Need tips on keeping mast vertical

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Result of misaligned "T"-ball

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bent t-ball

Click any picture to see a larger view 

Last Summer, I demasted  my boat by running into a power line in Florida. That shortened the sailing season!

This Summer, while under sail, the "T-ball" of the forestay popped out of its slot at the head of the mast and the jib slowly floated down to the water.

Of course, with nothing to keep the mast upright, after about 30 seconds the mast began a slow descent into the cockpit. We were able to catch it as it came down. I radioed ahead to the marina for help and we then motored back and tied up without any further problem. 

Although the starboard solid mast strut bowed a few inches, they did a great job keeping the mast straight as it came down and there was not any damage to the mast or the struts. As far as I can tell, the only damage to the boat was a small rip in the main, and a bent "T-ball". 

This summer a friend had a similar thing happen on his H260 but in his case the furler turnbuckle came unscrewed from the forestay bolt. Apparently, the forestay bolt was never pinned as shown in the picture below. I've also heard of a couple of other cases where the forestay came undone for various reasons. The solid struts kept the mast from being ripped off the base. They are useful for more than providing a secure hand hold when going forward.

I sent the forestay to Seco South 727-536-1924 in Largo FL to have it evaluated. They contacted US Spars to see if the slot had to be replaced. Both recommended replacement. I purchased some "T-ball" plugs at the same time. The new forestay was $32, the plugs were $1.35 each and the slot was a whopping $25 !!  

Good Stuff:

  1. Nobody was hurt.

  2. The event happened slowly enough so that we were able to react without panic.

Bad Stuff:

  1. This was probably the last sail of the season. Will need a main sail repair and a new forestay. 

  2. My friend took it in stride, but I doubt he'll ever sail again with me again. The look on his face as the mast and main settled into his lap was priceless! 

  3. Wife is sure we should go back to a powerboat.

Cause?:

The main problem is that the roller furler pulls the forestay sideways when trailering (see picture below) and if you are not really paying attention during mast raising it the "T-ball at the head of the forestay can become misaligned and was not seated properly. When the mast is up it is hard to see if the head of the stay is secure. Over time, it worked its way out. I contacted US Spars and Dwyer Mast asking their view on this problem. US Spars' view is that the T-ball is quick and easy to remove for trailerable boats but does have itís drawbacks when used with a furler -- When the hardware was selected for the H26/260 series it was not anticipated that a lot of these masts were going to have furlers on them. A Tang system that slots in the mast with a toggle eye on the forestay would also work. US Spars also offers what  they call call a combi-box on the Z -230 mast  which incorporates a sheave box and a toggle combination. The draw back to these systems is that you have a clevis & cotter pin that you could drop and lose. Also, a toggle arrangement also can get twisted and misaligned and bent. US Spars' view is the key to not having problems is to keep the forestay tight and in line as the mast goes up. Dwyer said that for the mast of the size we are talking about they prefer a T-ball or a hound setup. 

Prevention:
Early this year I helped a friend step the mast on his '96 H26. The furler "T-ball" kept coming out so we taped it down with electrical tape. That seemed to work. There has been some discussion regarding the grey clips that are supposed to hold the "T-ball" in place and there are several sources for an alternative "T-ball" plug. I've also had trouble keeping the side shroud "T-balls" in place and will look at them carefully.

I've tried several ways to keep the stays in line with the spar when raising the mast. I've tried tape and cable ties. These work fairly well. The most successful is to rivet a eye clamp in-line with the spar and tie the stay down with a light cable. The cable tie easily breaks when the mast comes vertical and the forestay is pinned.

Click any picture to expand

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"T-ball"  installed crooked because furler hangs down A friend's mast came down 
because  there were no 
cotter pins in furler drum
New Forestay

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Grey clips don't work well Rubber plugs sort of help This sort of works  Eye clamp & cable tie  works better. 
When the stay tightens, the tie breaks
Here's a few other approaches to the problem

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Here's another variation. Squeeze the strap to close it slightly. One lower rivet  supports the stay during mast raising


This hound fitting is used on some trailerable boats

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This is a 5/16" Marine Eye fitting on head of the forestay. A toggle is connected to the mast tang. This allows the forestay  move sideways as well as up and down.