Stepping the Mast
I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to test the repairs to the mast I just finished. Over the last month I stepped the mast, ripped out the old wood compression post, and replaced it with an oversized, thick-walled aluminum tube. Quarter-inch and half-inch aluminum plates at the top and bottom help to spread out the forces better than the old wood ever did.
My mast is deck stepped. As I was mounting the ceiling plate, I found dry rot in the core, directly under the mast. An unexpected problem, but one I had dealt with before. Using a quarter inch drill bit, I drilled out the wood core around the foot of the mast. I was able to extract the majority of the rotten wood, which I replaced by injecting slightly thickened epoxy into the holes with a large syringe. Now, from the tip of my mast to the bottom of my stringer, I have no wood. Nothing to rot. It’s all metal and fiberglass.The sinking of the compression post messed up the top hatch, which has had a problematic leak ever since I bought the boat. I held off on replacing the hatch because the compression post needed to be fixed first. If the compression post continued to sink, it would just ruin whatever hatch I had gotten to replace the old one. While I was making the fiberglass repair to the dry rot, I also replaced the old hatch with a new one. I assumed the dry rot was caused by a leak in the hatch, but it was actually caused by a leak around the foot of the mast. It wasn’t a project that needed to be done right now, but I’m glad I got the hatch replaced sooner rather than later.
I had never stepped my mast before. The process of taking it down and putting it back up was a steep learning curve. The stepping of the mast was a four hour ordeal learning the intricacies and limits of the marina crane. Raising the mast taught me the limit of the tide to which I can use. We raised the mast to the top, only to discover we needed another 4 feet to clear the top of the boat. Julie and I had to wait for six hours for the tide to go out.
I won’t lie, this last month has been incredibly stressful. Trying to deal with the compression post, dealing with a snooty marina, easing into my new job, and fine tuning my new vandwelling lifestyle, all at the same time, has left me stressed to the max. The Zen like armor I acquired over the summer of cruising has been left with some serious cracks.When I stepped the mast, I had several grandiose plans about upgrades I wanted to make to it. But with every day that I was kept off the water, the stress built. It started as an itch but became a small splinter in my mind, which got pushed in a little deeper every day. I noticed myself growing short and defensive; my outlook growing ever more pessimistic.
Yesterday I got off work early. I spent the afternoon tuning my rigging and reinstalling the boom and mainsail. This morning I finally got to sail today for the first time in a month. I sailed the short distance to Saddlebag Island under the mainsail only, with a single reef. I had a comfortable downwind sail in the stiff breeze.
I dropped anchor under a rainbow filled sunset. I’m shielded by the north shore of the island. I have a stern line and anchor set with 10:1 scope. I’m ready to enjoy some solitude. I’ve never looked forward this much to weathering a storm.
It’s odd to realize that it’s less stressful to me to weather high winds, on a remote island, all alone, than it is to spend a few days in a small town.