This blog is devoted to my John Welsford designed 15' Navigator yawl Ellie. I built her in my garage over a period of 18 months and launched her in 2011. She sports a sliding gunter main, roller furled jib and sprit-boomed mizzen. Her construction is glued-lapstrake over permanent bulkheads and stringers. This blog is a record of her construction and her voyages here in the Puget Sound area and (hopefully) a useful resource for fellow Navigator builders.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Navigator Mast Handling

There's been a bit of discussion on the Welsford Builders forum lately about stepping the mast on a Navigator or Pathfinder. How difficult is it?  Can it be done unassisted by anyone, regardless of age or physical capability? Is a tabernacle necessary? How about stepping the mast on the foredeck or the front thwart instead?  Should the mast be built hollow or solid?  From wood or aluminum tubing?

It all depends on the abilities and desires of each individual builder of course, and that is one of the big advantages of building your own boat.

I built my mast hollow using the birds mouth technique. This technique is a bit more work, but results in a mast that is up to 40% lighter and equal in strength to a solid wooden mast.  The technique is well documented at duckworks.  It's well worth the additional effort in my opinion.  A lighter mast is not only easier to step and unstep, but reducing weight aloft also improves a sailboat's performance.

Here is a short video that shows how easy it is to step, unstep and handle the mast on my Navigator. My mast weighs 17 lbs (7.7kg) not including hardware.  It is not difficult to handle, and as you can see I'm no athlete. If you're a Navigator builder, I hope this video helps you decide how to build your mast.


  1. Ha!
    Yep know how easy that is
    Mine is hollow same build method
    Well worth doing
    You look well Joel
    Meanwhile here in uk we continue to freeze and are awaiting some spring sunshine!

    Good post

  2. Hey Steve,
    As long as I can bench press 17 lbs I know I can go sailing LOL!
    Hope all is well with you too. I have finished many of the items on Ellie's to-do list and am looking forward to the first sail of the year. Take care.

  3. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, that video is invaluable. Thanks. And, thanks, too, for asking about the 150 - 180 pound Pathfinder mast.


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