cracks at mast bracket

Thread starter #1
I have a 1985 Capri 14. As I was sailing it last week I heard some cracking noises coming from the area of the mast mounting bracket where cracks in the gel coat formed immediately around the bracket. The underside of the bulkhead looks okay, just the steel bracket appears to have pushed or caved into the platform about 1/8 inch. the rest of the boat's in really good condition. Anyone had this problem and how do you recommend repairing it? Thanks for your help.


It sounds like you only cracked the gel coat. I would remove the bracket and make sure that only the gel coat has cracked. I have not had your problem, but if only the gel coat was damaged, i would repair it. If you have any doubts, I would have the boat inspected or I would add a stainless steel plate (appox 12'' x 3" x 1/8" ) and bolt it to the bottom side and add two bolts on each of the ends with large ss washers on the opposite side. The plate would then be secured with a total of eight bolts. 4 from the original bracket and tow on each side. I am going to attempt to post pictures of the inside of my boat which you may want to see.
Thread starter #3

I have a 1985 Capri 14. As I was sailing it last week I heard some cracking noises coming from the area of the mast mounting bracket where cracks in the gel coat formed immediately around the bracket. The underside of the bulkhead looks okay, just the steel bracket appears to have pushed or caved into the platform about 1/8 inch. the rest of the boat's in really good condition. Anyone had this problem and how do you recommend repairing it? Thanks for your help.
thanks very much EGarcia. I was thinking the same thing about the stainless steel plate except for putting it on top of a gel coat repair; i hadn't thought of bolting it underneath. I look forward to your pics.

EG's approach sounds sound. I've also known of others reinforcing successfully beneath the step from within the cuddy using hardwood. RK

We had a similar problem when a shroud broke and the mast pulled out part of the decking. First I put a new piece of CDX plywood below inside the cuddy to reinforce the deck. Next, chisel, sand and clean all the broken and cracked fiberglass and gelcoat from the deck. Pick up a fiberglass repair kit (auto or marine store) and watch a couple of youtube videos on fiberglass repair. Sand and paint and this repair should work for you. Email if you want some pics or have any questions.

Good luck.

I don't know for sure but I'm assuming the construction beneath the mast step is fiberglass over wood, as opposed to fiberglass over steel. If so, considering your gelcoat cracked and collapsed 1/8", that suggests there is a pocket of wood rot just beneath the gelcoat. You can test this by trying to tighten the screws holding the mast step. If they strip out, the wood is rotten.

Adding additional support to the bottom of the bulkhead isn't going to fix this. You'll have to cut out a section of the fiberglass and scrape out the rot. If the rot isn't too widespread and doesn't jeopardize the overall strength of the support, a quick fix might go like this:

#1) Cut out only the flat part of the gelcoat up to the coaming and to a couple inches to each side of the bracket.

#2) Dig out all the rot. If the rot is local and not too deep, you're in luck - go to step 3.

#3) Dry out the remaining wood thoroughly.

#4) Fill the depression with epoxy flush with the remaining gelcoat. You can add stiffeners to the epoxy like sawdust for a shallow depression, or a chunk of wood for something deeper.

#5) Go to a machine shop and have them make you plate which spans at least 3" to each side of the original gelcoat. 1/8" thick for stainless or 1/4" thick for aluminum.

#6) Bed the plate to the deck with a good marine adhesive to prevent water from making it's way back into the repair.

#7) Screw the mast step back down through the plate. If there is no good wood to screw into, you will need to screw the plate down instead, and then bolt the mast bracket to the plate.

Hope this is helpful,
Thanks Ed,
Fortunately my C-14 is pretty sound around the mast, but I have tackled plenty of boat rot before. I just love it when manufacturers (not just Catalina - most of them do it) hide vulnerable wood behind fiberglass. If water gets in, it can't get out. sigh....

From what I have read the mast step was designed by Catalina to have a "break away" feature. This way if one of the shrouds break and the mast falls it will pull the (4) #10 wood screws out of the deck and not trash the deck. I would not go crazy and put thru bolts and plates under the deck to support the mast step. The mast step does not have that much load on it. All of the force is taken up by the shrouds. If you have rotten wood under the mast step then that needs to be fixed and then screw the step back on with stainless wood screws. You can use thru bolts to attach the new wood to the boat.

Just me 2 cents

Roger L
Mast Bracket

That makes sense about break away. When mine went it pulled out two of the four screws and the other two loosened up but held. I went to reinforcing the deck below and using bolts to hold the mast bracket. I guess if it breaks this time it might take part of the deck with it.

If you do a search in this forum for mast step you will find some discussions about people who had problems with the mast step. That is the only place where I have read about the step. The step is not designed to support much load. Look at it, it is thin sheet metal held on by (4) #10 wood screws. The step is only there to keep the bottom end of the mast from moving much while sailing. All of the support for the mast is by the (3) shrouds. That is why it is so important to make sure that they are in good shape.

