Choosing a Whisker Pole: Maker, Storage, Size?

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
I’m shopping for a whisker pole and seeking advice.

The “J” (forestay to mast at deck) distance on a 32-3/200 is 13.7 feet. I think this puts the ‘working distance’ on a telescoping pole for my boat somewhere between 12 feet and 16 feet depending on the sail employed.


Manufacturers

I’ve only found a handful of options:

Selden makes a whisker pole with discrete pin stops. You can order one here for just under $800. This is the largest of the poles that Selden makes (adjustable between 11 and 19.4 feet) and is suitable per Selden, for boats up to 20K lbs displacement @ half that of an E32. Another site listed the weight of the pole at 13 kilos, or 28.6 pounds. The pole has jaw fittings that would work on a line or a mast ring.

Forespar is the 800 lb gorilla of the space, it seems. They have a handy chart, arranged by manufacturer to help a buyer choose the right pole. For my boat, the recommended selection would be an LC 10-18 part number #401106. I’m pretty sure LC means “Line Control” or, continuously-adjustable length (vs. the discrete stops on the Selden) and 10-18’ refers to the length. The 10-18 size is recommended on Ericson 34’s also, and then bumps up to the next larger size (12-22) at the E35 level.

Part #401106 is all-aluminum, weighs approximately 17lbs and costs around $1100. I think the way to avoid shipping is to buy at my local West Marine and pick it up in-store.

Forespar also makes an all carbon telescoping pole. I did not find an all-carbon pole in 10-18 length, but the carbon 12-22 is part 800803 weighs 11lbs and costs $2170.

Finally, there is a hybrid aluminum/carbon pole (part 402203) with the aluminum external tube protecting the carbon. Fisheries Supply has the 12-22 version listed for $2340.

Forte
Defender carries Forte carbon fiber poles. They seem to be very close in price and manufacture to the equivalent Forespar poles.

Stowage

I have seen three common ways to store a pole.

1. On the deck. Forespar sells brackets that you can attach to your deck.

2. On the stanchions. This method gets the pole up off the deck and makes it less of a tripping hazard and more of a shin bruiser.

3. On the mast. This positions the pole on a track on the mast and +/- out of the way. One has to ensure that the pole to be stored is shorter than the distance between the deck and the steaming light. On my boat, this distance is about 13.8 feet. This solution involves the most infrastructure as one has to install a track up the mast and a car. It also puts weight aloft, which doesn’t make sense for boat dynamics. The T-Track is approximately $20 per foot, and a ring car is $160. So, call a track for a 13’ pole system $200 for track, $160 for the car, and $90 for a pole chock = $450 all in if a boat has none of these parts.


Given the various factors, I think at this point my best choice is to select the Forespar choice recommended off the chart (the 10-18’ all aluminum). I still don’t have a strong opinion on stowage though I like the idea of keeping the pole out of the way on the mast. I already have a ring car, so I just need to buy and install a longer track and a lower chock.

Opinions welcomed.
 

G Kiba

Member III
Don't go with carbon fiber unless you like the challenge of keeping the pole out of the sun. My boat came with a carbon fiber spin pole and although I like the lightness of it. I had to varnish it and have a sunbrella cover made for it. At some point I may paint it black and be done with the nice fancy appearance. keeping it from de-laminating is the goal with this beast. Not really worth it in my mind. Aluminum would have been fine.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
A factor is crew. That 28-pound pole is heavy, and no fun singlehanded. The pin extension design works fine and saves money, but can be hard to adjust alone, and cant be adjusted when under strain.

The Forespar Line Control design works very well and costs more. You can change the length of the pole with the pole set. (If a genoa is deployed 100 percent dead downwind, the pole length has to be reduced before it can be furled. Line control makes that easy.

I have Forespar all-carbon for singlehanding. It's 12 pounds, expensive, and has to be stored in a bag against UV.

