Running Wires Inside Mast

Brock Richardson, Good Goose, #522

If the mast down it is fairly easy to run a snake down the mast and pull new wires. I reccomend using long wire ties every foot or so to keep the wires from banging inside the mast. lay everything out on top of the mast and tie it all off. If the wires go through the spreader I would take the spreader off. If you are running wires to the mast head as well you might need to run asnake from each side of the spreader as well as one from the masthead. You can pick up a 50 foot snake from home depot pretty cheap Its definately worth it. I did mine and took it all apart and added the long wire ties because I hated the clanging wires. worked great. I believeTim's website has a good description of the process. I was amazed how smooth everything went. Not nearly as hard as I thought it would be.

Michael Lehmkuhl

I would second the wire-tie approach. It worked well on my 27' as well as on my 39'. You will also want to wire-tie all your wires together every 18" or so independent of the wire-tie "cushions". Instead of a snake, which would probably work well, I used heavy gauge bare copper ground wire from Home Despot.

Used the wire to run heavy string tracers through the mast and out the holes where I needed to pull wires out of the mast (speader and mast-top). I assembled everything next to the mast and used the heavy strings to pull the whole wire-tied mass of wires and ties thru from the bottom and the specific wires out the necessary holes. You shouldn't have to remove the spreaders if you get all the strings on the same side of the compression spacer at the spreaders.

A.J. Matthews, Ay Mon, #605

If you don't want to un-step your mast, the only way to go about routing electrical cable through your mast is to drill a 1/2 - 3/4" hole at the base of the mast, about three-inches above the base (you only get one shot at this one).

Once cut, you have someone climb the mast (Boatswain's Chair is essential) with equipment to create a hole at the top of the mast and a coil of 50-80lb test fishing line and lead weight capable of going through the hole you made at the base. You then feed your line through the hole and down the mast to a second person waiting at the base. There, make a small hook with a wire clothes hanger and hunt for your fishing line. Once hooked, full the line out of the hole and attach your cable to the other end at the top of the mast. Now pull the cable through the mast (down, let gravity help) and out of the hole at the bottom.

Once your cable is run, make a decision as to what kind of cable connection you want to make through the deck and wire your light(s). For a combination Tri-color/Anchor Light, with a deck light you will need a total of three wires (one common and two switched hot), if you are going to put a spreader light on, you can use the existing common and run an additional switched hot wire to the spreader or deck light. You would therefore have four wires exiting at the base of the mast.

On Ay Mon, I used the AquaSignal combination Deck/Masthead Light (Remember Masthead is a forward facing white light with an arc of 225-degrees mounted to the front "head" of your mast).

Of course I would recommend un-stepping the mast and pulling your wires through the tube that extends through your mast step. It is far cleaner, you have no hole in the bottom of your mast and there is no chance that water will migrate through your deck fitting for your cable.

Bill Bell, Kialoa, #41

I think you got all the advice you needed in getting the wires inside the mast. What I want to tell you about is what to do with them once they are in there.

I owned "Kialoa", EC #41 for some 40 years, cruising between Block Island and Halifax, N. S. and the mast-noise deadening idea I'm offering here was in place with no problems for a good 30 or 35 years with no maintenance costs.

What you do it to fill the mast with styrofoam "peanuts. You can do this before or after running wires with the recommended "fish". Over the 35 years, I changed wiring many times with no difficulty as they were not locked in place by ties. And I noted that they were never chafed from rubbing on anything inside the mast.

Here is how. When the mast is off the boat, get it reasonably balanced on a saw horse. Remove the plug at the bottom that fits into the mast step and remove the masthead assembly at the top end. Assuming you have collected a goodly volume of the styrofoam "peanuts" - maybe the volume of a GI can size trash bag - take a piece of old nylon stocking material and tape it over the suction end of a serious "Shop-Vac" hose. I am referring to a hose about 2" minimum diameter. Then tape the hose into one end of the mast and tape it reasonably air-tight so when the vacuum comes on, you will have a decent vacuum at the far end. Tape over the other odd holes in the mast - the slots for the mainsail hglyard and so on. Tape is cheap, try for the greatest degree of air-tightness. Secure the low end of the mast - the one with the hose taped to it - to the ground - maybe a concrete block to hold it down?

When you turn on the vacuum, there should be a good bit of suction at the top end. Hold everything until you do have all the suction the vacuum can produce. Then hold the bag of pellets to the open end of the mast and help the pellets find their way to the suction and standby. I could never get the whole mast stuffed from one end, the spreader bolts halted progress. When you feel you have the spreader-to-masthead volume fairly well filled, put a temporary plug in the top end, go to the other end , put a temporary seal at that end and prepare to move the vacuum to the top end.

Get the vacuum rig set to draw at the top end, lower the top end to the ground, get the vacuum drawing with its stocking-covered hose end taped in place and secure it down. Go to the other end, remove the temporary plug, start the vacuum drawing and feed more pellets into the mast.

If you run out of pellets, go get more, you cannot foul up by a delay in the operation. Rain will not hurt. Jiggling stuff inside the mast will help pellets settle. You can shove long sticks into the mast to help pellets settle.

You will not need to wire-tie cables together as they cannot flap around. You will always be able to change individual wires as needed. The stuff will probably settle a bit with time - but the top foot or so won't cause much problem. If you leave a halyard so that it can hit the mast as the boat moves at anchor, the noise will be vastly reduced over what you get from an empty mast. (I would still tie off anything given to whacking the mast.)