'?) length of chain and a ratchet come-along.
And a supplemental safety strap just in case the come-along should fail.
The inner forestay will be simply removed and lashed to the mast.
Also, the lower shrouds must be released. In order to be sure that all those turnbuckles are reset properly, each rigging terminal is marked with tape.
The various backstays (two runners and the masthead backstay) will be coiled out of the way.
They're not completely unscrewed.
Once the outer forestay is secured and all the turnbuckles are marked, then the forward stays and lower shrouds can be removed.
They aren't secured anywhere yet.
They're simply pushed aside to be secured later.
The outer forestay turnbuckle is removed last.
This is followed by a careful check before removing the mast support pin.
The spinnaker sheets are lead well aft and used to tie the mast down. The upper shrouds are left intact and will keep the mast centered.
The mast is released by beating the pin out of the mast using a hammer. There was a fair amount of friction. It appears that we had some force holding the mast aft, probably from the triatic and mizzen backstays.
Skipper Scott's lesson learned was that—next time—they should release the mizzen backstays to ease the pressure on the pin.
As the chain come-along is eased, the mast interior wiring (and plumbing) is moved out of the way to avoid pinching.
The mast moves fairly slowly, but there's a lot of "lower... stop... okay lower.... stop."
The mast has a water diversion setup since there's no way to rig a properly waterproof boot. Along with the wiring, this has to be moved aside as the mast is lowered.
While one person is easing the come-along, the mainsheet is released and the topping lift tensioned to keep the boom off the the top of the pilot house.
This is the time when three people are handy.
One to lower the mast, one to raise the boom and another to spot for problems and safety issues.
The final tie-down is a matter of making sure nothing's left loose on deck.
There's a fair number of shrouds and stays that need to be secured. For now, tape and table ties were used.
Skipper Scott suggests that purpose built whips make more sense in the long run.
This is a job that's been undertaken only rarely, so there isn't a clearly defined, repeatable process for it.
Once the basic rig tie-down was complete, we had a delightful brunch with the entire crew.
Folding a mast is a crazy thing. And we had the opportunity to help.