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Discussion Starter #1
My boat has a deck stepped mast with a raised pipe nipple that the cables run through. There is a drain that keeps most water from finding it's way down this nipple and into the cabin.

However during heavy rains a little bit of water still finds it's way in. Rainy season is starting in Seattle. The VHF antenna cable is thick and stout enough that I can't put a drip loop into it.

I've been trying to think of good but not permanent ways to seal this hole. I don't want to drop the mast to do so. I would like to make sure that the pipe nipple is sealed at the top (not the bottom) so that water doesn't puddle in it.

Is expanding foam water tight enough to work well as this seal? Is there another product that works well?

This is a photo of the mast step, the silver tube near the front is what I am trying to fill (from inside the boat):
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Also, any advice for filling the tube without using too much foam and having it clog the drain holes?
 

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Discussion Starter #4
A wax toilet-bowl ring would probably keep the water out. Clean up with mineral spirits.
That's a good idea and easy for me to try, I have some of that wax in my parts box from installing a depth transducer on a previous boat.
 

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I would drill out the drain hole I see to a bigger size and even add a second one on the other side to ensure it drains
 

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Discussion Starter #6
There are already two drain holes. One on the very front of the step, and one on the side. It has no trouble draining, I check it every time I'm down there after a rain (which is about once a week).
 

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How many/what size cables pass through that feeder tube?

The water ingress you're getting is probably drippage from holes in the mast aloft, some of which 'drops' into the tube.. you don't/shouldn't need a full watertight deal here, more of a deflector should do (assuming the tube/deck passthrough is watertight itself)

Perhaps you could split an appropriate sized grommet put it around the wires and push it up to the top of the tube as a deflector/umbrella idea??

Some possiblities:

rubber grommets - Google Search
 

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Discussion Starter #8
4 cables.

The largest is a VHF cable, and it is the "big" size (around 12-13mm). There are also 2 16ga power cables (steaming and anchor lights) and a small rectangular (telephone-style) wind instrument cable.

I've thought about putting some sort of "hat" on them that deflected the drips, but don't have a great design in mind. I think it need to be larger than a standard grommet. Ideally it would also fit around the existing connectors.

This must be a common issue on other deck stepped boats. The advice that I read in books is to put a drip loop onto the cable, but that is nearly impossible with a big heavy duty VHF cable.
 

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Some cold weather surfboard wax might be the trick.
 

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That spray in expandable foam absorbs water almost as fast as a bath sponge. I think any 'fix' to this is going to be a lot more trouble than its worth, and would just add a small solar panel and an automatic bilge pump to keep the boat dry.
 

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Can you put a PVC pipe goose neck on the existing pipe - one of those U fittings found under the kitchen sink? If so some silicone on the joint would do the trick, since it is not permanent. Just a thought.
 

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Alex,

I'm HOPING I can help you out a bit here as a partial repayment for the help you've given me w/ my portlights.

I had exactly the same issue w/ the deck-stepped mast on my Pearson 26. Water got through that fitting so much that it eventually rotted the crossbeam that supported the mast. THAT was fun to fix.

I solved the issue by doing what you say can't be done w/ your VHF cable. I wish I had taken a picture of it; it works great. I have to go up to the boat again this weekend; if I remember, I'll take a camera along and snap a pic.

Are you willing and/or able to replace the VHF cable with something more flexible? My radio works quite well with the cable I have. I don't recall the diameter, but my best guess would be about 1/4"... RG59U, probably. About 1/2 the diameter of what you're describing on your boat, w/ only 3.5db loss per 100'.

You may not even have to do that. I took a length of bicycle tire innertube, maybe 18", threaded the VHF cable, deck and mast light wiring, and wind instrument cable through it, then firmly ziptied one end of the innertube over the riser or nipple you show on your maststep (looks almost exactly like mine). Then, shape the innertube and enclosed wires back down towards the deck forming an upside down "U," (the drip loop you described), and loosely zip tie the other end to the base of the nipple to keep it bent downwards. There's no way water can flow up the innertube, and you're guaranteed no water ingress, at least via the wiring. It works great. You don't have to do any really tight bends; I'd be surprised if you couldn't coerce your current VHF cable into the correct shape. You'd only need to get it to bend in a radius slightly smaller than the largest cross section of your mast.

If that doesn't make sense, but you're interested in seeing what it looks like, let me know and I'll post a pic next week.

Hope that helps a bit.

