Making a Gin Pole

When we first got Belle home, my brother and I immediately stepped the mast to see if all the rigging worked. The first thing we noticed was the rear mast rest that came with the boat was just a bit too close to the tabernacle. What I mean is that the mast would not balance on the mast rest without someone holding down the foot of the mast. Just a few more feet would solve that problem. The second this we noticed was that stepping the mast took all of the two of us to raise the mast. For a boat that I had intended to regularly trailer with the wife and kids, this was a problem. We needed a solution to make stepping the mast quicker and easier. So, I set about making a gin pole.

What’s a gin pole you may ask? Fair enough a question. It’s a lifting device made from a pole and some ropes/lines. It’s a simple crane system. I’ve seen a few posts where people make use of the boom as a gin pole. It makes sense since you have to bring it with you anyway. In fact, I believe O’Day even promoted an optional gin pole kit using the same metal triangle used for the main sheet attachment on the rear stay. One of these triangles would have been installed on two of the shrouds and used to stabilize the boom as one lifted the mast from the bow side.

So why not use the boom? We keep our main said on the boom and it is a bit heavy and awkward. Making my own gin pole means we have to bring it with us and store it. However, it also means I can build it specifically for the job. By building our own, it will be simpler and more effective and allow us to keep the boom however we choose.

The construction is simple. In general, its a curved 1/8″ plate of steel welded to a 3/4″ EMT conduit. I bent it with my bench vise and a 5lb sledgehammer. I also welded a small steel dowel pin to the plate that conveniently hooks into a stainless loop on the mast. This keeps it from falling to the deck when the mast is in the raised position. I was/am concerned about the curved plate marring the mast each time it’s used so I coated it with clear silicone. This is already starting to peel off so this will be a future upgrade opportunity. On the opposite end of the pole, I measured exactly to the forestay and flattened the conduit with a hammer and cut a notch in the flattened end to catch the end of the stay. I drilled three holes through the same end to secure three eye-loops. One big one on the bottom for the block and tackle, and two small ones on the sides for stays.

The block and tackle is actually a series of three single pulleys. One is attached to the big eye on the gin pole. The other two are set in a stainless carabiner that passes through one of extra the holes in the stemhead where the forestay attaches. One end of the gin pole halyard is tied to the eye on the gin pole. It then is roved through one sheave on the “block” and back to the sheave on the gin pole before returning to the last sheave on the block and then aft to the cockpit.

Belle came with some odd cleats that are clamped to the upper shrouds (and one on the backstay that had a pulley, now removed) that happen to be at just about the same height as the base of the gin pole when mounted on the mast. We use these cleats to attach the gin pole stays as the distance to the end of the gin pole remains similar between mast down and mast stepped.

I added a short stack of washers to the turnbuckle on the forestay to give the slot on the gin pole something solid to grab. The gin pole is pulling the mast up by the forestay and if it were to slip off, it would be catastrophic. I sometimes use a ball-Bungie on the end of the gin pole just to make sure the stay…stays.

Stepping has become a relatively simple process, and in good conditions could be done by a single person. My gin pole halyard needs to be a bit longer for taking the mast down however as the end pulls back over the hatch just at the mast reaches shoulder height in the cockpit. All in all, we are pleased with the arrangement. Future upgrades include addressing the padding (already mentioned) and adding some eyes or hooks of some sort to the base of the gin pole to make storing the lines easier when not in use.

Thanks for reading about how we went about making a gin pole for our O’Day 23!

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