a beautiful boat should sail forever.
YOUR BOAT IS LOOKING GREAT!!! ONE THING THAT SURPRISED ME WAS HOW MUCH I ENJOYED THE MAST WORK AFTER I GOT MY CONFIDENCE UP! REALLY GLAD TO HEAR FROM YOU GUYS.
I understand what you are saying for sure. That is why I took my masts all the way down to raw wood. Once they are at that point you have lived with them long enough to know who they are, and if they are worth rebuilding. My masts came from Le Bateau Sans Souci, a late 50's Newporter. It has two repair scarfed in staves of plane sawn Sitka Spruce, the original mast material, or Doug Fir, stronger but heavier. But they are scarfed in well. After working on this mast for a while, I feel confident.
Here is my take on mast rot - for what it is worth. Basically there are two strategies: 1) Fiberglass the outside in an attempt to keep water out. Unfortunately there are a lot of holes in a mast, and if water gets in it can't get out, leading to rot. However, the judicious use of fiberglass in select areas can be really helpful. I even worry about condensation on warm days and cold nights not getting out, but don't know for sure. 2) paint the mast and allow it to breath, so that if water does get in it can dry out. For either strategy I would coat all holes with epoxy. And, with reinforcement from Capt Clyde, who built some of the East Coast Newporter masts, I am going with the painting strategy, which is what the west coast boats originally did. From my inexperienced wood mast view, but quite experienced with wood, a wooden mast is a beautiful thing. You don't have to decide till you take a really good look at your mast! I got nothing against aluminum.
I would mention that my strategy involves an undercoat of Dr. Rots CPES, which according to my understanding and experience combines the best qualities of epoxy, nasty chemicals to discourage and deny rot what it needs, and breathability.
I would like to add some thinking to this discussion; first about wood vs aluminum and then a little about rot prevention. Let this be known: I’m a wood mast fanatic, pure and simple. But I agree with Bob in that I have little (note the difference) against aluminum masts. Boat have sailed with them for years (but wood masts have been in use for thousands of years). The “little against” is the occasional ding some yard may put in the aluminum that becomes the starting place for a mast to fold over under pressure. The yard may not know it dinged the thing. The dingger may not have told the yard. The pair of them may have decided that it’s not noticeable so it will be okay and off goes a boat with a bad spot. Remember, I’ve worked in those kind of places.
I read somewhere (boy, how good is that recommendation?) that one of the real reasons for the Newporter’s good ride is that the weight of the wood aloft eases the roll in a sea. The lightness of aluminum allows a snap in the roll when she gets as far one way as she wants to go. With the wood masts and their weight aloft it takes effort (comparatively speaking) to first slow the roll, then stop the roll, and then start the roll going in the opposite direction. That makes a lot of sense to me. I’ve sailed many Newporters and many of them in bad weather conditions. On one trip we had a night passage across a piece of the wild Atlantic in sea conditions that put the bowsprit into the next sea time after time after time. She was also rolling to each side putting the rail (the rail, seawater, not spray on the decks, on her beam’s ends) under each time. Ten hours of that and nary a snap, just a slow stopping and changing of direction. I’ve sailed aluminum masted boats with the snaps under much better conditions. That kind of roll is not comfortable, it’s just bronco riding in my book.
I have never seen firsthand any wood mast disassembled after years of use, but I think Bob is right in the use of fiberglass. When I started working on Newporters the masts were being glassed. Even after hearing all the hype about the protective, strengthening powers of glass that was then being broadcast I was still doubtful as to the masts being covered. Granted, there were things done to allow the water collecting in the masts to run out the bottom, even to the point that the wire ways built into the solid blocking were painted with a special (I wonder how special) paint with which we painted some, but I do not remember “all” of the interior, to prevent the water from penetrating. The thing is that all of the water probably never reached the bottom drain hole in that much of it was soaking into the wood way up the mast. A problem of painting the interior of a long skinny mast is that you can’t do it after it is built, it had to be done in the building process. The bad thing in doing that is the possibilities of painting the surfaces that needed to be bare wood for the glue to hold things together. At this point I like Bob’s use of that “whatever” that is in the epoxy family. That can be applied to surfaces that will be glued and the epoxy glue will still do its work (that’s right, isn’t it Bob?).
Build new in wood or rebuilt the wood, either way without fiberglassing, and you will have maybe over forty years of a good mast. A regular inspection, cleanup, repaint job will give you plenty of notice as to needed maintenance. Me? I’d do wood. It’s easy enough for me to do, so you can do it. I had sparse instructions when I started that job and I’ve never had a complaint; but that speaks mainly to the longevity of wooden masts. The choice is still yours, and Bob and I will back you in it!
5000 series aluminum is the marine grade. Be sure to ask the manufacturer. ASTM has all of the grades and uses for each. There are others that are stronger but not resistant to corrosion.
Greg & Angie Wheeler said:
I'm not worried about doing the work so much as I'm worried about issues with rot again later. Wood masts are new to me, I'm getting close to 60 years old and have had a dozen different sailboats in that time, and have even sailed across oceans before but always with aluminum masts. Wood is probably stronger than aluminum but in my mind there is always a doubt, I will be painting my masts so it's not going to be easy to keep rot issues in check. I'll probably end up rebuilding the wood but if I can find reasonably priced aluminum ones I will go that route. I think I will put an ad in Latitude 38, our west coast sailing magazine and try to find some on the west coast.