Barry
 

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Discussion Starter #13
That spray in expandable foam absorbs water almost as fast as a bath sponge. I think any 'fix' to this is going to be a lot more trouble than its worth, and would just add a small solar panel and an automatic bilge pump to keep the boat dry.
There is an automatic bilge pump. The boat both has solar and shore power. Power is not a concern.

This is a deck stepped mast. When the water gets into the boat it runs along a trim piece on the cabin ceiling, then falls onto the cabin table. It probably will never find it's way into the bilge. This is what it looks like when leaking (here I have the trim partially removed):


(warning, crappy cell phone image and large since it comes from Facebook)
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I solved the issue by doing what you say can't be done w/ your VHF cable. I wish I had taken a picture of it; it works great. I have to go up to the boat again this weekend; if I remember, I'll take a camera along and snap a pic.

Are you willing and/or able to replace the VHF cable with something more flexible? My radio works quite well with the cable I have. I don't recall the diameter, but my best guess would be about 1/4"... RG59U, probably. About 1/2 the diameter of what you're describing on your boat, w/ only 3.5db loss per 100'.
I don't think that I can easily replace the cable without removing the mast, and the mast is not planned to come off of my boat this year. The photo above is from last year. The VHF cable on my boat is RG-213U. It is really stiff stuff and hard to manage. I have some RG-58U or similar size cable to replace it with, but that project will have to wait.

You may not even have to do that. I took a length of bicycle tire innertube, maybe 18", threaded the VHF cable, deck and mast light wiring, and wind instrument cable through it, then firmly ziptied one end of the innertube over the riser or nipple you show on your maststep (looks almost exactly like mine). Then, shape the innertube and enclosed wires back down towards the deck forming an upside down "U," (the drip loop you described), and loosely zip tie the other end to the base of the nipple to keep it bent downwards.
Bicycle tubing is a good idea for making the hat and I have plenty of it around. I'll have to consider ways to install the hat.

I have to do all of the work from inside my cabin, I can't get to the top of the pipe nipple.
 

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Honestly the bike tube idea with some sealant around the wires (butyl tape or wax would work) would stop 99% of it. The drip loop would help and all that but sounds like overkill for the problem you have. Plus the problem of trying to fit the inner tube around without pulling all the wires.

But your original idea of expanding foam would work as well. It will absorb water if left in standing water, but for your application if you form a "dome" over it, that will work fine.
 

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I would try it. Buy the low expanding type. Don't spray too much in. It expands a lot. I guess you are spraying from the bottom. I might find a similar sized pipe and practice to see how much it takes to fill the pipe without over filling. Generally the foam cans are one time use so do your practice runs at the boat yard.
 

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An alternate solution would be to make a Plug using a small Spartite kit, cast around a loom of the wires.

The plug can be inserted in the tube when you are getting ready to step the spar and, with a little grease or SailKote on the wires, they can be pulled through the plug as necessary when you step the spar. One could actually form the top of the Spartite in a conical shape and pre-position the wires by using an inverted plastic funnel, tightly taped to the top of the tube, and drilled around the edges of the inverted spout to position each cable. (This "form" can be filled with Spartite through the spout, of course.) The inside of the tube, the funnel and the cables can be sprayed with SailKote to prevent the Spartite binding to them and the funnel pealed away after the material sets up. On the yacht's interior, the thru-deck can be dammed up with plasticine modeling clay until the Spartite cures. Once formed, the plug can be removed (and reinserted) each year when you step and unstep the spar by embedding a closed loop of 1/8" messenger line into the plug, extended through the spout on the funnel.

FWIW...
 

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Discussion Starter #18
My boat is not hauled annually, boats stay in the water year round here in Seattle (and get used, I have weekend cruising planned with 3 other boats the last weekend in Sept). The mast will likely not be dropped for another 3-5 years.

I'm going to try the toilet wax, I think that is a good place to start. If there is enough slack on the cables (I don't think there is) to pull them down into the cabin by a couple of inches I'll try making a bike tube "hat" and pushing it back up.
 

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An alternative material to the wax could be plumber's putty. You could warm it to make it pliable without melting it, an that way make it conform around the wires. It might be less messy to remove in a few years.

Good luck!
 

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There is an electrical putty made for sealing around large service wiring. I could not find it with a quick search on the net. I am sure Home Depot or Lowes carries it. I did find this.... Gardner Bender Duct Seal Compound Plugs (10-Pack)-DS-110 at The Home Depot

What if you pushed a sponge up in there first and have it stick up higher than the tube then seal with putty. The sponge would wick away and dry any small amount of water you get to puddle on top of the putty seal.
 
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