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Alberta's Mast Head

Detail of mast and topmast before craning into place. Traditionally there is a cheek block each side of the spectacles for a purchase on the jib halyard (see diagram on the Sailing Smacks - Detail web page). I couldn't afford the extra rope and blocks at this stage of the restoration so opted for a block on a wire strop slung round the mast and lead over a pair of oak bolsters. The bolsters are bolted through the spectacles so can be replaced with cheek blocks later. Jib halyard tension is made by clapping on a handybilly with a rolling hitch at deck level. The spectacles are octagonal on the mast to stop rotation. The topmast forestay (top right) has a topmast halyard block with becket inserted in-line which gives a fair lead to the head of the 3000 sq.ft. spinnaker. Below right is the tops'l halyard block which is another change from convention, usually a sheave is let into the topmast and the fall comes out on the forward side of the topmast (another classic place for rot). The fall of the tops'l halyard passes through a bullseye on a strop and then through the leader cringle on the tops'l. Friction in the bullseye lowers it down the topmast till it meets the tops'l leader cringle coming up then both go up together so holding the mid-luff of the tops'l close to the topmast. The conventional way is to have a separate line from the strop called a leader or gillguy doing the same job or to send a man up the topmast to tie off the leader cringle to the topmast. Alberta's way saves cost and windage of another line aloft or climbing the mast. Spare eyes on the spectacles are links of chain welded on which give a nice wide opening to take the head of shackles. The top peak halyard block is also on a strop (bottom) so avoiding an eye bolt through the mast. Conventionally, only the topmast has running backstays (bottom wires) but the keen smack racers have added running backstays to the main mast head as well in the drive to keep a tight luff on the jib. Mast here 7" dia. and topmast 4" dia. The cap of the mast is sometimes drilled to form a well filled with linseed oil/preservative mix which gravitates down the mast in time keeping rot and shakes at bay. The bung is removed and the well topped up annually. Over many years the mixture seeps into the bilge 45' away!