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Thread: "Question For Bud - My Mast Step"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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Question For Bud - My Mast Step

Adam and Candace Cultraro

Hi Bud,

I don't expect you to remember Cloud Nine's (43#44) mast step as you've probably seen a zillion boats after her.

My question is this: The steel I-beam was severely rusted where it meets the compression post. The spacers are rusted and flaking, and the top flange of the beam is crumbling.

As opposed to cutting the sole and removing the old I-beam and replacing it with a new one, couldn't I just ditch the old I-beam and make a new compression post to connect the old one directly to the keel? Is this structurally safe? I suppose I could fashion a fiberglass step in the bilge for the new compression post to rest on.

I will cut out, remove and replace the beam if necessary...cutting the cabin sole even more just seemed invasive.



Rob and Janet Sutton

This is just what we are doing to our 42. The "pad" for the compression post run's the length between the joists. Specifically designed to take veritcal compression loads and spread it fore and aft. Though my guess is the keel is so thick right there that a thin sqaure pad might be enough. Just make sure the pad can withstand the compression and not crush.

See http://westsail42.blogspot.com/2006/10/main-mast-step-installation.html#links

Adam and Candace Cultraro

I saw your site...it is actually what prompted my question. The four floors built up with the beam on top actually seems like a great way of spreading the load onto the hull. I didn't know if the way i was proposing and you did would have equal strenght.

Nice work, btw.


Rob and Janet Sutton

I am not so sure the steel I-beam was so much for spreading the load, but for simplifying production. When you make a sloop, yawl, and ketch rig as Westsail did with the 42's, the main mast needs to be spotted in different places. The I-beam certainly made that easy during production. But at the expense of space underneath (we now have LOTS of space under those floors, even for tanks, though we are not sure what we will do with it).

On the other hand, if you have room, consider spreading the load.

Bud, of course would know better. I am curious as to his response.

Adam and Candace Cultraro

I get it....you stepped the mast on your own custom base and then deleted the floors....that is very, very interesting. It would leave one with a ton of room.

I'd consider a retrofit like yours as a future project for sure.

I like this idea. I wonder when Bud is going to chime in on this one.

Bud Taplin

You are right, the long I beam was for ease of production purposes, however it did help spread the load. If you have to do any replacement, then I would suggest a large box tubing pipe or U channel, with plates welded on each end going from under the mast base directly down to the ballast. Make it 1/2" shorter for ease of installation, and slip in a metal spacer plate when the post is in place. Preferably, the post should butt up to one of the bulkheads, and be bolted to it. Set the bottom plate on top of the ballast in a bed of mat and epoxy resin. Slip the spacer plate in place, and attach to the top welded plate. This fix does not require the mast to be removed.
If you do remove the mast, then make the post come directly up to the original mast base location, and bolt it all together.

Bud Taplin

I must be getting really old and absent minded. Slight change to the above, as I forgot that there is a stainless post going down from the deck to the top of the I beam. Change the wording to go from the bottom plate of the post, instead of from the mast base.

Adam and Candace Cultraro

Thanks Bud.

Care to comment on the value of the floors after this modification? Leave them alone or can they be removed?

Also, how is it that the mast does not need to be pulled for this fix?

Bud Taplin

If you have to do the job without pulling the mast, install a temporary support post in the cabin to be able to do the job without pulling the mast. However, it would be better to pull the mast to do a complete job.
I would leave the subfloor bulheads in place even if you remove the I beam.

Rob and Janet Sutton


Just to give a sense of how much space there is down there. The original construction called for the I-beam to be supported by four joists tabbed to the hull. Those joists are doubled 3/4 inch plywood (1 1/2 total). Ours were rotting and it was QUITE a chore getting the tabbing out (the rotted wood came out easy <g>). The space under that I-Beam is pretty much unusable (you might be able to fit a bilge pump way down there, but that is it).

Anyway, it was replaced by three joists evenly spaced between the tanks and the fwd head. This opened up two large areas between the tanks and the post. Again large enough for tanks (our current thought is to put grey water sump and watermaker equipment down there.)

You did not mention your rig, I presume it is a cutter. In which case, the post steps just at the forward top of the ballast (I am looking at the westsail drawings). In our case, a ketch, it misses it by 5 or 6 inches. The new "pad" runs 18 inches along the spine just as the keel tapers forward towards the bow, there is no ballast underneath. There are (will be) several layers of glass over the pad feathered laterally up the sides of the hull.


Adam and Candace Cultraro

Hi Rob,

Yes, my boat is a cutter. Now that I think about it, I think it would be next to impossible to pull those floors out as they are in excellent shape. No matter, I still like the concept of removing the beam.

I think the way to go is to actually make a new compression post that leads from the underside of the deck all the way to the ballast. No bolts to corrode and no possibility of movement.

Thanks for all the help,


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