HELP! Must repair mast step!!!

Thread starter #1
So there I am sailing out of the Westport river cruising out against the tide....After I went through a few small waves I hear a sickening crack! and the mast lilts to the side about 15 degrees.....I limp back inot the river, drop the sail and solicit a short tow from the harbor master who happens to be nearby a the time....Anyway....There's a visible crack towards the top of the mast step that goes about 2/3rd around the circumference....My current thinking is to install a port near the mast step and galss away attaching the bottom and reapiring the existing mast step....Any onhe had this trouble before??? Rob M Westport, MA USA :eek: :eek: :eek:

This is a very common occurrence in the Laser class. Not as common in the Sunfish although you have shown that it can and does happen.

I was sailing my Laser off a beach one day when I heard the same sound as you. Fortunately I could ride the waves into shore. I can tell you how I fixed my Laser. The same would apply to your sunfish. It is not very difficult if you feel comfortable with glass work.

First cut an inspection port near the mast. Look around inside and assess the damage. The mast tube may be reused in a lot of cases. Let the boat/damaged area dry out completely before you work. I was able to re-set my mast tube with some west system epoxy thickened with colloidal silica to a nice mayonaise consistency. This is a critical move so you get the mast hole aligned right in 3 dimensions. Kind of tricky....I should have spent more time aligning mine. Mine ended up a little off and the mast was raked a little forward upon completion. Oops, but it went like a demon off the wind in light air.

When the mast tube is re-aligned, then you can address the rest of the damage. I used glass cloth and filleted the mast tube to the floor and then wrapped the tube in glass cloth as well. Then I fliped the boat over and worked on the underside of the deck. I laid a nice big section of chop mat fiberglass saturated in resin. The piece was about 3 feet by 2 feet with a hole for the mast tube. Then I filleted the mast tube to the top with glass cloth. When that whole mess was cured, the deck in the area of the mast step was super solid. I then worked on the cosmetic damage on the top of the deck.

I guarantee that that laser will not fail like that again. Sure it added some weight, but that boat was old and as soft as a couch and I didn't have to but the mast step repair kit which was $$$$$.

Good luck in your repairs.

Thread starter #3
Thanks tim. What you described is pretty much what I had in mind....I've got some scrap cloth and resin around the shop and have enough sanders to not to be too worried about being able to "clean up" a sloppy first effort....I'm thinking I'll prolly make aplug the same size as the mast so that resin doesn't leak into the mast step. That (inside of the mast step) would seem to be a bugger to sand...Thanks for the info. increases my confidence....Cheers!

Rob M Westport, MA USA

PS as I was limping back towards home I kept envisioning the mast poking through :D the bottom of the hull.....That would have REALLY slowed me down.....
Sounds like you will be under control.

Thinking about your plug idea.....maybe just use the mast. Spray it down with cooking oil or wax it and then wrap it in plastic or stick the end in a plastic bag. This way, you could use the mast as a lever to position the mast tube just where you want it and then you could even tie it into place so it soesn't move.

Just a thought.

Thread starter #5
Using the mast WOULD help alligh things.....But I don't know yet if I'll be doing this outside or inside....If inside I'll have no room fer the mast....Another thought I had was to repair the exterior of the mast step and then pour some resin into the mast step and insert the mast (protected as you mention with a plastic bag or a few layers of plastic.....)I can see it Mom? I fixed the hull but the mast is now permanently installed..... :rolleyes:

Rob M Concord, MA
Thread starter #7
did a bunch of stuff towards adequately repairing my mast step.....Installed an inspection port forward of the mast. used a small hair drier for many mnay hours and thought i was making some progress unitl I put my inspection mirror to have a look and it promptly fogged up.....More drying.....I made a nice hearty slurry of glass snippinings and resin and hand packed it around the base of the mast step.....Next visit (in a few weeks - I should have another opportunity to finish off the repair....I figure I'll install another couple of access ports for increased success/speed at future drying efforts....

