The Fore Topmast – onward and upward –

To me the topmasts are the most interesting to rig. We bring them down to the pier from our shop on our spar cart. The cart was made during Al Guraldi’s era. He was the first marine shop manager back in 1958. The top mast has no rigging attached and is laying horizontally on the ground. We have to lift it up vertically, guide it through the cross and trestle trees on the foremast then into the foremast cap above it. Here,s how we do it.

spar on cartStep one, as I said, is to get the mast to the waterfront. The mast is held into the cart with a come-along and we have a trailer hitch, like the kind the electric company uses when the transport new telephone poles, that we attach to one end of the spar. We have long ago worked out where to set up each spar for optimal lifting into place on the ship. the fore topmast will lay along side the back wall of the dockside exhibit.

tailer hitch -

Putting the topmast in place.

The mast is in place and the sampson braid gantline has been moved from the sprit to the foremast. We use a big steel snatch block under the forebowl as the lifting block. We make a bowling with the sampson braid through the fid hole of the top mast. the line is hitched about 2 fathoms below the top of the mast then the line runs up to the snatch block, down to a fair lead block on the pier and finally to the truck. We rig a tag line to the fid end of the top mast and secure that to something solid on the pier. When it is time to lift with the truck the tag line prevents the mast from jsut sliding forward and not going up in the air. As the truck lifts, the tag line is slowly eased which sends the mast into the air and eventually allows it to hang vertically.

topmast vertical and through the cap.

In this picture the topmast has been lifted up vertically, and is poking through the cap. You can see it sticking up above our heads. Now is the time to dress the mast. the crew on deck will send up, in the right order, shrouds, backstays, martinets, flag staff, flagstaff cross trees, flagstaff cap, the flagstaff fid, the topmast fid, topyard lifts and a the flagtstaff truck with two flag halyards. One after another each piece is placed over the mast in the right order and then finally we are ready for the heal rope.

Heal rope

With all the gear dressed on the mast it is time for the heal rope. Actually we rig it before anything is on the mast but that part doesn’t matter. The mast is stopped off at the cap. We let the sampson braid linethat we used to lift the mast up, go and rerig it so that the bitter end is tied around the top of the foremast, goes down through the lubbers hole in the working top, then around the sheave in the bottom of the top mast, back up to the big steal snatch block under the bowl, down the the fair lead block on the pier and finally to the truck. We have made a big block and tackle that will raise the mast up to its full majestic height. The trick now is to have someone driving the truck who can make the truck creep along and not shoot the mast up so fast it fys out of the bowl like some wild bow and arrow.

Foretopmast in place

Usually, Paula and I are in the bowl for this process. We have the big fid on hand for when the mast reaches the correct hdight and shout, not too histerically, to stop the truck so we can put the fid in. The fid, by the wa,y is an iron bar about 1 1/4″ square that the mast will sit on. The fid rests on the cross trees and finally we can reeve off the lanyards for the shrouds and the mast is secure. Except of course for the head stay, which I forgot to mention we also raised up when we were dressing the mast.

The final part is to bring the head stay pendant out to the end of the bow sprit.

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