Replacing Corroded Mast Step - SailNet Community

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Old 08-21-2008
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Replacing Corroded Mast Step

I am finally taking care of a long neglected item on my Pearson 303. The mast step and bottom edge of the mast are corroded. The yard wants to cut a couple of inches of the mast and install new step on top of a fiberglassed wood block to make up the difference. Seems reasonable to me, but I recall from years ago when I was active on this list, there was a company that one could send the cut off portion of the mast to, and they would manufacture a new step, I believe out of delrin, that would make up the difference.

Anybody familiar with a company that could do it? Any other suggestions?

thanks for any input,
Peter Lindeman
P 303, Blue Chip
Charleston
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Old 08-21-2008
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I would go with what your yard is telling you to do. It is pretty common to cut off the bottom few inches off of the mast, and then raise the mast step to compensate for the lost mast length. It also helps prevent future problems, since the mast foot won't be sitting as low in the bilge after doing this. Make sure they drill drain holes in the mast or mast foot, so that any water that comes down the mast can drain into the bilge.
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Old 08-21-2008
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While you're about it: If you don't have one already, consider adding a halyard organizer plate. Our boat has one. Very handy!

Jim
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Old 08-21-2008
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Glad to see another P303 member on Sailnet! Welcome.

I suggest you join the pearson google e-mail group/list and also ask your question there. Run a search of the Sailnet boards and you should find a recent post explaining how to join. We have had a number of discussions in the past (as part of the old Sailnet lists) regarding mast steps. I think there may even be someone who replaced the one on their P303. You may get a discount if you order from a shop that has already done the fabrication. That said, the approach suggested by the yard is basically correct - cut off the bad part of the mast and build a new base or larger step to make up the difference.
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Old 08-21-2008
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I just wouldn't go with wood wood for the riser block. I did this last year and used solid fiberglass. The compression forces can be pretty heavy. The solid glass block will withstand them, the wood may not. If not, the glass casing would crack, and since the riser block is in the bilge, water will intrude and rot ensue.

I second the mast plate idea. Fabricate your own block and use the money saved to buy the mast plate.
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Old 08-21-2008
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pearson301, Here in Florida, we frequently have situations where the bottom of the mast and step or shoe have corroded badly on many types of keel stepped boats.
Our usual method of correcting the problem is to have a new step fabricated of aluminum. Whatever amount we have had to cut from the bottom of the spar is figured into the new step.
Unless the situation calls for it, I don't try to build up the area. I have found that it's easier and just as cost effective to have the machine shop build a higher step.
Sailingdog is correct about making sure that you have limber-holes for drainage. However, you can often save money by doing some of the simple machining yourself.
For instance, if your step is really bad, then you probably won't be able to remove the bolt and will have to drill new holes anyway.
You may as well drill a drain hole too. ]
Do try to keep the area dry or the new step will begin to corrode right away.
Bed the new step well to keep moisture out.
A halyard organizer plate would be a great idea but I'm not sure how useful it will be in the bilge.
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Old 08-22-2008
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From what I've seen, which isn't as extensive as a professional rigger, there are two kinds of halyard organizer plates, those that sit under the step, which only makes sense on a deck stepped rig, and those that go around the mast at deck level, used for keel stepped rigs. In either case, you need to unstep the mast to install them. I don't want to hijack this thread into a religious discussion, but ome believe that our masts should be unstepped annually others not so much. If you fall into the latter category, it might make sense to do other things that require the mast to be unstepped while it is in that position. That's the reason for suggesting the mast plate.

Note to entrepreneurs: There might be a market for a halyard organizer deck plate that comes in two parts, designed to bolt together around a stepped mast.

Regarding the riser vs aluminum step decision, I think there are multiple "good" approaches here. Pearson used a steel step, bolted to the top of the keel in the bilge to hold an aluminum mast. This put unlike metals in a likely electrolyte solution, which is a formula for corrosion. That was definitely the case with my step. It only lasted 29 years. While at that point the walls of the mast were getting rather thin at the bottom couple of inches, the step itself was fine. By making a fiberglass riser that I then glassed in and using the original, cleaned up step, I minimized cost without compromising strength and reduced the likelihood of the unlike metals sitting in an electrolyte. But even if I only get another 29 years out of it, I think it a pretty good solution. (I'll be 86, the boat 59. We'll both likely be out of service by then.) Total cost: < $100. Clearly, having a step fabricated will work, too. And it will reduce the unlike metal situation. (I say reduce, not remove, because I assume you won't be using aluminum screws to hold the step down.)

Anyway, IRMV. Think it through. That's what these forums are good for. You get lots of opinions, and you know what they are worth - what you pay for them! Good luck.
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Old 08-22-2008
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Peter-
I would avoid aluminum only out of worry that the alloy might not be the same, leading to possible galvanic issues down the line. And I'd avoid glass over wood, because I would expect Delrin (or a similar UHDPE or solid fioberglass stock, both of which McMaster sell) to be a simpler, stronger solution. With a little careful measurement, a Delrin block, or block laid up from fiberglass stock (offhand, you can buy it up to 1" thick as boards), could have a new mast step routed into it with a woodworking router, and a couple of limber holes drilled down from that.

One piece, can't corrode, impervious to water, and I'd think a lot less labor than making up a custom glass-over-wood assembly, too.
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Old 08-25-2008
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These pictures are the before and after of the mast step in a Pearson 323 that is in progress now. We cut about two inches off the bottom of the spar.
StarGazerI likes this.

Last edited by knothead; 10-29-2008 at 11:56 AM.
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Old 08-25-2008
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Beautiful work for an ugly situation there knotty!
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