Take the Mast Down

8 June 2021 – Take the Mast Down

Our Raymarine ST60 wind instrument has not worked, or at least not properly, in more than 2 years. The system is based on a wind sensor or transducer that is mounted at the masthead, and an ST60 instrument in the cockpit.

I have once changed the display and twice before changed the masthead sensor, and although it is somewhat fragile, it is irritating to see large birds sitting on it – and this commonly happens. It is also fairly expensive to replace at more than $600 CDN. But, it is not the only technology out there. After months of research into various different technologies, I finally decided that I would no longer continue to invest in a flawed product. I decided to “up the game” a little and buy an ultrasonic sensor (no moving parts) made by LCJ Capteurs in France. This is the CV7-STBG ultrasonic sensor that I bought, and had couriered in from France. It is based on a 4 wire (rather than 5 wire with the Raymarine product) bundle. I decided against a wireless system, due to conflicting reports of their reliability.

Although it is theoretically possible to cut, splice and solder the new CV7 transducer (4 wire) to the existing Raymarine wires (5 wire), it would not be a comfortable job or sturdy installation. So, the wires had to be replaced.

I first tried to “fish” the old wire out, replacing it with the new wire – but it would not budge. The wires that are run inside the mast were stuck solid. So, we decided that we had to take the mast down to run this wire. We also had to wait until the most recent Turkish COVID-19 lockdown was over so that a crane could be brought in. First, let me give a little preamble on the cost. There is no rigger or sailmaker that works here in Alanya Marina. I was told that “Omar” the welder (an outside contractor but frequent worker), also doubles as a rigger when required. So – we took the sails down, removed the boom and stored it on deck, cut and marked all the mast electrical connections, raised both furlers, exposed all the turnbuckles and removed the cotter pins. This was probably about 5 days work. I approached the marina office and requested a quote to complete the remaining work, which I estimated to be a maximum of two hours (unscrew the turnbuckles and take the mast down) and another two hours (screw in the turnbuckles and put the mast up). After Omar visited our boat, and surveyed the work required, he gave a quote of 1700 euros, that included 450 euros for the crane. WTF? 1250 euros for a maximum of 4 hours work? No welding, repair, or specialized tools were required. Just labour (which I estimated at 4 hours, but in the end actually took 2.5 hours) and coordination with the crane operator. Omer has done a few small jobs for me, but usually I refuse his quotes as they are based on the highest I might expect to pay in a marina on the French Riveria! Not surprisingly, I balked at this quote too – and did the job myself for one third of the cost.

Somebody had to go up the mast, and although I’m perfectly capable of being hoisted up, I’m also rather heavy, and with the electrical connections severed – it would mean somebody would have to manually crank the winch to hoist me. Eric on Pied-a-Mer III generously volunteered for the job.

After Eric secured the sling, the next step was to unscrew all 12 turnbuckles, and have the crane pick up the mast and start to move it over to the shore. All available marina employees / Mariners were on hand to help.

Then, lay the mast down – carefully.

With the mast on the ground for the next 6 days, I used the time to get new bronze bushings fitted into the gooseneck. This should stop most of the noise (clanking when in low wind conditions) from the base of the mast, where the boom connects into the gooseneck.

With the mast on the ground, we completely inspected all standing rigging and fittings. I decided to install a new VHF antenna and RG-213U wire with new PL-259 soldered connectors at each end. This is a very stiff, large diameter wire, and much better replaced while the mast is on the ground. (sorry – no photos)

A few months earlier, while watching a YouTube video, I watched as a guy promoting these “new” connectors based on heat shrink and low temperature solder. They are essentially a small clear heat shrink tube with a ring of low temperature solder in the middle (sized for many different sizes of wire). Strip the wire pieces and place them in the centre of the connector – and then apply heat with a heat gun (not a flame). I found this kit on AliExpress.

These are the wind sensor connections I made at the bottom of the mast, afterwards they were covered in black heat shrink tubing.

The wind sensor wires are run all the way down the mast, through the mast compression post and under the floor to the cockpit, to the instrument pedestal and connected to the back of the Raymarine ST60 display through an STBG interface. I have tested the system and it works! Soon, we will leave dock for the day, do a test sail and calibrate the wind instrument.

In addition to working on the mast, we also had to change out our washing machine. We had it removed more than a month ago and a repairman completely took it apart. In the end, our 12 year old Maytag was not repairable (at least not here, where we could not get the parts) with a completely corroded drum and axle bearing. We replaced it with a very fine Turkish made model, which fit perfectly into the slot. It is a 220V machine, so while dockside we have it plugged into a 220V receptacle, but when at anchor we will plug it into a transformer.

Finally, Turkey has eased it’s COVID-19 restrictions to the point where we were able to take a ride up into the nearby hill to see the marina from above. More freedom of movement is coming, particularly since we have been vaccinated with a WHO approved vaccine, Sinovac/Coronavac.

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