Since the height of the pole attachment on the mast doesn't change when furling a given sail, A fixed ring works fine for many or most of us.

The store-vertical-with-track-on-mast-and-associated-control-lines works well for dip-pole jibes, but otherwise I consider it a luxury. (OK, a haircut is a luxury, but I do get one periodically, so luxury is subjective.) I store the pole outboard of the stanchions with Forespar stanchion chocks, along with my dinghy mast and 10-foot cockpit cover. Works fine, no knee issues, never fouls although it looks like it would.

IMG_4223.JPG
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
After bumping my shoes into factory pole deck-chocks, I changed to the stanchion-mount ones. I wish I had done this ten years sooner.
Storing a pole vertically on the spar often involves a rubberized U-shape holder mounted up high to provide something for the pole to "seat" into when socked up tight. The topping lift line needs to be kept tight. Whether the advantage of having it off the deck is worth the change is subjective. That system does add weight and windage aloft, too.
 

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
I bought a Forespar 10-18 LC in all aluminum about 2 years ago (for my 32-3) and love it. I've never found the weight to be a burden, and once it's hooked to the pole lift it's "weightless." I recommend a cam cleat on the mast for initial setting of the pole lift, then run it aft or whatever you want to do with it. I stole Christian's idea of stanchion mounts outside the stanchions--- the only threat there being that in heavy waves I could imagine the pole breaking free of the chocks.

I bought mine at WM when they were still doing price matching. They matched someone's $800-ish price and shipped it to a local store for free.

Also, the pole becomes noticeably "weaker"/less rigid as it nears full extension. If you plan much heavy-air use with a large Genoa, you might consider a size 12-22.
 
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Slick470

Member III
When we bought our boat both of our spinnaker pole and whisker poles were kept on deck with one end clipped to the bottom of the stanchions. With a line control whisker pole this meant some of the line was always in contact with the deck and in varying degrees of shade, so the line always turned green and needed to be cleaned often. I ended up buying the stanchion mounts and that solved that problem.... up until I installed lifeline netting for the kids and the stanchion mounts don't work so well anymore.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Moderator
Blogs Author
in heavy waves I could imagine the pole breaking free of the chocks.

Now you tell me. I lost my entire cockpit cover off the stanchion chocks a few years ago. Yeah, if heading into weather poles need to be lashed for security.
 

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
@goldenstate -- what size spinnaker pole (length / dia) did you find? And, do you have secondary winches on your coaming? I do not.
I think you are referring to the spinnaker pole I said recently I bought second-hand. It is exactly 13.7 feet, which I think is the right length for my/our boats. I am in the midst of trying to extract the UTS (toggle style) inboard fitting from the end of it to replace with a jaw-style fitting. The old fitting is reluctant to leave the pole.

My original intent was to use the spinnaker pole to practice with poling out the jib downwind, but I assume I will wind up with a telescoping one eventually so I should just get on with it.

Other than my big jib winches (primaries?) I do not have secondary coaming winches. Does one really need them for a spinnaker?

I have four other winches mounted on the top of the cabin-house.
 

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
I think you are referring to the spinnaker pole I said recently I bought second-hand. It is exactly 13.7 feet, which I think is the right length for my/our boats. I am in the midst of trying to extract the UTS (toggle style) inboard fitting from the end of it to replace with a jaw-style fitting. The old fitting is reluctant to leave the pole.

My original intent was to use the spinnaker pole to practice with poling out the jib downwind, but I assume I will wind up with a telescoping one eventually so I should just get on with it.

Other than my big jib winches (primaries?) I do not have secondary coaming winches. Does one really need them for a spinnaker?

I have four other winches mounted on the top of the cabin-house.
Diameter of my spinnaker pole is 3" O.D.
 

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
I think you are referring to the spinnaker pole I said recently I bought second-hand. It is exactly 13.7 feet.
Yes. Your find prompted me to resume my search. I show 13.7' as well. Nice find!

