Hi, My name is Kenny and this is the website my wife, Chelle, designed for me. She's been on my ass to add some content so I've decided to use it as a project diary. Right now, I have been working on my 1981 Hobie Cat, building a mast stepper. See the steps below if you would like to know how to build your own (be sure to click each photo for a larger version). You can also visit some of the "Sailing Links" to the left of this page to learn more about sailing catamarans and mast stepping.

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Building a Mast Stepper System


For a total list click here. (Not shown: 1/8" coated cable, 2- 2 1/2" stainless 1/4 inch bolts with flat washers and nylock nuts used to fasten the straps to the mast gin pole block)

Constructing the end blocks for the Gin Pole:

I started with a 4' piece of 1x6 oak. ($13) I wanted hardwood for durability, but pine would have worked I guess. I tend to over engineer and overbuild, but prefer to avoid problems down the road if I can. I cut the 1x into 1x6x6" blocks, then glued and clamped them to create two solid 3x6x6" blocks, with a 12 inch piece leftover for the next project!


Rough Cut and Drilled Blocks:

Photo showing the mast block cuts. The groove routed in the side edges will accomodate the mast securing strap I added later. The other uncut block (the winch strap block) shows the 1" hole to accomodate the 6' galvanized iron pipe used for the gin pole. You can also see here the 3/8" dowel pins I glued though the blocks for added strength. The $100 I saved building this myself over buying a prebuilt system, paid for my $99 drill press from Lowes!


Drilling the Belt Slot in the Mast Block:

First I drilled two 3/8 inch holes about midway up the blocks, 1-1/2 from the edge. These will accomodate the 1/4" bolts which will pass through the strap loops. Then, I flipped the blocks on edge, and drilled a series of overlapping 5/16" inch holes to create a slot through which to pass the strap loop. I smoothed this as best I could using a Dremel tool with a grinding bit and sand paper.

Drilling the Belt Slot (View 2):

"Ok", you might say," a lot of work!" Well..I like a project. Plus, the total cost is right at $60 for the system, and I went way out. You could do it a lot cheaper, I just like to do it right. Plus, I got to buy a new power tool and justify the cost to my wife! Not to mention make all those trips to one of my favorite places, the hardware store!

Drilling the Belt Slot (View 3):

One more shot from the side. So far I've probably got about 2 hours of actual work in the project, and about 30 hours of admiring my handy work, drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and patting myself on the back while beaming with pride that I had actually glued myself up a block of wood and cut holes in it. I would proudly bring it into the house every twenty minutes or so after each mark, cut and hole to show my wife. "Yes honey, that's a nice block of wood you've made, are we going for Mexican now?". Wives can be so suportive.


Attaching the Strap to the Mast Block:

Here's where I had to get a little creative. I decided to use 6' motorcycle tie-down straps for all my strapping needs. They were available in a 4 pack from Lowes for $9.

Attaching the Strap to the Mast Block (View 2):

That gave me one to modify and attach to the mast block above; two to modify by sewing in a 2 inch ring, to attach to the front corner castings at the front beam for attaching the mast shrouds and gin pole support lines; and one for tying the wife to the bed later! I'll show her a block of wood..... ;)


Attaching the Mast Block to the Mast:

Fits like a glove, and very secure. I'm thinking of adding a thin sheet of rubber to the contour cut to further protect the mast from any possible abrasions.

Next I started on the uppermost block on the gin pole. This one would simply be notched with a square the width of the winch belt (approximately 2"). However, I was suddenly smacked with another stroke of genius!!!

Creating the Winch Belt Block: (above right)

When I sat the blocks up for this photo, I had sat the semi-cirlcle cut out from the mast block on top of the wood blank for the winch block. I decided to glue this arch into the belt notch so as to spread the load out over a wider area of the belt, and provide a smooth, rolling surface when winching the mast. Plus, I got to impress my wife once more with my engineering brilliance and artful carpentry skills...."LOOK BABE!"........."That's a nice block of wood honey......are those the same socks you were wearing yesterday?"


Gluing the Arch into the Winch Belt Block:

OK, what idiot came up with this idea?? Cutting the notch wasn't so bad using the table saw. I did this prior to beer-thirty, as fingers are good things to have. ( I work with a guy who can count to one hundred by nines, very fast, while flashing his nine digits...he lost one in a poker game but that's another story. It's quite impressive to see him do it, but not enough that I care to learn it just now! )


Gluing the Belt Block (View 2):

I applied liberal amounts of Elmers wood glue, and hammered the litle gooey, gummy wedge into it's little notch. I know from watching a couple of episodes of "New Yankee Workshop" that a real craftsman has a nice tight fit with no cracks. "Damn..the bottom of that notch sure looked smooth and even??" Panic set in. Quick before the glue dries you imbecil! After hurriedly knocking out the block, and dashing to the kitchen to wash off the glue amid mumbled cursing....my wife suddenly has taken an interest....."Measure twice, cut once!' Where'd I put that rubber mallet?? After it all dried, I filed the bottome of the notch nice and even, re-glued, reclamped, and Voila`



Making the Ring Straps:

To modify the two straps for the corner castings, I cut the hooks off of each end and used only the remaining piece of strap and the spring clasp. I looped one end of the strap through the slotted rear end of the clasp, and my dear, sweet wife stitched it very well. I then took approximately 8" of the strap (Chelle says 4, but I'm not bragging here, so trust me, it's 8) and looped it through a 2 inch stainless ring and sewed it back on itself. (see closeup of photo above) We then laid this over the clasp strap section, and sewed well through the 3 layers, then passed the long tail of strap back through the ring. So looking at the underside in the photo above, you'd simply flip it over, and attach it to the boat so the shroud lines would pull the ring into the loop, not towards the stitching. It is very secure and strong once it's sinched on the corner casting.


The link above to the list of materials isn't working yet because...well because I haven't written it up yet. Be patient Grasshopper.

Ken 10/17/2003