Tag Archives: telescoping topmast

RELIANCE’S Telescoping Topmast

I had an email question on RELIANCE’s telescoping topmast from Lawrence Kurkey that I thought I would reply via blog post. He asks “Would you please explain to me how this was accomplished?” 

The wooden topmast had a sheave at its base and a slot through which a fid could be inserted that would pin the erected topmast in place.

The mast was a fabricated steel structure with hollow “donut” rings and angle iron stringers providing a framework upon which the rolled steel plates were riveted. Thus, the topmast could be lowered or raised through the hollow “donut hole.” The mast was a 26″ diameter straight stick that tapered at the very top. There was a retaining ring at the mast top and another about eight feet lower which kept the topmast centered. 

The 330′ long topmast halliard, or topmast heel rope as it was called, was seized to the inside top of the mast, then lead through the sheave in the base of the topmast and then to another sheave on the other side of the top of the mast. The hauling end of the heel rope was taken below deck through a fairlead to a below deck winch alongside the base of the mast. This winch mechanism was installed as an upgrade shortly after RELIANCE was turned over to the Syndicate. Before that, I seem to remember it was taken to blocks and pad eye at the base of the mast.

I enclose sketches of the topmast, topmast heel rope mechanism, and boom construction to illustrate the operation.

Boom construction is shown because its construction is very similar to mast construction, and it is a sketch I have on hand.

Topmast illustrations were included in blog postings from January/ February 2013 timeframe and you can refer back to these postings.

L. Francis Herreshoff notes in his books that RELIANCE had a topmast ratcheting mechanism, but I have not yet found drawings that show that. BTW, you can find a picture of RELIANCE dismasting during a race in the Rosenfeld Collection at Mystic Seaport. This occurred when the fid was placed improperly. Also in the Mystic Collection, I believe, is a notation in Iselin’s Journal on this incident.



Topmast sketch


Sketch of Boom



Telescoping Topmast Operation