Painting the top of the mast

I think this question will be aimed at "old timers".  In previous times the top of the mast was painted white for a certain distance, the rest was varnished;  is there a proportion that should be followed  in painting the top of the mast?  Or could it be that it is the demarcation of how high to raise the sail when shorting sail to the first set of reefing points?  I think that the white top mast area is that extra  that gives a sailboat "character".

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RE: Painting the top of the mast

Guess I'm gettin' old so I'll answer this. White paint used to be painted on the top of the mast above the highest gaff wear mark on gaff rigged boats to protect the wood. Grease was used below that to protect the mast from the gaff jaws. The top mast was also painted white on tapered masts to protect exposed end grain. When the Bermuda rig came along there was no need to paint the top mast but people continued anyway.  Painting the top of your mast now is following tradition if it's not gaff rigged. 

George K

RE: Painting the top of the mast

My mast is tapered 38" down from top on a 15'9" wooden mast.  I am messing around with an O'Day Sprite which has a factory wooden mast (Bermuda rig) pre-dates O'Day's shift to aluminum sticks.  Makes sense about the exposed end grain being painted.  Thanks much!

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