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Mast Inspection Opinions

4045 Views 36 Replies 10 Participants Last post by  GeorgeB
Got the mast down to inspect and repaint. The fitting shown in attached pic looks to be 316 SS and is riveted (heavy stainless rivets) and through bolted (at the tangs used for forward and aft lower shrouds). This fitting clam shells around the mast and is fit perfectly to the mast shape. If not sealed well, however, water and salt could work its way between the fitting and aluminum mast and corrode- if that happened the mast could break as this must be a high stress point- seeing the mast is very firmly connected with 4 lower shrouds and a baby fore stay- a total of 5 connection points at this fitting with the addition of the spreaders. Note the spreaders do not pass through the mast- the spreaders fit into sockets in this fitting and held by one stainless through bolt (as shown in pic).

So request opinion- does the fitting look ok to leave as is and assume no major corrosion (note I can get a fiber optic camera and inspect the inside of the mast at this location- to make sure no corrosion through the mast wall)? Or would you recommend to remove the fitting? I would like to remove the fitting- but afraid I might open a can of worms and not be able to get the fitting installed as well as it is now- fitting might spring open on removal.


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On the other hand, will you ever sleep well at night having not opened it up and confirmed its condition? And you know what assume means don't you? When the mast is down is the time to confirm its condition, not hanging from a bosons chair.
I started to say the reason for painting a mast was so that you can do it again in five years, but that's not really true.
When I owned a bicycle shop we frequently found severe corrosion where the stainless steel strap that holds the brake lever to the anodized aluminum handle bars. I remember one case where I pushed down on the bars and they broke away, held on by just a shard of aluminum. Look at a bike and you can see how sweat would accumulate at that juncture
creating a galvanic potential. I think this is exactly the situation you have with that SS collar around an AL mast.
Now, as to painting, when AL bike frames became very common, many had serious paint problems. As we now know paints that work on steel do not necessarily work on AL and sometimes large patches of paint will just fly off leaving a powdery aluminum oxide surface. Sometimes those riders, instead of painting their bikes, would polish them to a bright shinny finish which would last maybe a couple of weeks. I have not seen such a frame completely corrode through, but there were worrying indicators around welds, seat tubes and where parts were bolted to the frame. Today, painted AL bikes are very durable and last for years, but the paint process is very technical, probably not useful for painting a mast in the boatyard. So do some research on painting aluminum and follow the instructions and you should get a very satisfactory product.
Unfortunately, it's not going to be fast and simple. But then what is when a boat is kept in an environment like yours, and mine. The warm humid sea air rots everything and the best preventive measures only slow it down. A little.
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