Quality Dismasting

Thread starter #1
Well, the plan was to go camping with the family for a week bringing the Capri in tow. I wanted to spend some quality time with her. I figured in a week, we'd see enough variety in wind and waves for me to finally get comfortable with this boat. Alas, it was not to be.

We launched the boat with my daughter and her friend as crew. The friend had never sailed before so we put her on the jib while my daughter took the tiller and I tended the main. We showed her how to come about and jibe, how to hike out and keep the boat flat. We eased her into the sailing vocabulary. She was really enjoying herself; learning this foreign sport; feeling like she was really getting it. After about two hours of stiff winds, excellent sailing and some good abdomen exercises ... BOOM ... and the main sail disappeared.

It was the eeriest sight. One minute, I was tending the main and the next it was gone. I looked down at our friend and she had somehow managed to grab enough of the boom to allow me to come forward and grab the mast which was now laying horizontal in the water. At first there was a sense of disillusionment slowly followed by disappointment as we each realized that our week of sailing had just come to an abrupt end.

So we gathered up the pieces, disconnected all the lines, sheets, sails and what-not. Laid the mast along the boat's length and started sculling for home. It would have been a long slow scull, and I was seriously contemplating a gerry-rig using the boom and a sideways hoisted jib, when a motor-boater came by to offer us a tow. We took it.

Thus ended a week of sailing ... after only two hours.

That was the story, now comes the repair. The culprit was a weak shroud which snapped at the chain-plate. The repair for that is simple. But the falling mast ripped all the mast-step screws out of the deck, leaving clean holes where once there was threaded holes.

I see three possible repair options.

1) Fill in the screw holes, re-drill and re-tap to fit the design screws. But what to refill with? Epoxy, rolled up fiberglass dipped in resin? Any suggestions?

2) Re-tap the holes with larger diameter screws. Will this be strong enough?

3) Drill the existing holes through, use a backing plate and re-mount the mast head with thru-bolts. Or will this result in ripping out the deck next time the mast shrouds let go?

Any advise? Thanks!

Sorry to hear about your snapped shroud. What a bummer. At least it appears you didn't suffer any major damage. I suspect if the mast step had been through-bolted, you would have some serious deck damage and/or a deformed mast.

I'm not a professional sailboat repairer so normal disclaimers apply, but I like option #1 the best: fill the holes and use the same screws over again. They worked the first time to minimize damage so their success warrants a second chance.

When you think about it, there is relatively little force on those screws unless they're being levered out from a broken shroud. During sailing the shroud picks up the large majority of the wind pressure. I suspect that even a sloppy repair would still net you over 1000 lbs of shear resistance.
Way more than enough for even the strongest winds. The only other time those screws are taxed is during mast stepping, which means they aren't taxed at all unless you drop your mast.

As to the actual fix, I wouldn't roll up the fiberglass to avoid the possibility of entrapping air bubbles in the repair. Instead I would finely chop up the fiberglass with scissors into shards 1/4" long or less. They also make commercial fillers which do the same thing but off hand I can't remember exactly which specific one applies.

I also tend to be a little bit lazy so adopt the following procedure... or not.

#1) Using masking tape, firmly secure the mast step to the deck in it's proper position leaving clear access to the screw holes.

#2) Mix the resin/fiberglass and stuff the holes full using a thin dowel or back end of a drill bit.

#3) Before the first mixture starts to set, dip the screw threads into fresh resin not containing any fibers and slowly/gently twist the screws into the holes using your fingers if you can, or a screwdriver if there is some resistance. If you filled the holes properly, there should be some resin squeeze-out around the screw heads. Don't worry about it.

#4) Lay some more masking tape down over the screw heads to prevent their shifting or withdrawing while the resin cures.

#5) Remove the masking tape after a few days. Most epoxies get 90%+ of their strength within 24 hours but nearly all of them need a week or two for maximum cure.

You should be left with four little washers of resin around the screw heads which, if you mixed your resin/hardener properly, should chip off the stainless steel. Personally I would leave them.

Then I would test my fix by trying to pull the step off the deck. If you can pull it off, then there is most likely some imbalance with your epoxy mixture.

Hope this helps!
Thread starter #3
Despite your claim to not being a professional sailboat repairer, I like your solution. And your step by step procedure is clear and simple. Thanks a lot.
Broken shroud... Bummer


Sorry to hear about your short sailing vacation, sounds like you were on your way to having a ball. I looks like it won't be long before your back at it. The repair plan sounds like a good deal. I'm pretty sure that west marine sells a product .... I wan't to say marine tex which is a epoxy/hardener. When I got my capri the splash rail was loose so I removed and cleaned it up. It was loose due to oversized holes that were underneath the rail. I used marine tex to fill the holes and then re-drilled the screw holes and reattached the rail. It has worked well, granted their is no load on the rail. If you are near a west marine I have found their staff to be helpful as well as knowledgeable. This may be easier then mixing fiberglass resin. I just spent a week on The Great Sacandaga lake w/ my capri had a blast. I see you are also from Upstate NY. Where do you sail??
Good luck w/ the repair

Thanks for the vote of confidence! But Jeremy is right - there are many different ways to secure the screws in those holes. Heck... I've successfully done nearly the same thing using regular construction adhesive (Liquid Nails).

