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Every day I come across at least one more boating-related thing that I know nothing about, and that conspires to drive me crazy! Today it is “stepping and unstepping the mast.” To those uninitiated with sailing lingo this means raising or lowering the mast (the big tall stick on a sailboat which holds the sails).

The standard route for sailing to the Caribbean from here involves passing through a portion of the NY Canal system. Because of the locks and bridges along the way you can’t follow this path with the mast up, which brings us to the whole stepping/unstepping thing. I did of course know about this before, but I assumed there was some “mast-stepping expert” who would be doing this for us. It appears, from reading several blogs today, that this is not really the case. Although for larger boats a crane or lift is employed to lift the mast, the boat’s owners seem to be doing all of the work! Not only is there the raising/lowering to contend with, we also have to deal with all of the rigging (lines and cables) which both keep the mast erect and control the sails. How hard could it be? Yeah, right!

We have made loose plans to view a boat we are interested in next month. This boat is currently in storage with the mast “unstepped.” If the owners are agreeable I think I will make a point of being around when the “big tall sail holding stick” is one again installed!


  1. Here’s a link to a story by one of our sailing club members on their “big” boat in the Champlain and Erie Canals.

    One of the other joys of a smaller boat-we “sail” directly to Florida at 60MPH.

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