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Thread: cracked mast step

  1. #1
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    Default cracked mast step

    Good morning,

    I have been lurking for quite some time and have acquired quite a bit of knowledge from this forum. Thank you

    Now I need some advice.

    The boat is 16' Matinicus Peapod. Cedar planking. Built in the late 70's. The boat, as far as I know, has only sailed on fresh water, but the last couple of years has spent quite a bit of time in a garage. Henceforth, it will live on a mooring in Muscongus Bay.

    I bought the boat two weeks ago. It leaks like a sieve, but that is a winter project. Of more pressing concern is the broken mast step, which cracked yesterday. I can make a new step or even epoxy the old one back together, but I am stumped about how to reinstall. I assume the step was installed before the planking was attached. One of the two screws attaching the step to the stem was quite loose. Could I use four screws into the keel? Any other ideas?

    Thanks
    Keith H
    Port Clyde, MEIMG_5169.jpgIMG_5170.jpgIMG_5168.jpg

  2. #2
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Welcome aboard!
    I would build new, trying to make it stronger than original. Install fasteners where you can, glue the rest to clean wood.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Hi and welcome to the forum.
    I wouild make a new step, there is no telling how degraded that wood is, safer to make a new one. Make sure that there are limber holes to allow water to drain out, I would put them to the aft end, and out of both sides.

    I would put a horizontal through bolt at the back of the mortise and another towards the back of the step. I would even consider trimming the front of the masts heel, so that you could put a horizontal bolt at the front of the step. Then I would secure it with three vertical screws, each side.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  4. #4
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Thank you very much for quick replies. I will pull her out of the water today and get started making the new step. Once the boat has dried out a bit I will fill the old screw holes in the stem with thickened epoxy. Is that the right call for the old screw holes?

    I was hoping to bring her to Moosehead Lake next week. I might be able to make it after all!

    Future projects include making a kick up rudder, fitting a brailing line (boomless sprit sail) figuring out the leaks, tiller extension, some sort of tiler tamer, and perhaps designing some removable floorboards (current one is screwed down) and......

    IMG_5104.jpg

    Keith H

  5. #5
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Quote Originally Posted by khammitte View Post
    Thank you very much for quick replies. I will pull her out of the water today and get started making the new step. Once the boat has dried out a bit I will fill the old screw holes in the stem with thickened epoxy. Is that the right call for the old screw holes?


    IMG_5104.jpg

    Keith H
    Pretty boat.
    I would whittle some hard wood plugs and glue them in with thickened epoxy. That way, you will know that the epoxy has bottomed out in the holes.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  6. #6
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Great looking craft, good luck with the mast step. I wonder if you might want to make the new step out of 2-3 layers of wood epoxied together, with the grain running perpendicular from one layer to the next, so the new step will be less prone to splitting along the grain.

    Before you try to "fix" the leaks, how long has she been in the water? She may swell up enough to stop leaking.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Quote Originally Posted by nrs5000 View Post
    Great looking craft, good luck with the mast step. I wonder if you might want to make the new step out of 2-3 layers of wood epoxied together, with the grain running perpendicular from one layer to the next, so the new step will be less prone to splitting along the grain.

    Before you try to "fix" the leaks, how long has she been in the water? She may swell up enough to stop leaking.
    Just so to both suggestions.
    But I would still try top fit a transverse bolt across the front of the mortise, to resist the leverage of those two "legs" acting on the back of the mortise.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  8. #8
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Thanks again.

    I found some oak in the basement, and have roughed out a new step. Will laminate them together with gflex or thickened epoxy (forum opinions on this seem quite strong).

    A couple of questions, if you have time.

    The mast appears to taper a tad, maybe 1/16 to 3/32 from the top of the mortise to the bottom. The mortises in the old step do not appeared tapered. Is this ok? I am also a little indecisive about how tight to make the mortise, assuming it will swell. Comments?

