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post #1 of 16 Old 02-04-2015 Thread Starter
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Keel or deck stepped?

One of the previous threads got me thinking (looking?) about a "new" boat

Remember the one about "Is it cheating to look . . . "? Now don't get me wrong, I love my 26' Seafarer but I wonder about having a few more feet both in length and width. Anyway, I digress . . .

Going through the ads on Yachtworld and seeing (dreaming?) about the various vessels portrayed there when something seemed to pop out at me, namely many of the interior shots show a keel stepped mast. I've owned two totally different sailboats, both of which had deck stepped masts. Not having any experience with the keel stepped variety, I wonder, what are the Pos and Cons of either, in your opinions?

I've seen posts here where the owner had some issues with water leaking down the mast, mostly down the interior of it? So I wonder if this is a major problem and how it might be eliminated.

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post #2 of 16 Old 02-04-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

Keel or deck stepped, is a personal choice, neither is better than the other.
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post #3 of 16 Old 02-04-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

Most keel stepped masts provide a path for water ingress when it rains. The mast requires another hole in your cabin.

Before anyone accuses me of being biased against keel stepped masts, realize that I have one.


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post #4 of 16 Old 02-04-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

I believe anyone contemplating extended offshore sailing might want a keel stepped main mast, unless they have a boat designed with a tabernacle. Either way, if there are any wires from the mast, you are going to have a hole through the deck anyway.
It really doesn't take much to have a waterproof mast boot that keeps the water out, so that is not a very valid reason for a deck stepped mast.
We have one of each, so I don't know what to tell you about that. Some people really like the "stripper pole" in our bedroom, and others pointedly ignore it.

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post #5 of 16 Old 02-04-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

Most say a keel stepped mast is better for off shore work. Some deck stepped masts end up with a compression post that takes up space inside, anyway.

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post #6 of 16 Old 02-05-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

The first response on this thread is from Bob Perry:

Masts - deck or keel stepped?

I get the impression he may know something about boats.
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post #7 of 16 Old 02-05-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

Generally speaking, as boats get bigger than 26 feet, they tend towards keel stepped over deck stepped. Obviously there are boats that aren't. But you'll find more keel stepped than deck stepped masts after about 28 feet.

Off the top of my head... deck stepped masts over 26 feet..
Catalaina 27.
Beneteau 285
Lancer 28
Hunter 27
US Yacht 27...
Hobie 33.

I am limited to deck stepped masts because there is very little yard equipment on our lake to raise a keel stepped mast (which means I'd have to find a way to raise the mast myself)... We also don't have a travel lift, so requirements are to launch from trailer any boat I use. There ARE a few boats with keel stepped masts (J24 comes to mind).. but they are rare, and those people either use a home-built crane, or some bring a cherry picker to do it themselves. A pretty crazy option.

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post #8 of 16 Old 02-05-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

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Originally Posted by SHNOOL View Post
Off the top of my head... deck stepped masts over 26 feet..
Catalaina 27.
Beneteau 285
Lancer 28
Hunter 27
US Yacht 27...
Hobie 33.
Comanche, 100' racing maxi. As bob said before, as long as they're designed right, either setup is fine. The actual section on that boat is scary thin.

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post #9 of 16 Old 02-05-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

My 37-footer cutter is deck-stepped. No matter how you define it, our boat is considered "blue water". There is a big compression post -- a solid piece of teak (probably worth more than my whole boat ). As with most things, I think it comes down to build quality and good design. Each choice has its pluses and minuses.

One consideration which I've not seen mentioned is that keel-stepped masts are more challenging to remove and re-install. I come from the land where boats come out every year, and most masts are removed. I've helped with many dozens (maybe 100s) of mast stepping/unstepping. Keel stepped masts are definitely harder to manage.

On the other side, deck stepped masts tend to be more of a PITA when it comes to wiring issues. A keel stepped mast provides an obvious path through the deck. Not so with deck-stepped.

The arguments regarding offshore work either emphasis the idea that a keel-stepped mast may leave you with a useable stump in the case of a dismasting. The possible downside of this is that it may also leave you with a big hole in the deck. A deck-stepped mast will more likely be torn freely away, leaving the boat with no mast, but no hole. I'm sure which is "better" will be highly event-specific. Either sounds bad to me.

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post #10 of 16 Old 02-05-2015
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Re: Keel or deck stepped?

As pointed out by most, especially the pros, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that whichever you find in the boat you like, it was engineered well for the purpose you will use the boat for.

If you have a furling mainsail, there is virtually no way to keep water out of your bilge with a keel stepped mast There is a slot that runs the length of the mast, after all. I've heard of extreme methods to seal the interior of the mast, above the deck, to drain. With all the wires and cables inside, it just seems like it isn't worth the effort. Just be sure you can get the water efficiently to your bilge pump.


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