Simple and Cheap Downwind Pole Storage

4 Apr

Ah, downwind pole storage, another heady topic for the blog. I tried to bring this one up at a party- nothing but blank stares. Then I went and told my sweetie. We did that thing where in the middle of trying to give her a frame of reference we both realize that this particular boat-thing is not really worth all the explaining and so she just sort of makes affirming noises until I can make a clean break. Anyway, lovely blog-readers, this is where you come in. You know all about downwind poles, and are undoubtedly fidgeting in your chairs waiting to read about them. And if you aren’t, well I think the ‘comments’ feature is still broken so you’ve got no means to complain.

Back when I was working on the hard a friend of mine gave me a nice long downwind pole which happens to be the perfect size for my genoa. I took it to my shop, where it stayed for a year, being far too awkward to store on the boat.

My pole just needed a little cleaning up and a dab of loctite on the screws holding the ends

It seems people often store their downwind poles in annoying places- on deck where you constantly trip over it, on the lifelines where you bump your knees on it, on the mast where it’s out of the way and easily accessible… Wait, why doesn’t everybody do that? The mast seemed like the obvious place to put it. Then I did a little research, and found the answer to that questions is that most people who store their poles on the mast spend hundreds of dollars on the parts to do it, including a track which runs up the mast the entire length of the pole.
Luckily, I had some of the building blocks in place already, I have a (short) track on the front of the mast, with a ring car. I also had an oddly-placed block on the front of the mast at the height of the spreaders. Since I wanted to store my pole on the mast, and I really didn’t want to spend a bunch of money doing it, I decided I would just make do with what I had. If you can store a pole on the mast by clipping it into a car and then pulling it up a track it seems you could forego the track and just pull it straight up on a line, right? Especially if you have a now-conveniently-placed block right at your spreaders.

First, I made a block for the pole to rest on at the top of the mast. This helps to secure it but is mainly to keep it from banging on the mast and driving me crazy.

Here is the profile of the mast cut out, I also cut out the profile of the pole on the other side

Actually, making this block is about all there was to it. Once I had it painted I went up the mast when I had a nice slow moment and a couple people around to haul me up. I drilled and tapped two 1/4″ holes in the mast and fastened the block on with machine screws.

Seems I have to actually take people sailing if I want them to help me on the boat…

I ran a line through the pulley and back to the deck then I tied it to one end of the downwind pole and hauled it up. It takes a moment of fiddling to get the pole settled in the block but otherwise this gives me the same function as a setup that would cost a couple hundred dollars and all it took was a bit of string, a chunk of pine, and about $0.03 in paint (I get my two-part epoxy paint for $1/gallon at the recycled materials store).

The end of my ‘halyard’ is cleated at the base of the mast. At some point I’ll replace this hardware-store line with proper boat stuff.

I might still end up making some deck chocks as the mast is not a good place to mount a downwind pole if you’re in a real blow but for the day-to-day I think this will work just fine.

This article was syndicated from Safe At Harbour But Meant For The Sea: DIY Sailing with Paul Calder


  1. mark

    I did the same as you for the same rreasons too.
    only problem has been when lowering the pole, the ring fitting has broken twice as the pole end needs to be adjusted so it fits in the ring properly.
    I’m now trying to find a toggle system that will solve this issue, but at over $1000, it could be a long look.
    I also attach the top of my pole to a ring, takes a bit of patience, and am always looking into the sun!!

    At least then the pole cant fall if the topper is accidentally let go.

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