Spars, Mast Hinge, Part 1: Analysis I

The tabernacle typically found on the centerboard version of the Ericson 25
The Ericson 25, especially with regard to its popular centerboard version (as opposed to its fixed keel version), was designed to be a trailerable cruiser. Accordingly, Ericson Yachts manufactured many centerboard versions of the boat with mast tabernacles. A mast tabernacle is a piece of hardware that allows the mast to pivot at its base. It's an essential piece of hardware for anyone who trailers the boat and trailer launches the boat. Without a tabernacle, it's almost impossible to step the mast of the Ericson 25. In other words, it's almost impossible to transfer the mast from its horizontal, stowed position on the top of the sailboat (for trailering) to its vertical, fully-rigged position on the top of the sailboat (for sailing).
The deck step found on Oystercatcher and some other centerboard versions of the Ericson 25
For some reason Ericson Yachts did not install mast tabernacles on all of the centerboard versions of the Ericson 25. Instead, Ericson Yachts installed a simple, male deck step, onto which the female end of the mast would be set. Mast deck steps of this type are found primarily on the fixed keel version of the Ericson 25 and on other, larger Ericsons, such as the Ericson 27. Why, therefore, Ericson Yachts installed deck steps on some centerboard versions of the boat is something of a mystery. I can only guess that some boat dealerships or some individuals back in the 1970s ordered centerboard versions without mast tabernacles because they envisioned using the boat in shallow waters (thus the centerboard was important), but they did not envision trailer launching the boat (thus the mast tabernacle was not important). Whatever the case might have been, when I first became interested in Oystercatcher back in 2009, I discovered that she was a centerboard version of the Ericson 25, and as I became more interested in her I discovered that she was one of the ones that lacked a mast tabernacle.
The mast step of Oystercatcher as it appeared after I had purchased the boat and tented her for refitting.
That this particular Ericson 25 centerboarder lacked a mast tabernacle was not of much concern to the owner of the boat. He sailed her in the shallow waters of the Pamlico Sound of North Carolina, and he kept her at his own, private dock year-round. Trailering the boat and trailer-launching the boat were thus never issues for him.They were, however, issues for me.
After I had made the first trip from Charleston, South Carolina to the Pamlico Sound to see this boat, I made a phone call to an avid Ericson 25 centerboard owner I had met on the Ericson Yacht Owners forum. One of the things that he quizzed me about was the mast. He asked me whether it had a tabernacle, such as we see below . . .
or whether it had a simple deck step (such as we see in the next picture below). I replied that this one did not have the tabernacle, but instead had just the simple deck step. He responded by saying that this was exactly what he had on his own Ericson 25 centerboard boat but that he had found a way around this problem. He said that he used an A-frame, constructed of 2 x 4 material, to haul up his mast to a vertical position and thus to set it into place atop the mast step. He indicated that he had learned this technique from watching a YouTube video by an owner of a Catalina 27. He referred me to this video. I watched it and became convinced that this was a relatively easy way to step the mast absent the tabernacle.
After a second trip to the Pamlico Sound, I made arrangements to purchase the boat, and before I returned a third time to complete the purchase and bring her back home, I constructed my own A-frame based upon the verbal instructions I received from the Ericson 25 owner with whom I had been carrying on the mast-stepping conversation.

The A-frame was to serve as a substitute mast of sorts. Four lines would secure the A-frame, not unlike stays and shrouds. A block at the top of the A-frame would function similar to a block at the top of a masthead. A halyard, so to speak, secured around the spreaders of the mast would be used to haul up the mast from a horizontal to a vertical position.


The materials and the hardware cost me over a hundred dollars, but I figured it was money well spent, especially since the boatyard wanted to charge me a hundred dollars just to drop the mast.
Before leaving Charleston for North Carolina, my buddy and I strapped the A-frame to the frame of the trailer. This was what my Ericson 25 mentor had said that he himself did whenever he trailered his own boat.
The transit aboard Oystercatcher from the previous owner's house to the boatyard in Oriental, North Carolina involved a two night stay aboard the boat.
There were unexpected challenges along the way, so by the time we ended up getting the boat in the slings, I decided that it was better to pay the one hundred dollars to the boatyard to have the mast dropped rather than to drop the mast ourselves.
We had a long drive back to Charleston, and we were already going to run short of daylight as it was on this chilly afternoon in October.
One of the first things I did after I got the boat to Charleston was to construct sawhorses for the storing of the mast. Atop these sawhorses, I laid not only the mast, but also the A-frame.
Time passed as I found myself caught up not only in a time-consuming remodeling of my house, but also in a time-consuming refitting of Oystercatcher. She needed far more work than I had ever anticipated. Eventually, as my refitting of the boat began to reach its end, I began to think long and hard about the stepping of the mast with that A-frame. I met another Ericson 25 owner on the forum who was fortunate enough to have purchased a centerboard version of the boat that had a tabernacle. He regularly stepped and unstepped his mast with relative ease when trailer-launching and retrieving his boat from the water.
With this in mind, I spend quite a bit of time researching the mast steps and tabernacles of the Ericson 25, all the with the purpose of coming up with some means of creating my own tabernacle. My own boat possessed a mast step with a block oriented to starboard. This block was dedicated to the line used for raising and lowering the centerboard.
Some other owners had mast steps with blocks oriented fore to aft.
These owners had winches on the tops of their cabins directly aft of their masts. Below we see one example.
Here's another example, but one where the owner has routed the centerboard line aft to the cockpit.
I noticed that those who had tabernacles on their boats also had the same variations. Some had a winch directly aft of the mast.
Others had tabernacles with blocks oriented to starboard.
Regardless of whether the boat had a mast step or a tabernacle, if the block was oriented to starboard, then the centerboard line was routed aft through a cheek block to the winch on the starboard side of the top of the cabin.



