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Old 05-20-2007
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deck or keel stepped

I'm narrowing down my choices of cruising sailboat. Some choices have a keel stepped mast. I plan on cruising the Great Lakes every few years and that means dropping the mast for the ride up and back down the Erie canal. How much additional trouble am I going to face with a keel stepped mast if I'm frequently pulling it out of the hole?
Deck stepped seems much simpler since there's no hole to keep the water out of.
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Old 05-20-2007
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If you are going to a boat big enough to need a mast hoist, that would be bigger than about 25 feet, then I don't think it makes much difference. There is a little more work to a keel steeped but there are probably a couple of advantages too. I would not make this s big item on my selection.
I am on the Great Lakes and have had both.

Gary
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Old 05-20-2007
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If the boats you are looking at are over 30 feet, then there is not much difference between deck and keel stepped masts as far as putting them up and taking them down - you are likely to need a crane in either instance.

If you are looking at smaller boats, then the deck step is certainly going to be something that you can raise and lower yourself if you rig up some type of tabernacle or jig system.

As far as water ingress goes - there can be some with a keel stepped mast. If you use a proper boot, and Spartite, it will be negligible. Deck stepped masts on large boats can have their own problems.

My personal opinion is that a deck step on a large boat requires a few more hands to handle safely when stepping and unstepping - others may disagree, but I've found the mast collar on a deck step helps to proide a little extra control when fitting the mast onto the actual step casting.
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Old 05-20-2007
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We currently have a MacGregor 26 with a mast that lowers quite easily. If you are just weekending on lakes, canals, or coastal I think you might find her ideal. She's also very traileralble (sp). She has a centerboard and a water ballast. We trailered her down to the Sea of Cortez and she did quite well. We had to raise and lower the mast 4 or five times during the trip and it could easily been done by one person using the wenches on board. She's not very large, so as I said she fine for weekending out, but long term she can be cramped. We spent 3 weeks gunkholing in her and the solar shower came in quite handy. She also can be beached. I find her rudder a little underbuilt, but a great boat for shallow water and areas with low clearance.
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Old 05-20-2007
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This is one of those topics, in sailing and sailboat design, that can be debated to almost no successful end. Good boats and bad have been made with both deck and keel-stepped masts. Both have pros and cons to them. A lot of it is personal opinion or beliefs.

IMHO, get which ever boat you like the most... regardless of where and how the mast is stepped. When you get right down to it..... unless the boat is a trailerable, the fact that the mast is deck stepped or keel stepped is mostly moot and has very little bearing on the day-to-day use of the boat.
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Amen, Sailingdog, Amen.
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Old 05-21-2007
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The boat will be 40+'.
I'm really only concerned with leaking of the hole. If getting the hole sealed up is a problem then every time I unstep, I have to deal with the problem all over again. So heading up into the GL, I'd have to get it sealed and then in the fall heading back out I have to seal it yet again.
I'm leaning toward a deck stepped mast but don't want to eliminate a good boat for a trivial problem. But I don't consider leaks a trivial problem.
So the only issue here is 'how easy is it to seal up a keel stepped mast?'
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Old 05-21-2007
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So the only issue here is 'how easy is it to seal up a keel stepped mast?'
To effectively seal it I think that the best option is a product called 'Spartite'. If the boat you buy does not already have it, it's not too hard to put it on. You basically seal the bottom of the hole through the deck where the mast goes, pour in the Spartite and let it set - similar to epoxy. When you take the mast out of the boat, the Spartite stays on the mast - effectively it is a custom-moulded collar. You still need to cover it with a mast boot.

A little bit of water will come in to your boat through the mast, and run into the bilge. Usually it travels down the inside of the mast, and you will not see it. The actual amount depends on how tight the masthead fittings are, and how many other apertures there are in your mast, and how much it rains. It is rarely significant.

I believe that on smaller boats, the deck-step is preferable, but on large boats I prefer a keel stepped mast, as I think that they are safer. If your rigging lets go for some reason on a deck step - the mast may well go over the side. With a keel step, this is much less likely to happen. I also like the fact that wring for lights and instruments runs into the boat through the mast, rather than through a separate hole in the cabin top. This is just an opinion though.

Unless you are going to be doing long-range cruising, where rig failure is a serious possibility, I don't think that the issue should be a big factor when choosing a boat.
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Old 05-21-2007
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Depending on the size of the boat, given your situation, if the boat is over 30 or so feet, I would strongly suggest that you stay away from a keel stepped mast. Stepping and unstepping a keel stepped mast can be very hard on a boat. While the mast is crane supported, small misalignments between the mast and the step, which are no big deal on deck stepped masts, can easily damage the mast partners and the interior finishes. Pulling and installing a keel steeped mast is more expensive as well. Yards around here charge as much as double for pulling a keel stepped mast. Electrical connections and mst step to mast, and deck to mast connections can be a lot more finicky as well.

Also spartite is not a great waterproofing if you are hauling the mast with any frequency and spartite does not prevent the bigger source of water leakes, water coming in through the sheave boxes.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 05-22-2007
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Thanks Jeff, certainly some advice to seriously consider
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