Our recommendation: Remove the mast every three years unless circumstances require more frequent mast-down storage.
Mast-up storage can save many hours in dismantling and reassembling rigging and electrical wiring. Since mast-up storage is quicker and a lot less work, total annual hauling and storage expenses are usually somewhat less compared to the cost of taking the mast down. Damaged, missing or stolen equipment while moving the mast into storage areas and while stepping the mast in the spring is virtually eliminated, as are lost parts or unexpected problems arising from improper reassembly prior to launching the boat.
Proponents of mast-down storage argue that leaving the mast up with the boat on the hard will stress the hull and rigging in high winds and cause potential damage to the rig due to vibration. They also say it’s dangerous to leave the mast up because the boat might topple from its stands during a storm, causing lots of damage to the boat and neighboring vessels.
While all of this is true to some extent or another, unless your boat exhibits signs of leaking or wear or cracking around fittings and chainplates, you probably don’t need to unstep your mast every year. There are some real advantages to getting the rig down on a regular schedule, however:
Checking for mast step corrosion. Over time, water that may seep into the mast or mast step can compromise grounding of the rig and other electrical connections. This could expose the boat to repeated electrical problems and excessive lightning strike damage.
Inspection and replacement of rig, wiring, bulbs, etc. is much easier with the mast down.
Disassembly, cleaning and lubrication of roller furling mechanisms will extend their lives and serviceability.
Removal and storage of masthead instrumentation will save wintertime wear and tear on moving parts.
If it’s been more than two years since your boat has had its mast(s) removed, we urge you to consider having it done this winter.