If you do go with the epoxy resin, which I think will stick the best to the polyester resin Catalina used for the deck (and any reinforcing wood that may or not be below) the main thing to remember is mix, mix, mix. All my troubles with epoxy have been from not mixing well enough. If your ratios are correct, mixing is about the only other place to focus attention.

Good luck!:)
Speaking of spontaneous dismasting, can anyone tell me how you can tell when your shrouds are beat? I have the original set from 1994 (I think). What is their life span? The plastic coating on mine is still pliant and crack-free. Does that mean anything? And where should I get a new set and should that include the forestay?

Thread starter #7

A post-mortem on my shrouds showed a brownish color around the cable at the crimp on the lower end. Both shrouds looked that way, even though only one snapped. My guess is that rain and water collects at the chain plate adjusters for the shrouds and eventually corrosion sets in and then POW.

My suggestion is to remove all the tape and plastic around the lower end of the shrouds and examine the loop and between the two crimps. Use a bright light and look for any brownish coloring of the cables. Brown is bad.

I compared the ends of the shroud to the ends of the forestay and in comparison, the loop of the forestay was clean and shiny all around. Also the shrouds looked clean at the mast end as well. The chain plate ends looked pretty bad though.

So there's what I can offer in the lessons learned department. Don't know if there are other signs of decay.
Thread starter #8

I am well familiar with Sacandaga Lake. I've taken my Capri to Northhampton Beach a couple of times. Also sailed the south end years ago in my Catalina 22 ... Scout Island, Beacon Island, Sand Island (did I miss any).

For this past trip, we were camped at Roger's Rock on Lake George. We had gotten as far as Anthony's Nose when the shroud let go. We had a South wind that day so we would have gotten blown back to Roger's Rock anyway, even if a motor-boater had not come around.

Do you keep your boat at the lake? I keep mine on its trailer so I can have a choice of venues, although I've been toying with the idea of renting trailer space at Holly's Marina or nearby.

So how long have you had your Capri? How do you like it in our northern climes?
Sorry, to hear about your demasting. Unfortunately, I had the same thing happen to me last Thursday night. Mine was slightly different, however....

For me, it was the Furling Jib luff wire (which acts as my forestay) that gave way. Same indications of brown rust marks at the base of the luff wire. Unfortunately, I had never noticed them, since the jib is normally furled when not sailing. I know better now to give the jib a go look-see before I get on the water....

Also different for me is that the maststep was bolted through the deck. I have one bolt that pulled into the plywood/fiberglass reinforcement in the cuddy, and some damage to the top of the deck (some wood pull-out, and obviously some busted gelcoat).

My plan for repair is to infuse the pulled plywood with epoxy, and then to use C-clamps to try to squeeze the deck area back into its original shape. I'm then planning to use a reinforcing plate on the topside and bottom-side of the repaired area, to add some strength. Through-bolts will also have to be replaced.

Ordered a new maststep and jib luff wire from Catalina, and hope to have the deck repair completed by Sunday night.

If anyone has some ideas for this type of repair that might be helpful, I'd love to hear them...

Glenn Walters
NEVER THROUGH BOLT the mast step. Only use round head screws. The design is such that the mast base will come off the deck with the mast instead off the base ripping the deck apart in a demasting.
OK, fan, I get the message.

Interesting--the boat came with the mast step bolted through. Guess Catalina must have changed their design sometime along the way...

So--I need to modify my repair plans a bit. First job, still, is to repair the initial damage. Does the plan I laid out seem like it would work for that?

Will also need to fill the existing bolt holes. Will need to go along the lines of what JGM described in the first response..

Thanks for the thoughts. Any other ideas will be appreciated.



The repairs as described sound great. I too suffered the same fate of through bolts ( did it to myself). Good luck with the repair. It's really quite easy.
You are all going to take out a hacksaw and open up the slots in the mast step now, aren't you? This way the bolt that goes through the mast will slide right up and out of the mast step if it needs to.

There was an active discussion about this a few years ago and the opening of the slots was recommended as best practice.
Well, I don't know if I want to take the prize just yet. I've been thinking about what I wrote, and what we discussed years ago about best practice, and there may be a downside that we all need to consider.

I think stepping the mast (raising/lowering) would get a bit trickier with the open slots. You cannot rely on the bolt to keep the mast in the step. You need to rely on downward pressure of the base of the mast, at the step, to keep it in the slots. So you always need to support the mast so that there is a downward force at the mast step. That means you need to be very careful about where you grap the mast as you walk it up or down. Do it wrong, and the mast would come crashing down on the stern.

Thread starter #16

You said: "Ordered a new maststep and jib luff wire from Catalina, and hope to have the deck repair completed by Sunday night."

