The Mast Goes Home

IMG_3726 (1280x960)

I find admirable Alaskan willingness to tackle the unknown. One could argue that this “last frontier” requires it of them or that the requirement draws those so inclined, but whatever the reason, Alaska is a land of generalists, generalists with heavy equipment and a will to get stuff done. Need a new barn on your property, or driveway or septic system? Build it yourself. Don’t know how? Well, give it a think and then give it a try.

How many afternoons have I watched Mike Stockburger of Homer Boat Yard move large, ungainly boats with nothing but a flatbed trailer and some ingenuity. Sailboats are especially difficult. Tall of keel and with vertical topsides, they appear to fight the process by design. But what Mike does so well is work the problem, and by means of blocks and straps, infinitesimal adjustments to trailer height and uncommon persistence, Mike usually wins.

“Not sure we’ve stepped a mast that big,” said Mike as I sorted out the lines and wires and double checked attachments. “How tall did you say it was?”

“62 feet before antennas. How tall’s the crane?”

“80 feet, boom and jib. That’s assuming the jib will extend. Sometimes it likes to stick half way.”

“Think you can get the mast over Gjoa’s rail?”

“Well,” he said, thinking, “we’ll give it a try.”

The crane arrived at 9 o’clock on Tuesday morning, and the operation proceeded as follows…

IMG_3732 (2) (960x1280)

Mike Kennedy moves his P&H 20 ton crane into position as Randy, Mike Stockburger and Josh look on.

IMG_3733 (960x1280)

Crane at full extension but not yet full lift. Mike is measuring maximum height available.

IMG_3735 (1040x1280)

The lift begins. Josh and Randy work to keep the foot of the mast from digging into the sand before we can get the stick fully air born.

IMG_3737 (1)

The mast is flying now. Josh has jumped aboard the crane to eyeball how much more lift is needed to get over the rail. Behind the crane, Todd and Randy pull smartly on two guy lines to keep the head of the mast off the crane boom, and Mike is dashing up Gjoa’s ladder to catch the mast as she comes aboard.

At this point photographing stopped and real, sometimes urgent, work began. Guiding the mast through the deck and onto her step while keeping the head of the mast and its delicate parts (the windex and wind speed indicator) off the crane boom took four men on deck and one in the hole. Randy and Todd pulled at the guy wires from the stern; Josh held the foils at the bow while giving direction to Kennedy, who could see very little of importance from his position in the crane; Mike guided the mast into the deck and I was below easing her foot into place.

For an hour we juggled increments and inches. Three inches up and one inch over; two inches down; now two inches right. No, right! OK, one inch down. Easy. EASY!

Finally the shoe fit and the pin slid home.


We had not been absolutely successful as the operation had bend the wind speed indicator slightly. Here Josh has climbed the mast and is setting it right.

IMG_3742 (1)

Gjoa’s mast is stepped.

IMG_3743 (1)

A happy owner buying lunch for the crew. Starting left and moving clockwise: Randy, Todd, Mike Stockburger, Mike Kennedy, and the climber, Josh.

IMG_3755 (1280x1151)

Some water below the keel remains the only requirement for a good long sail.

2 Comments on “The Mast Goes Home

  1. KUDOS! Job well done… and I could not agree more – Alaskans definitely have that “can do” attitude and live life to a full extent. With such a tall ‘stick’ how are you planning on “tuning it” to stay up for your potential storm weather sail home? Direct, coastwise or Inside Passage?
    Stay safe,

    • Thanks Doug.

      Re the trip home, I’ll post an itinerary in the next few days. Oddly, my wife wants to know the plan, too. Can’t imagine! Probably should loop her in first of all.

      Re tuning, nothing particularly high tech at this point. Boat’s still on the hard, so tuned by feel and will have a more precise go at it once we’re out sailing in Kachemak Bay. Tony Gooch, second most recent owner, installed extra heavy wire and turnbuckles; significantly over sized for the mast (good!). The trick will be not overtuning.

Leave a Reply