In the midst of my research, I learned of an Ericson 25 owner who was interested in selling some parts off of his boat. I spoke to him on the phone at his home in North Carolina. He said that he had made the mistake of taking too many things off of his boat at one time. He was advanced in years, and he believed that there was no way that he would ever get all of those parts back on the boat before he passed away. Therefore, he decided that he would bury his boat up to the waterline and allow his grandchildren to play on it as if it were a pirate ship. He had already acted on this impulse, carving out a trench in his backyard with a backhoe and pulling the boat down into the trench, where it would presumably ever remain. With the mast and rigging he had been a bit more deliberate. The mast, he said to me, he would set up as a flag pole in his yard, or else we would sell it to any interested buyer. I told him I was only interested in the tabernacle. We went back and forth and back and forth several times on the phone. Eventually, he decided that he would sell me the tabernacle alone for $75 as opposed to the package deal that he preferred: the tabernacle, the mast, the rigging, and the trailering crutches (for supporting the mast while trailering) for $500.
During our conversations he sent me several pictures of his tabernacle and his mast.
He kept saying that it would be easier for me just to go for the package deal, because the mast had a special fitting on its end - a fitting that was designed to fit into the tabernacle.
He also emphasized that these masts for the tabernacle version of the Ericson 25 were shorter than those for the mast step version of the Ericson 25 that I had. This was true, because we compared measurements over the phone.
He also said that the factory original trailering crutches were very helpful in supporting the mast while trailering.
I saw his point, and I did take his suggestions seriously - so seriously that I spoke with my neighbor about using his flatbed trailer for hauling the mast all the way from North Carolina to Charleston. In the end, however, the deal with the boat owner fell through. After wavering back and forth about selling the tabernacle alone, he insisted that he wanted to sell everything as a package deal. The condition of his mast (based upon what I saw in the pictures) was horrible, and it was far too difficult and pricey for me to haul that 30 foot mast on a 20 foot flatbed trailer. Besides, what would the Admiral say when I came pulling in with yet another piece of seemingly permanent sailboat junk to add to the yard? Parts of her yard (and house) were already full of scattered E25 parts.
In my search for tabernacles I had come across alternatives to the factory original Ericson 25 tabernacle, which of course was no longer available. One alternative was the mast hinge offered by Dwyer Aluminum Mast Company in Connecticut. I thought this sounded promising, that is until I considered the block for the centerboard line. How would mast hinge such as the one pictured below possibly allow me to route the centerboard line through it?
I also discovered on the Trawler Forum (http://www.trawlerforum.com/forums/s32/mast-removal-cut-6923.html) a diagram from an old Westsail manual showing the tabernacles that had been designed for those boats. I thought of fabricating something similar for my Ericson 25, but the problem of the centerboard block and line still remained.
The Sea Sprite Association (http://www.seaspriteassociation.com/technical/sea-sprite-23/mast-and-rigging/raising-the-mast/) also had helpful pictures of how one might go about fabricating his own tabernacle. Again, though, the problem of the centerboard block and line remained for me.
At last I dug through the Ericson Yacht Owners webpage once again looking for anyone who might have attempted to solve the same problem that I was trying to solve. Eventually, I discovered an Ericson 23 owner - Bob in Virginia - who had used a Dwyer mast hinge for his centerboard version of his E23. We communicated by email, and he sent me two pictures and an explanation for his approach to things. First, he had mounted the base of the mast hinge to his boat.
Then he had mounted his original mast step to the top of the hinge. Once he had done this, he mounted the entire thing to the bottom of his mast. This enabled him to use make use of the original centerboard block and line. The only major modification that he had to make to the Dwyer mast hinge was the drilling of a 1/2 inch hole in the bottom and top of the hinge plates so that the centerboard line might pass through. He also had to drill mounting holes in the top hinge plate that corresponded to the holes in the base of the E23 mast step.
Believing that this solution to the problem was a smart one and that this solution was the only one I needed to consider, I ordered the Dwyer mast hinge along with the optional halyard organizer plate pictured below. Little did I know that the solution to the problem on the Ericson 25 would be a bit more complicated. That I would discover after the Dwyer mast hinge was in the mail and after I began to consider the angle of the mast relative to the deck when beginning the process of stepping it.
This ends this posting - the first of ten - in my article on how I modified and installed a Dwyer mast hinge for Oystercatcher, my Ericson 25.

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