How To

Snipe Mast Step Rebuild

In Spring of 2020 we took a socially distanced trip to Deltaville to take the Snipe out for a day of practice and to get out on the water for the first time that year. We rigged the boat and sailed some reaches back and forth in front of the club in the 8-10 knot north wind for about 20 minutes. With everything going well we decided to sail downwind out into the river and into the stronger winds further south. Downwind was fine, but just a minute after turning to go upwind with the boat fully powered up we heard a bang and the shrouds all went slack. The mast stayed vertical, but it had fallen through the mast step and was sitting on the bottom hull of the boat 4″ lower than it was supposed to be. We hobbled back to the club and took the boat home for repairs.

Old Mast Step
Empty hole where the mast step once was

The boat is a 1986 Phoenix Snipe and had a wood mast step. It had likely been cracked for some time as the boat took on some water in the parking lot when rainwater would run down the mast. It wouldn’t get water in it when we were sailing or when it was stored covered with the mast down. So began some research to figure out how best to repair the step and make the boat sailable again. On the advice of a snipe-sailing friend I posted a note in the Snipe Sailing Facebook Group asking for suggestions. I knew rebuilding the structure that was there was going to be hard and was hoping someone had some experience with this. Marcus Ward suggested rather than repairing what was there, to just put a fiberglass plate over the hole with a new mast step and shortening the mast.

We started by getting a Selden mast step. The existing mast base was just a little too wide to fit in it so we needed to grind down the sides a bit to make it fit.

Mast Step
Mast base ground down to fit in the new step

Next a 12×12″x1/4″ G10 fiberglass board was acquired and we used cardboard and later a piece of wood to make a template of the fiberglass board that we were going to cut for it.

Mast Step Template
Showing the cardboard template, wood template and G10 fiberglass board

To cut the G10 fiberglass plate we got a saw blade, used for cutting tile, to use on the table saw.

Cutting G10
Using the tile-cutting blade to cut the G10 Fiberglass plate

To mount the plate in the boat we used West G/Flex Expoxy 655. The floor of the boat it was mounted to wasn’t flat and so this product has some filler and would bridge the gap and create a solid bond. Then screws were used to mount the mast step into the board.

Installed Mast Step

With the mast step in place, I needed to cut the mast down as far as I could so it would be the same height as it was. The challenge was the jib halyard block at the bottom of the mast. We would need to make the mast base fit around the block if we were going to shorten the mast as much as we could. The mast base was milled and ground down to fit the mast.

Mast Plug

The next step was actually cutting down the mast. I used a 200-tooth aluminum and plastic blade on a miter saw to get a clean and square cut on the mast.

Cut down Mast

The final step was mounting the vang blocks to the plate near the base of the mast and then actually re-rigging everything that had been taken apart.


With the mast being .75″ taller than it was, I’m sure it needs to be re-measured and adjusted. The mast collar had to be adjusted just a bit so it hit the boat in the right spot. We’re just happy to be able to sail it and to extend the life of the boat a little bit longer.

Mast Collar

Huge thanks to Marcus Ward for the idea, Stan Deutsch for the help and tools, and Frank Hoos for milling the mast base.



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Hinged Hoop House Raised Garden Bed

Jess and I had wanted to grow some vegetables at home and with the Coronavirus induced time we’d be spending at home we quickly made a plan to build a hinged hoop house raised garden bed. In years past we knew there were a number of squirrels and other animals in our backyard and wanted to give whatever we planted the best chance of success by protecting it. To make this easy we designed a hooped lid on a hinge with chicken wire on it.

We started by excavating the area and using a level to be sure it was flat ground we were starting with.

We built a raised garden bed that was ~18″ tall using 3 1×6 and using 2×4 to make the corners. We affixed some plastic fencing to the bottom to try and prevent anything from burrowing up into the garden bed (we have plenty of moles in our yard). As we were putting in – I had some second thoughts on both the plastic fence and the size of the holes in it and we put down some left over very narrow wire fencing, but didn’t have enough for the entire bottom. If I did it again I would have just gone with the narrow metal fencing over the entire bottom.

Tipped it into place and filled in around it and added some garden soil. Initially we just put a few inches in, but know as we do more composting we’ll start to add more and bring the level of the soil up.

For the hoop frame we used 2×4 to create a frame the same size as the bed. We cut some angle pieces in the corners to give it some more strength and put 1 beam down the middle of it.

Using a tomato cage we might like to put in the garden, we figured out how high we wanted to make the hoops. To affix the hoops to the frame we drilled holes in the plastic and just put 2 screws straight through the pipe into the frame on each side.