Roger L
Roger, not to be contrary (much)... but I disagree, yes the mast is kept in place by the shrouds, and headstay, however, all that force to hold the mast in place, puts a decent amount of DOWNWARD force on the mast step.. No more than say, standing on said place, however, enough to matter!

a SUPER simple solution would be a 2x4 cut to the right height, wedged into the spot below the mast step, and braced against the hull via another board laying flat, would likely provide AMPLE support for the mast... all this should be epoxied in place, and marine grade wood, is the most prudent!

of course, fixing it right by removing the glass, and reglassing in marine plywood would be the RIGHT way.
I agree 100% that the deck needs to support the weight of the mast and the sails. If there are cracks in the deck then the deck needs to be braced up to be able to support the weight. That can be done many ways. The part that I was talking about was then using 1/4" thru bolts with a plate or washers to hold the step to the deck. That is bad in my opinion because if the rigging fails the mast WILL tear the deck off the sailboat. It is a 22 foot long wrench that will make a mess of the boat.
If the deck is weak fix that to make it strong. THEN attach the step to the deck with the wood screws.

Roger L
If it's all right, I'd like to disagree with both of you! ;)

First of all, propping up rotten wood with a 2x4 isn't a safe solution. Most of the forces on the mast are lateral and you need those screws sunk into something solid. Hit some swells, have a couple screws pop out, and the next thing you know there's a mast in your lap. You need to fix the rotten wood.

I generally agree with Roger but the sentence, "if the rigging fails the mast WILL tear the deck off the sailboat." is a little over the top. If one of the shrouds breaks, and the step bracket is through-bolted, I see one of three things happening:

1) If the deck is rotten or otherwise not sound, a small section could get pulled out, but it needs to get fixed anyway.

2) If a sound boat is strapped to the trailer and a shroud breaks, the bracket will deform or tear, as could the mast, bolts could snap or get pulled through, but I really don't see the deck getting torn off. This is the worst case scenario and the least likely of the three.

3) While on the water, a broken shroud could simply lead to a bent step bracket. Past that the through bolts should hold and the leverage will just pull the boat over on it's side. If you have never pulled your boat over in shallow water, try it out some day. It's surprisingly easy to do.

Of course, the above is pure speculation and hopefully none of us will suffer the consequences of a broken shroud. The moral of the story is: if in doubt, spring for a new set!

OK lets do the math. If the boat is sitting in shallow water with no sails up and the center board up the boat is VERY easy to pull over. If a shroud broke there would be little force on mast step. When you are sailing it is a much different story. Lets assume my wife and I are sailing on a reach in 15 MPH winds. Our combined weight is 310 pounds. We are both sitting on the rail with our feet in the hiking straps with the center board all the way down. The force of just my wife and I is #310 X 3' which is 930 foot pounds of torque that the rigging is counter acting by holding the mast up. We have not even looked at the forces from the center board. If the center board was up the boat would have rolled over so the force from the sails thru the rigging is going to be larger that the 930 foot/pounds counteracting me and my wife sitting on the rail. Now BANG one of the shrouds breaks! What is going to hold back that 930 foot pounds of torque, the mast step. There is no deck that is going to support this kind of torque. If the mast step is bolted thru the deck it is going to be bent up and the screws or plates pulled thru the deck. The mast step should be bolted on so if there is a failure in the rigging the mast step will easily pull away from the boat.

Roger L
JGM is right... I forgot about how much slop there is in the rig itself.. the whole rig is designed to sway, and sag, under load, and it has serious shear stress on bolts through the mast step...

reducing flex with a 2x4 will only alleviate the downward stress, teh side to side is still there, therefore the shear is still there... however it can give you a good start to rebuild the deck through bolting area.

Take your time, do it right... verify the core under the fiberglass is sound, if it isn't replace the whole thing outright, and start from scratch... The bolts will tear away when a shroud breaks... but I thought we were trying to make the mast step sound, not trying to hold the mast up WITHOUT shrouds!

Be serious... you replace your shrouds/stays periodically to reduce the liklihood of a demasting. Demasting is a potential, no matter what, so you make sure the rigging is sound, and you make sure the deck is sound... you use bolts that will break away, and not tear the deck apart when/if the shrouds go! Those can be regular hardened nickel bolts though as the shear is still plenty strong enough to break the bolts before it tears apart the deck.
Hey Roger, if your shroud broke, it is entirely likely you and the missus would be tossed overboard, along with your dire prediction. ;)

But seriously, assuming your exaggerated scenario is accurate, it doesn't help those with their step brackets through-bolted. If you are in such a predicament, I would suggest the following:

1) Cut a V notch in the top of each bracket riser. This notch needs to intersect the top of each slot in the risers, allowing the mast pin to freely exit the slot should a shroud break.

2) Openning the slots will complicate stepping the mast, so about halfway up each slot, file a half-round notch in the forward edge just deep enough to catch the mast pin during stepping. When the mast is upright, it will drop into place.

Such a modification will protect the bracket, mast, and keep your deck from being torn off, but you might need to replace the mast pin with a fixed pin which sticks out a couple inches on each side of the mast.

Hope this helpful,
Thread starter #20
Mast Step Repaired

Thanks very much for all your suggestions everyone. I have attached some pics of my mast step repair which I finally got around to finishing. I found the the wood "beam" was rotted all the way through such that I could easily chip away the wood completely by hand with a screw driver until there was nothing left, so I removed all of the soft wood in the area below and around where the bracket mounts, then replaced the void with sturdy, waterproof plastic material, then repaired the fiberglass and added a solid support underneath to bolt the bracket to through the new step. The repair seems very solid and the boat is back in the water.