    Finally, Nick, just so I am clear, you are suggesting a third bolt at the front of the mortise and cutting some of the mast so that it fits over this bolt?
    IMG_5175.jpg

    Thanks
    Keith

  9. #9
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Quote Originally Posted by khammitte View Post

    Finally, Nick, just so I am clear, you are suggesting a third bolt at the front of the mortise and cutting some of the mast so that it fits over this bolt?
    IMG_5175.jpg

    Thanks
    Keith
    Yes, that will be easier than cutting a housing in the back of the stem knee. But either way, I do recommend a bolt across the forward end of the step.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  10. #10
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    As Nick says, a bolt through the forward end is needed, but that is difficult with the garboards so close. That is the weak point in the step. You could drill a big bungable hole in one garboard to allow for drilling and installing such a bolt. The screws through the forward end need to be outside the line of the step mortise also or another through boat is needed aft. There is considerable side load on the step with an unstayed, or lightly stayed, mast.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Before you try to "fix" the leaks, how long has she been in the water? She may swell up enough to stop leaking.
    She has been in the water, fresh, for about five days. It has slowed down, but considerable leaking still. Will move tosaltwater later. Will this make a difference?

    You could drill a big bungable hole in one garboard to allow for drilling and installing such a bolt.
    I was thinking about this. Not something I am looking forward to. I am taking her out of the water this afternoon and will see how much room I have to drill a whole without the mast step in there

  12. #12
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Quote Originally Posted by Thad View Post
    As Nick says, a bolt through the forward end is needed, but that is difficult with the garboards so close. That is the weak point in the step. You could drill a big bungable hole in one garboard to allow for drilling and installing such a bolt. The screws through the forward end need to be outside the line of the step mortise also or another through boat is needed aft. There is considerable side load on the step with an unstayed, or lightly stayed, mast.
    By putting the bolt through at the front of the mortise, the step can be through bolted off the boat, then slid or dropped into place without having to drill holes in the plank. Not as good as bolting through the stem knee, but it will still prevent the mast wracking the step apart. Then screwing the step down to the hog will make all secure.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  13. #13
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    The taper in the heel prevents it from getting stuck in the un-tapered step.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    other than being renewed and made of oak, is this not the same crap engineering as the original?


    Multiple layers of hardwood(not oak) epoxied together at different angles would be more split proof.
    Carve/chisle out the opening for the mast later, as the grain will be all wonky, on purpose.

  15. #15
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Multiple layers of hardwood glued together at different angles is often described as plywood and as such would probably work well here.Particularly if it was glued in place.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    other than being renewed and made of oak, is this not the same crap engineering as the original?

    Only if Keith leaves out the through bolts.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  17. #17
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Here's a quick and dirty fix to the cracked tenon at the base of the spar. Strip the end of that spar, and drag a japanese saw kerf through that lamination that let loose. After that, dunk the mast tenon into a cup of unthickened (or maybe ever so lightly thickened) epoxy. Let it soak in - then once it's cured, reshape it as necessary. She'll be pickled good enough for another 10 seasons.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

  18. #18
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Here's a quick and dirty fix to the cracked tenon
    Geez. I didn't even notice that. Add that to the list for this weekend. Thanks

    Went to Hamilton Marine and bought some bolts. They were not giving those away. Still tempted to epoxy the whole thing in, in addition to the bolts and screws

    The original step lasted 40+years.

    Multiple layers of hardwood(not oak) epoxied together at different angles would be more split proof.
    I misconstrued your original comment. I thought I WAS epoxying together multiple layers. I thought you meant as opposed of making it out of a solid block. Understand now.

    Keith

  19. #19
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    no you are just glueing it togeter of side by side lumps.
    i mean layers on top of each other,making it un splitable

  20. #20
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Quote Originally Posted by wizbang 13 View Post
    no you are just glueing it togeter of side by side lumps.
    i mean layers on top of each other,making it un splitable
    Bruce, you may be late to the party. It looks as thou that derision is made and the wood cut and prepared.
    It really is quite difficult to build an ugly wooden boat.