Before my trip, I was toying with the idea of buying roller furling gear. I noticed that my jib has a wire luff which is sewn on both ends. I figured this means it's roller furling ready. After my dismasting though, I was thinking I should change the wire luff just be safe (I have no idea how old the sail/luff is).

Can you explain the procedure for changing out the wire luff? It'd be much appreciated.
Thread starter #17
mast stepping

Here's a thought:

Drill holes at the ends of what are now mast step tangs. Then cut a strip of coat-hanger (or something similar but nicer), and bend the ends so it looks like a giant staple. When you want to raise the mast, insert these "staples" into the mast step tang holes, then remove and store them while sailing.

You could get fancier by using a strip of 1/16 aluminum to bridge the gap, held in place by a through bolt on one tang and a clevis pin on the other. In this case, you could simply, pull out the clevis pin when under way to allow the "bridge" to swing freely.
reply to Cearus

In reply to your previous message, I've had my Capri for about 1yr. I am pretty new to sailing so I havent had to many chances to take her out. I have almost exclusively sailed on Sacandaga. I definitley have " the bug". I live in Burnt Hills NY and am toying with taking her out on either Ballston Lake or Saratoga Lake for a couple of after work sails a few more times before it gets too cold. I have chosen Sacandaga in the past, mainly because it seems like there are usually pretty strong winds there. However we rented a camp in Broadalbin a few weeks ago, I went out almost every day and a few days the wind was almost non existant. I keep my boat on a trailer in the yard ( my wife loves that). But it does make it easy to hook up and go. ( not to mention that the storage fee is reasonable :) Have you ever gone out on either Ballston or Saratoga lake? If so what are your thoughts? I am also curious about your previous experience with the Catalina 22. I figure that will probably be my next boat. I am somewhat hesitant though. The thing I really like about the 14 is in decent winds the 14 can go like a bat out of hell. I was wondering if the sailing experience is majorly different between the two boats? I have lived in the northeast my whole life so I am used to the northern climate. I like the seasons but fall seems to come to fast. I think if there wasn't the likelyhood of capsizing I would probably saill up to Nov. Being a pragmatist I probably will wrap my 07 sailing season in the next few weeks:( Anyhow I would be curious to hear your thoughts around my previous questions.
Thread starter #19

I tried to post my response twice but it keeps disappearing. Maybe it was too long so I'll try posting it again in parts. Here's part 1:

I've been sailing this area since 1980. You're right, the sailing season is too short. If you can swing it, I suggest buying a shorty wet suit. Wear it with a polypropylene shirt and you can sail almost to Columbus Day (although you have to be selective about which day you go out). I bought a wet suit from LL Bean (about $75) and a poly sweater that looks like a thin polar fleece. You can get it soaking wet, wring it out and you're good to go again. If you want to get real fancy, you can buy a dry-top from Kokatat to go with the wet suit, (about $180), which will really keep the wind off of you, especially after a capsize.

You know about Lake Sacandaga, so I won't mention that. It's a very nice lake but for some reason I always seem to hug the Northway.

I sail Lake Saratoga whenever I want to go for a quick sail. It's not very big but if you just want the sensation of sailing, it's pretty good. It can get gusty, though, so think twice about cleating your sails. I usually put in at the South End Marina where 9P and the road from Malta come together (the one that goes past Luther Forest).

Ballston Lake is only good if you have little children that you're worried about going overboard or if you have a 10-12 yr old who wants to try a solo. I used to hand my Laser-2 to my kids and chase behind them in a kayak. It's good for building they're confidence. The problem with Ballston Lake is that there's a constriction of land between the part of the lake that's good for sailing and the part where the only boat ramp exists (i.e. the Goodtime Restaurant). Without a motor, it takes a long time to get through that constriction.
Thread starter #20

Here's Part 2:

As far as my Catalina 22 ... I loathe the day I sold her. She was a great boat ... spritely but safe enough on Lake Sacandaga and Lake George (Lake Champlain would be another matter). I even won a trophy in the Ticonderoga Race with that boat. It was great on Lake George cause you could go out for a few days, spend the night at various islands, and the wind would always be better the next day. I'd love to buy another one but I have to wait for my kids to get out of college. Actually, I've been silently searching for an Ensign 23 but nothing's come up yet. An Ensign 23 is more classic looking but has no cabin.

The issue with a bigger boat, is that you have to dock it ($$/yr) and all the equipment is bigger (more $$) and you may have to store it for the winter (even more $$). I think I used to spend about $2000/yr (in 1992) to keep it docked and maintained. It came with a trailer so I'd bring it home for the winter ($0). Also, with a keel boat, you will learn all about basic boat handling (docking, anchoring, maneuvering in traffic). With a dinghy, you can simply muscle things around, but a 3000 lb boat is a little different ... although I think it's more salty :)

All in all, I've enjoyed sailing in upstate ny. I think Lake George is best for overnights and week long trips, Sacandaga is great for all day sails, Lake Saratoga for a couple hour sail and Ballston Lake for getting off the training wheels. But, if you want to do serious sailing/cruising, Lake Champlain is terrific. I've rented 30-foot cruisers up there and it's definitely a notch above.