Rob M Concord, MA
Both Mike Kilpatrick ( and Wind Line Sails "How-To" section ( have instructions for installing and placement of inspection ports as well as ideas for getting your hull dry inside. Also the class page Tips and Tricks and FAQs have similar articles. If your surface was not dry before any repairs were/are made, they may be subject to failure. Just a slurry of resin and bits of fiberglass may not be enough to fix the mast step. 2" Fiberglass tape parallel to the tube and extending radially at least 6" out onto the deck or hull, at least 6-8 times, will strengthen and spread the loads out considerably. All this work will be done inside the hull (unless damage penetrated the deck or hull). It will kind of look like an * (asterick) with the mast tube in the center. Imagine trying to tape a paper towel tube to a table with scotch tape. Hope this helps.
Guy's I do this type of repair on lasers all the time. what's the need for ports. Why not cut a hole to be fixed in the hull(under but near the step :). It's a very cool fix that i guess only a few college sailors know of. :D
I am glad that you can do a "very cool fix" on your Laser with your college education, but you must not be familar with a Sunfish. Even though the Sunfish and the Laser are the same length (13'10") it appears the distance from the mast step to the dagger board step of a Laser is much less than the 3-1/2 half feet from the mast step to the front cock pit wall of a Sunfish. While it would be nice to hide the repair in the front cockpit wall, my arms, and I do not know of anybody with arms that are, are not long enough to reach that far (and around the dagger board well to the mast step). This is the reason, we Sunfish sailors, install Inspection ports. In Rob's case, a port in front of the mast step is a logical solution. He can fix the mast step and possibably fix the bow handle if that happens to be required later. Many Sunfish sailors normally install ports just behind the splashrail and/or in front of the rudder. This gives the Sunfish sailor a way of inspecting the interior of the hull for leaks, loose foam blocks or a loose rudder mount. After more than the 50 years the Sunfish has been around, the many Sunfish sailors have figured out practical ways of fixing the Sunfish.
P.S. On the Rooster Laser Forum about fixing Laser mast steps, many of the posts recomend installing a port about 1' from the step.
Thread starter #11
Supercub, we're on the same tack here.....My initial effort was associated with packing a slurry 'round the bottom of the step. My second effort will be the scoth tape tube to table as you descibe....I's thought about fabbing a foam structure or something for addition support and adhesive surface but couldn't come up with something that would fit easily through the port and offer the support i was interested in....Cheers...Um? what's a laser???? Just kidding I know very little about these little boats having only sailed a laser once....Very amusing...I was in Sweden in a strong wind....compared to the sunfish I felt like I was trying to sail a scared cat.....'course now I wish I had a laser to try sometimes as well.....
Rob M Concord, MA
Don't forget to do the top of the step as well. Since you have already have "tweaked" the step, a little re-inforcement (scotch tape style) to the step top is a good idea. You may want to put the Sunfish deck down on a couple of saw-horses and do your repair to the top area from underneath. Let gravity work for you to get the resin into all the little cracks. Again, make sure things are good and dry, sand with 80-100 grit sandpaper for a good bond and apply your strips. good luck.
I have recently adopted the family Sunfish (salvaged from behind my parents garage) and want to get it sailing again. One question about the mast step- is there supposed to be a hole at the bottom with about a 1/2 inch gap before the inside of the hull? On mine there is- about 1 1/2 inches across. Otherwise the boat is in fairly good shape for a '73 AMF model.
First are you sure it is a hole? On my '69 fish there is a gap were it appears the pre-formed step is secured to the deck. If it is a hole, time for an inspection port and do a repair similar to the above. As suggested, stick a piece of 2" PVC pipe into the step. Wrap end of step with some plastic wrap to prevent permanetly attaching the pipe. Good luck
First are you sure it is a hole? On my '69 fish there is a gap were it appears the pre-formed step is secured to the deck. If it is a hole, time for an inspection port and do a repair similar to the above. As suggested, stick a piece of 2" PVC pipe into the step. Wrap end of pipe in the step with some plastic wrap to prevent permanetly attaching the pipe. Good luck
Thread starter #16
Good on you for resurecting the boat. A hole at the bottom of the mast step would be a bad thing if there turns about to be one there.....If there is a hole and the mast step is in otherwise stable/strudy condition you could probably patch the hole without installing an inspection port...Although I gotta say having installed one nspection port I just bought two more for installation.....
Thanks for the advise. On further insection the hole does not drain into the hull - i poured a cup of water into the step- so it must be the preformed step as described above. An inspection port is a good idea though to at least dry out the interior foam and I also need to replace the severly corroded bailer ( I saw the how to @ windlines).
Also check Mike Kilpatricks page, he has photos. Behind the splashrail, I set my port (6 incher) 3" from the Flange to the rail on both sides. At the rear, Minimum, 2.5-3" forward of the rear edge of the boat. The upgrade instructions state 5" forward, but you will be ok at 3". I used a 5" port at the rear, many folks put in a 4". Good luck