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FSOCD*: Winter Mast Maintenance

By webmaster - Posted on 18 January 2012

I'm fortunate to have enough room in my basement to store and work on the parts to my Flying Scot.  This is my principle sailing activity during these cold northeast winter months.

The mast of the Flying Scot is a crucial component of the boat.  While it does not have spreaders or a backstay, there are still many details which dictate the safety and speed of the boat.  There are several points of failure which could bring the mast down and prematurely conclude an otherwise great sailing day.  So it is definitely worth the time and effort to go over the mast and its attachments now or in the Spring.

Oops.... (photo by Greg Morrison)Oops.... (photo by Greg Morrison)

The first job is to inspect all the parts for wear and tear.  Then we fix any damage.  Finally we prepare the mast and parts for the upcoming season.


Here is the inspection checklist:

  • Mast Pin Slot - Make sure the slot has not widened allowing the pin slip free during the raising or lowering procedure.  We want the pin to slip on and off vertically but not out aft of the slot.
  • Jib and Main Halyards - Make sure there are no major kinks or fraying.  You can find the fraying by running the wire between your fingers slowly (if you do it quickly you risk being skewered).  The shackle should be square, not bent or askew.  The shackle pin should move easily in and out of the latching hole.  When the pin is rotated to the locking position it should be very tight but not so much as you need tools to open.
  • Halyard Console - Look for missing or excessively worn brake pads as well as the brake pad spring clip.  The console supports between the plates should be firm and not cut.  Of course the console attachment rivets should be solid.  The halyard spools should be smooth along the spool length otherwise it can damage the halyard.
  • Jib and Main Halyard Rollers - The jib halyard roller is on the leading edge fork and supports the forestay also.  The main halyard rollers are in the masthead.  Make sure the rollers move freely and have no chips on their side rails.
  • Masthead - Make sure the head is aligned with the main bolt rope slot.  The screws and nuts securing the head should be tight.  Any masthead fly attachments should be checked as well.
  • Mainsail Slot - The slot should be straight. There should be no sections where the slot is open enough for the bolt rope to get stuck or escape.
  • Forestay and Jib Halyard Fork - The fork should be attached so it is snug against the mast.  The securing pins and cotter pins should be inspected.  There should be no rust.  The cotter pins should not be bent awkwardly or fatigued.
  • Forestay - The forestay should be inspected like the halyards.  Look for any fraying or kinking. 
  • Shrouds - Again the shroud wire should be inspected like the halyards.  The mast bolts should be very tight.  The adjuster plates should be mostly straight and free of apparent fatigue.


In my case, after only 2 years, the main halyard showed several spots of single strand fraying.  I plan to replace the halyard ($46.60 at Flying Scot Inc.)  In the mean time, I've tucked in some of the free strands and sealed the frayed areas with 3M 5200 marine adhesive.

I also found an accumulation of salt crystals on the main halyard console spool.  I scrubbed it with soap and water as best I could then sanded the rest of the deposits away.


Now we want to make sure the mast is ready for the upcoming season.

The halyard console is the most complex part of the Flying Scot mast.  Detailed maintenance instructions can be found HERE at Flying Scot Inc.  Basically you want to make sure all the parts operate smoothly.  In my case I saw the mainsail brake pad was wearing faster than the jib brake pad so I swapped them.  This should enable the spring clip to apply pressure more evenly over the season and even out the pad wear.

I also noticed the main spool was moving too freely, not providing good braking action.  So when I removed the brake pad I cleaned the lubricant from the pad seating.  Pushing a clean rag into the brake pad hole while rotating the spool did the trick.

The next step is to lubricate the rollers and blocks.  This includes the masthead, jib halyard, spinnaker halyard and topping lift.  For this I use McLube, the dry lubricant.  Simply spray a little in the joints of the moving parts and wipe off the excess.  Then test that the part moves smoothly.

I also wax the mast, using a good carnauba wax.  I first read about this last winter in the Buddy Melges book, "Sailing Smart", so gave it a try last season.  It is not a required part of the maintenance but I found it made cleaning the mast much easier, in particular after sailing in salt water.  Just be careful when carrying and raising the mast since it is slipperier than one not waxed.

And finally, I spray a light coat of McLube in the length of the mainsail bolt rope slot.  This makes raising and lowering the main that much easier.

I hope this is useful for you.  Please let me know if you have any other suggestions or stories in the area of mast maintenance by posting a comment.


*FSOCD = Flying Scot Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - An anxiety disorder characterized by inordinate attention to the smallest details about ones Flying Scot sailboat.