Stepping the Mast

Stepping the mast

Stepping the mast and taking the spreaders apart.

I’m less than an hour away from the dock and I feel like I’ve just dropped a hundred pounds of stress that have slowly accumulated onto my psyche over the last month. Strong winds yesterday and tomorrow, but this morning the wind was peeking at only 15 mph, so I used the window to escape the marina.

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.

New Aluminum Compression Post

The new compression post, made from a thick-walled aluminum pipe and aluminum plates.

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.

Top hatch replacement

I had to cut out a few inches of the top deck to make room for the new hatch. This gave me a chance to inspect the integrity of nearby core material. It also allowed me to ensure the core around the hatch was firmly sealed with fiberglass epoxy.

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.

More Photos:

IMG_0130 IMG_0132
Compression post floor plate

1/2″ aluminum plate mounted to the top of the floor. The plate distributes the weight over a wider surface area and ensures the new compression post won’t sink. The plate also spans the width of two stringers under the floor, further distributing the force across structural elements.

The water-damaged floor the original compression post was mounted to.

The water-damaged floor the original compression post was mounted to.

mast lashed to top of boat

The mast lashed to the rails and ready to depart the dock after successfully stepping the mast.

boat under crane

Solace docked under the crane, waiting for the tide to go out.

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2 Responses to “Stepping the Mast”
  1. Ken Schmidt says:

    Awesome! You are more than welcome to crash on our boat any time. We are not there as often as we used to be, changing lives and opportunities. Anytime you want to spend a day or a week, feel fee.

    • Chris says:

      Thanks, buddy. I keep you guys in mind. I keep an eye out for the ‘vida every time I pass her. Let me know the next time you guys take her out. Now I can join you!

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