Posted by: powellpjc | May 20, 2009

Preparing for Sea

The jobs are getting done. There are successes and there are setbacks and today I had a couple of both.

We got the mast replaced on the boat. This requires a ballet of balancing, judgment and luck. We had some of all three and but not enough of all. Luckily, this setback cannot be blamed on me—I was not in the yard at the time. My son, Charlie flew into town last night to repo my car and he drove me to a rental car joint in the morning. When I got back the mast was standing and it was a pretty sight.

The mast in its glory

The mast in its glory

On closer examination there were some issues. During the raising of the 50-foot aluminum mast tension, and I mean tension on a grand scale was applied to my two new chainplates on deck where the rigging wires attach. Through an inadvertent lever action the mast actually tried to lift the boat. The raising was halted before metal failed and someone’s head was lost but one of the newly-welded chainplates was partially separated from the deck.



Two good points: the new rigging wires and their fittings held and the deck did not buckle. No lives lost and some new welding coming up.

A success for me was the drilling of a limber hole in my compression post. Some background. Masts are secured on a sailboat in two main ways. #1. The mast goes down through the cabin roof to the keel. Keel-stepped mast. #2. The mast sits on the cabin roof on a special fitting and the cabin roof is supported by a compression post which carries through to the keel. Cabin-stepped. I favour the cabin-stepped mast and my boat happens to have one. I would have purchased a boat with a keel-stepped mast, too. The way I see it, there are two advantages to the cabin-stepped. If you roll over in snotty weather, you will loose your mast—no argument on that point. However, it will break free without tearing a catastrophic hole in your cabin roof—a hole that very well might sink you. The second point is that keel-stepped masts flex at the cabin roof and flexing means leaking.

My compression post.

My compression post.

Back to the compression post. When we pulled the mast off two months ago we found the post full of water. It had no limber hole. This is the mariner’s term for drain hole. Today I drilled one. It was in an awkward spot causing me to lie on my side and use only arm strength on good USA steel. I broke 2 drill bits before I got to the 2mm depth. I cursed plenty, you can be sure. I took breaks. I tried different positions. Nothing really worked. It was a matter of outwaiting the goddamned post and I won. The post got the last laugh. When I finally broke through—I whooped—I pulled my drill bit clear and I was hosed down with a pint of oil and then 3 gallons of water under good pressure. I looked like a  west Texas roughneck on a gusher.

After the Exxon Valdez compression post disaster.

After the Exxon Valdez compression post disaster.


The work continues.



  1. Hah hah I don’t really understand any of it. But…..DR told me you had a tale to tell about the mast so I checked it out. Good report dear, keep ’em coming.

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