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  21. #21
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    future is a big place, give that air dried oak ten years,
    i bet its not fixed yet anyway
    40 years don't mean a thing if the boat was used only 6 times

  22. #22
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    Default Re: cracked mast step


    I'm with Bruce on building the step up from smaller pieces of hardwood. What condition is the stem in if the screws pictured above came out like that?
    Steve

    If you would have a good boat, be a good guy when you build her - honest, careful, patient, strong.
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Bruce's idea is good. I wouldn't have thought of that. Build up slices of the step from the bottom to the top. Say, four pieces total that equal the current height of the mast step. Laminate it all together. Through bolt the best you can. Index the forward end at the aft end of the knee. Go sailing. Profit.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Multiple layers of hardwood(not oak) epoxied
    Why not oak? And any suggestion for what I should use instead?

    Keith

  25. #25
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Quote Originally Posted by khammitte View Post
    Why not oak? And any suggestion for what I should use instead?

    Keith
    Let me google advanced search that for you, as the search feature here on the forum sucks.
    Quote Originally Posted by James McMullen View Post
    Yeadon is right, of course.

  26. #26
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    Hello khammitte,

    When viewing the images in the OP, the first thing noticed was the quality of the fixings, which were not up to the standard required.
    Initially thinking that a fixture failure was the cause of the problem, looking further indicated that the grain orientation along the top of the step was not ideal.
    Combining that with a tapered mast step in a square sided hole where only the top edge of the step is bearing,(base excluded), then the load is concentrated at that point.
    Combine that again with play in the fit which allows the mast to rotate slightly from side to side through tacking ,gybing etc ,then this would add to the point loading.
    The original step looks to have been laminated in two pieces indicated by a join line shadow in the paintwork halfway up the starboard side edge and around the aft end, unfortunately it looks like two pieces of the same timber sat on top of one another with the grain running in the same direction. The paint ingress into the end grain of the top laminate at the aft end also seems to indicates this.
    As mentioned by others previously in this thread ,laminating a new step in the horizontal plane would be ideal.
    Even rebating your new step across the top of the existing vertical laminates aft of the slot and gluing a piece perpendicular to these would improve stability and strength.

    If this was my boat I would permanently epoxy the step in. This eliminates the areas where moisture can sit, that is, either side of the apron knee, the adjoining surfaces of the step and keelson and fixing openings.
    Before permanently fixing, limber holes, similar to those in the existing, should be drilled and sealed, next would be the tapering of the sides of the slot to match the taper of the mast step (That is after the mast heel has been well sealed with epoxy and finished).
    Using 406 colloidal silica filler and epoxy would be ideal for the tapering, it is strong and sits well in the vertical while curing. If not, then either shaping the existing laminates or gluing in small wedges would suffice.
    Gluing the step in would stabilize the step area, help spread the load and reduce the reliance of the fixings only.
    A coat or two of epoxy around the slot opening would help seal things up but allowance would have to be made for the mast heel fitting clearances.
    If in the unlikely but possible event of the mast step becoming damaged and has to be removed, well, a sharp chisel and mallet can remove wood pretty quickly and accurately.

    The screw holes in the apron should be cleaned out and the epoxy would take care of the rest.
    As for the ideal timber species to use, I will leave that up to the gentlemen who are more familiar with those in your neck of the woods.

    Hope some part of this ramble can help you with your situation.
    Nice boat you have there.

    Cheers,
    Mike.
    Last edited by Mike1902; 09-01-2022 at 11:39 PM.
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  27. #27
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    Default Re: cracked mast step

    modest proposal; layout exactly where the aft face of the forefoot knee will be, put a through 1/4 bolt or copper rivet through and through the step assembly, before you install it. Then file or cut a corresponding groove in the aft face of that knee to receive the bolt, that knee wont miss that 1/4" groove, the step will last lots longer, and you will be back to sailing quickly! Cheers, Steve

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