Masts spruce verses aluminium - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 08-01-2007
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Masts spruce verses aluminium

I have seen a few cruising boats with wood (spruce) masts, in the same model some have been replaced with aluminium. Is a wooden mast a deal breaker or is there a benefit, my guess would be they wood (pun intended) be expensive?
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Old 08-01-2007
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I would say that a wooden mast would be a deal breaker for most folks. Most fiberglass boats that have wooden spars were either built in the 1960's or come from an Asian builder; one of the main draw of either is the fact that they typically are cheap to buy for their length. In both cases the typical glues used in these wooden spars are nearing the end of their useful lifespan. Even well maintained wooden spars have a fixed lifespan and 30-40 years is close to that lifespan.

Depending on the size, make and model, a fully rigged and in the boat set of high quality, professionally built wooden spars can easily cost as much as one of these boats might be worth if it were in perfect shape, and a set of fully rigged and in the boat professionally built aluminum spars can easily cost between a 1/3 and 3/4 of the value of one of these boats in perfect shape. While this may be typical case, obviously there will be cases of high value boats where this is not true.

You might argue that you can cut corners and do the work yourself and perhaps use non-yacht materials to save cost, but those expedients will ultimately decrease the vale of the boat. Doing it yourself with yachting grade materials may save a little paid labor but even a retiree's time has some value.

Other than aesthetics, I can think of no advantage at all to having wooden spars, so the ultimate replacement is likely to be aluminum. There are some unique costs associated with the switch to aluminum spars from wood such as the bronze hardware used on wooden spars often need custom mounting hardware on the new mast to work on an aluminum spar.

So it comes down to how cheap is the boat in question, what do similar boats with aluminum spars sell for, and what would this particular boat be worth when you are done replacing the spars and doing whatever other repairs are needed. If you can realistically make the case that you can buy the boat cheaply enough to replace the rig and still come out ahead, or you love this specific boat so much that you don't mind spending more than it is worth, proceed. Otherwise there are a lot of boats in the sea. Keep looking....

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 08-01-2007
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I have a 79 CL ketch, so I have 2 Spruce mast. They look nice but maintenance is always an issue, especially in the Florida sun. Mine are in good shape but I'm not sure I would trust them on a off shore passage. Eventually I will replace with aluminum and upgrade my sail tracks at the same time. I love the boat and got a good deal so I bought it with the knowledge that I will be replacing the masts and I'm good with that. Hope this helps
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Old 08-01-2007
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Thanks Jeff & dsmylie

It is just a thought at the moment, the more I look at CT, Formosa and the rest of the family the more they apeal. I am looking at the long distant cruising and living aboard side of boating.
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Boats like the alledged Garden designed CT's, Formosas and, as you call them, 'the rest of the family' make good, cheap liveaboards but extremely high maintenance, worse than mediocre long distance offshore cruisers if sailing ability (which is not the same thing as speed) and ease of handling is important to you.

Jeff
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Jeff
I agree with you as to the speed or lack of it, but I have read a bit from owners about motion comfort and they seem more than happy. When cruising one does tend to spend more time on the hook, than actually sailing (except for the big leg from Mexico to them French Islands). In Australia they go between 110K and 170K Aus or 93K to 144K US. And with my plan I am in no hurry.
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Old 08-01-2007
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Sailing ability is very different than speed. My comments were far less concerned with speed of these boats than with how poorly they sail at either end of the wind range. (I had hoped my parenthetical had distinguished between sailing ability and speed). My problems with their sailing ability was that I found them to be brutal to sail in higher winds, to tack unreliably in a short sea, and generally poorly set up to deal with changeable conditions.

I also found them to have a miserable motion in terms of rolling and pitching through huge angles. As has been discussed before on this website, there are two characteristics that define motion comfort in any direction of movement on a vessel; the acceleration of the motion and the amount of the motion.

While the sheer weight of these boats means a slower motion, their comparatively high centers of gravity (especially in the wooden spar versions), poor dampening characteristics, and their large mass results in huge ranges of motion (both roll and pitch), which I personally find exhausting, dangerous, and uncomfortable.

For some people, these large ranges of motion are acceptable, but in my experience, compared to more moderate designs where both the range of motion and speed of motion are better controlled, these would not be very good offshore boats. I also consider it to be a dangerous anachronism to go offshore in a boat which counts on a bowsprit for primary mast staying and on which the primary jib has its tack.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 08-02-2007
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Thanks Jeff
This picking a boat is getting hard in the 60k range.
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