Other than my big jib winches (primaries?) I do not have secondary coaming winches. Does one really need them for a spinnaker?

That's what I'm trying to figure out. Many guides say that mid-sized+ boats need both spinnaker sheets and guys (which I assume means extra winches). But an old Selden spinnaker guide I found (from 2007) shows sheets only for spinnakers up to 850sq ft (about where E32s would fall).

Sorry, maybe I should have started a separate post about spinnakers...
I have four other winches mounted on the top of the cabin-hous.

I have only 3 on cabin top.
 
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Slick470

Member III
If you don't have winches aft of the primaries for your spinnaker sheets, the common practice is to have a block at the stern that allows you to lead the sheets forward to the opposite side cabin top winch. This puts the sheet where you can see the luff of the spinnaker for trimming and grinding.

If you do sheets and guys, the active sheet can be trimmed as above and the active guy typically will go from a block at max beam to the windward primary winch.
 

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
If you don't have winches aft of the primaries for your spinnaker sheets, the common practice is to have a block at the stern that allows you to lead the sheets forward to the opposite side cabin top winch. This puts the sheet where you can see the luff of the spinnaker for trimming and grinding.

If you do sheets and guys, the active sheet can be trimmed as above and the active guy typically will go from a block at max beam to the windward primary winch.
I'm sure this is the right way to do it. The complexity described however, gives me the willies.
 

Slick470

Member III
Tom, maybe this helps, maybe it makes it worse. A friend put a spinnaker guide together for his boat and drew up this little graphic for the guide. The deck layout shows two sets of cockpit winches, but I'm pretty sure his only had one. Also, on his boat, he chose to run the sheet to the cabin top winch on the same side. There was probably al lead issue if he went to the opposite side. Obviously, each boat is a bit different.
1608819145063.png
 

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
Tom, maybe this helps, maybe it makes it worse. A friend put a spinnaker guide together for his boat and drew up this little graphic for the guide. The deck layout shows two sets of cockpit winches, but I'm pretty sure his only had one. Also, on his boat, he chose to run the sheet to the cabin top winch on the same side. There was probably al lead issue if he went to the opposite side. Obviously, each boat is a bit different.
View attachment 36505
Thanks Andy! That does make sense. I was wondering how one would run the sheet to the winch on the opposite side of the cabin house with a single stern block. You would either need a second block or you would have a diagonal line across the cockpit interfering with polite conversation. I think I would need at least another crewperson to try to take this on. I'm sailing alone exclusively at this point. I should probably spend more time studying self-tacking jib mechanisms...
 

Slick470

Member III
If you forego the double sheet and guy per Christian's suggestion then you'll probably want a twing/tweaker/twanger or however it is called locally to pull the guy side down in heavier air.
 

goldenstate

Member III
Blogs Author
I am setting up the fixed-length spinnaker pole I purchased as a 'practice' whisker pole/future spinnaker pole.

The inboard end of the pole I bought had a toggle-style attachment like this.
1609093003601.png

I have a ring on my mast and am replacing it with a jaw style fitting like this. I need to glue the fitting into the pole semi-permanently.

1609093160163.png

My question is if the inboard and outboard ends of the pole should have their jaws oriented in the same or opposite directions?

I believe one is intended to attach the jaws to the ring and line facing up, so that if there is a problem one could release the jaw clasp with gravity, permitting the pole to drop. It makes sense that if one wants both jaws facing up, both sides need to face the same direction. Correct?
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
You can replace your sliding ring with a "mast toggle pin" but it's easier/cheaper for a smaller boat to use the jaw fitting, IMHO.
In my experience both ends of the pole always have their jaws facing the same way. Many of my more experienced friends always use the pole with jaws facing up. In lighter air I have found no advantage either orientation.

Some of my experience is due to luck in our boat purchase, i.e. our pole came with self-latching jaws. If I get the inside of the open jaw, up or down, to thump on the ss ring, the jaw closes automatically.
 
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