Lowering the Mast on a Flicka 20

It’s time to do some work on the Sampaguita, starting with the mast. I had the mast down in 2014 for some minor work, but there will be a bit more going on this time around. The last time I lowered it, I had to ask for some help when it was about halfway down. This time I was able to do it by myself thanks to Bruce Bingham’s, The Sailor’s Sketchbook. While I do not own the book, a dock mate, Bruce (irony?) does. He was gracious enough to let me examine the procedure for lowering a mast (and take photos.)

I discovered the simple part of the procedure which I was missing the last time. I needed to purchase two Stainless-Steel rings for $1.74 and seize them to the shrouds at the tabernacle level. The rest was line work. I still had the wooden crutches from the previous lowering to hold the mast once it was down. I used old fenders as cushions, and I had to finesse “the landing” to avoid crushing the solar vent and the forward hatch.

The procedure is mostly prep and cleanup. It took a few hours to get everything ready. Then, about three minutes for the actual lowering. Finally, two or three hours of disassembling lines and wires and tidying up.


A was hoping to get a video, but it did not work out. Bruce offered to spot me while I did the procedure. I was keen on doing it alone if I could. He also worked crowd control. If you’ve ever done work at the dock before, you know that curious, good-natured, and well-intentioned neighbors will come around and start asking questions at the most inopportune times. Bruce handled this well so I could ignore them and focus on the task. In order to get a video, I would have needed a third person. “Three’s a crowd,” and I wanted to avoid crowds.

The photos above show how I rigged the lines for bringing down the mast. I used the boom as a gin pole, and the mast pivoted forward on the tabernacle.

The crutches and fenders used to finesse the soft landing are pictured below. The mast itself only weighs about 50 lbs, with maybe another 10-20 pounds of rigging aloft. I connected the jib halyard to the topping lift. The lift ran from a block at the far end of the bowsprit to the cockpit where I was controlling the maneuver. I pulled the mast forward using those lines until gravity could take over. Then I used the main sheet to control the lowering. This sheet is usually a four-part block and tackle, but since the mast is light enough, I took it down to two-parts as I needed the extra line for the full descent.


I considered writing an article on how to lower the mast but realized it would be like re-inventing the wheel. If you intend to lower a mast yourself, find a copy of Bruce Bingham’s, The Sailors Sketchbook. It gives clear step by step instructions and amazing sketches to support them. I don’t think I could do a better job. It is out of print, but you can still find copies of it on the internet or maybe your local used book store. See if you can buy it someplace other than Amazon. Or find a neighbor who has it like I did. Use the computer you carry around in your pocket to take the pictures of the five pages you need. If you contact me, I will email them to you. I don’t feel comfortable publishing them here without Bruce’s permission.

For the newbie, Bruce Bingham is also the designer of the Flicka 20, though he doesn’t use the Flicka in the sketches. I have never met Bruce, but his design has had a major influence on my life over the past six years. Thank you Bruce.

iflicka 20 mast lowering mg_3353

10 Comments on “Lowering the Mast on a Flicka 20

  1. I notice you did’t run the stabilizing lines from the shrouds to the very back of the boom, but to a tang part way along. Why?


    • Thank you for reading. Yes, I just ran it to the boom bail as I figured that would be sufficient. The result was good.
      If I ran it all the way back I would be doing three things. 1) I would be reducing the angle created by the lines which would actually reduce the lateral force. 2) Since I was using line that I had at hand, i.e. NOT low stretch, the longer line would have incurred more stretch, which I didn’t feel would be beneficial. 3) It would be more awkward to untie and control the boom once the maneuver was complete.
      Thanks again.


  2. Josh, very timely find as I’ll be doing same to ours in another week or two.
    1) is the mast CG inside our outside the boat when you lower mast – i.e. if you let it go at tabernacle does it want to tip over the puplit (into water)?
    2) does it in fact hit the hatch or was the protection just an ‘extra’?
    3) which shrouds did you release prior to lowering (looks like at least the aft ones)?
    4) estimate of weight of mast once down, if all rigging was still attached to it? I plan to lower with my wife’s help and would like to then move it laterally onto dock so we can work on it on-land. Boat would be tied parallel to long finger pier.
    Thanks in advance!
    s/v Miracle #165


    • Antonio,
      1) It will want to tip over the pulpit, but it is not heavy.
      2) For Sampaguita, it is the solar unit in the hatch which does not have clearance. While I can’t say for sure, it may clear an unmodified hatch.
      3)The lower aft shrouds are the only ones you will need to release. You will need to loosen the main shrouds.
      4)I don’t think more than 100 pounds. It is awkward. Consider bringing the mast down, holding it while you remove the pin in the tabernacle (prep this earlier) and then slide/carry the base back to the stern rail and secure it. All in one move. The mast is about 27 feet long and will fit on the boat between the mast pulpit and stern rail. Then you can plan the lateral movement. There will be shrouds everywhere too.

      Best wishes.


      • Thank you sir!
        When done I’ll be able to report on how it travels on a pickup truck 😮 I have front and rear hitches, each with it’s own ‘rack’. So approx 16′ between supports. I’ll also pad the rooftop bars to provide support in middle. A lot easier to work on at home than on occasional weekends at marina!


  3. Greetings from Seattle, I seem to remember a junk rig option for the Flicka. I’ve never seen a live one though. Complicated , cluttered and expensive sail rigging is the main reason i stay away from sail. I can buy thousands of gallons of fuel for an economical small motor boat for the cost of the average Bermuda set up. Maybe i will attempt to find a cheap Flicka-ish boat in need of a full refit and build a free standing junk rig tabernacle mast.


  4. Hello! Thank you for your great posts and sharing, Josh! i just lowered my mast but had the guys from the local rigging firm Pro-Tech come down to the dock with a gin-pole & i watched & took pictures and helped a little bit. Mast is light once all gear and lines off her, & relatively speaking, but is very solid, they even said so! “not like a mast on a normal 20′ boat” as it took two of them to carefully carry it up the dock…heh heh…i chuckled to myself…
    Did you pull your mast step after? What did you see? i am pulling mine tomorrow…

    I have sanded mast right down now (Pro-Tech’s Stewart is nice enough to let me sand on their property, can’t do it in my apartment…) painting, some new stuff…then back on, at the dock too with their team.


      • PS did you pull the tabernacle/step at all when the mast was down, to check the overall deck beam integrity?!


      • I have had the mast down a couple of times over the past 8 years. I have never pulled the tabernacle myself. I regularly inspect the beam from the inside and her performance doesn’t imply anything is wrong. I have taken an ‘if it doesn’t leak, don’t fix it’ approach for now. The first time I had the mast down I rebuilt the nav light plug, not because it leaked, but because it was deteriorating. I feel pretty good about sealing it up afterward. This goes directly through the beam and inspection from that angle showed a solid beam.


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