Next we put the chicken wire across the hoops. I used cable ties to connect it, but these will degrade in a couple years and I really need to re-affix it with wire to make it more permanent. Note we still hadn’t added the hinges which made it easy to move the frame onto some saw horses to easily get underneath it to affix the chicken wire.

With the completed hoop sitting on the garden bed, we added 3 fence hinges to one side to make it open. Then we added some eye hooks inside the frame and inside the garden and tied a rope to them to keep the frame from opening too far, but ensured it opens far enough that the weight of it holds it open and there’s no risk of it blowing closed while we are working in it.


  • 1×6 boards for raised bed
  • 2×4 for bed corners and hoop frame
  • 1/2″ pvc pipe for hoops
  • wood screws to hold everything together
  • narrow wire fence under the raised bed (optional)
  • chicken wire for the hoop cage
  • wire to tie the chicken wire together and to the hoops (or cable ties as a temporary solution)
  • 3 fence door hinges
  • 1 handle
  • 4 eye hooks and rope to hold it open


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Strange Bird Trailer

Late last year I came by a Snipe and began getting it back into sailing shape this year.  One element to getting it sailing was to get a road-worthy trailer under it.  After trading some cash and an old AppleTV I got a used Laser 2 trailer that would fit the snipe nicely.  I replaced some of the hardware, addeda jack and new wiring and lights. The hardest part would be building the bunks and what made it harder was the fact that I’d have to do it while the boat stayed upside down in my backyard.

We made a pattern for the bottom of the hull by using a jig to draw a line on the board that matched the shape of the hull.  See the device here.

The shape fit the hull perfectly and just needed to be mounted to the trailer.

And the boat finally upright on the trailer:

More pictures of the trailer build starting here.

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Building Lighter Nested Cornhole Boards

Last summer/fall some Laurie, Jess and I started a project to build 4 sets of nested 1/2 weight corn hole boards.  We were inspired by a cornhole board set we had seen recently and came up with a design that would take up less space and not weigh as much as a standard set built with 3/4″ plywood and 2x4s.

Using 1/2″ plywood and some 1×3 pieces of wood we built a set that contained 1 inner and 1 outer board that would nest together with a handle to carry them.  The cornhole bags could then be stored in between the boards.  The playing surface of the boards is the standard 24″x48″

The ‘outer’ board has the 1×3 border going all the way around the outside.  On one side, a wide hole is cut in the middle of the 1×3 to pass a rope handle through.  This hole weakens the board a bit, so we added another strip of 1×3 just inside the bag hole to provide some more strength seen below in the middle and  right boards.

The inner board has the 1×3 offset inside the edge so that it can fit inside of the outer board.  The top and bottom of the board have the 1×3 offset by just 3/4″.  The sides of the board have the 1×3 offset with enough space for the legs of the boards to fit in between.  When the boards are nested the holes & legs should be at opposite ends.  That way there is just enough space for 1 width of legs between the inner and outer boards when nested.

Corn Hole Board Nested diagram

Beyond the actual construction of the boards we had a lot of fun painting them with our own designs.

On top of the paint – we use a clear glossy polyurethane to give it a nice finish and protect it.


Other resources:

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J70 Mid Engine Storage Bracket

J/70 Engine in place

Engine in place

While I had the J/70 back in Richmond a few improvements were made including mid-boat storage cradle for the engine.  This puts the engine low next to the keel underneath the cockpit and not taking up valuable space up front nor adding weight to the front of the boat.

J/70 engine bracket in place.

Without engine

Using a piece of teak from a retired trophy – I build a bracket that mounts to a bulkhead under the companionway.  It has a notch cut for the engine to hold it just below the power head.  And the way it is set up and angled it’s easy to slide the engine towards the center of the boat to get it into place.

Wood above the stringer proping up the top of the engine

Wood above the stringer proping up the top of the engine

Beneath the power head of the engine is another block of wood mounted to a stringer with some foam padding added to it.  This tips the head of the engine upright and keeps oil from getting into the parts of the engine that it shouldn’t.

Having used it a few times now seems to work well and I like the space we got back in the bow for storing

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J70 Trailer Dock Box Ventilation

Completed Dock Box ventilation

I had seen this idea when I sailed the J/70 Winter Series last year and finally had a chance to add it.  In short I cut a hole in the aft end of both dock boxes on the trailer and added a screen with a vent cover over it.  This allows a little more air flow into the dock box in case any wetness ends up in there.  The vents are on the back of the trailer so no rainwater gets in when trailering in wet conditions.



  • 2″ hole cutter


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How to Remove Numbers from a Laser Sail

This video describes how to remove sail numbers from a Laser Sail.  Note that this technique only works with Goo Off Professional*

  1. Apply goo remover to the back side of the sail.
  2. Work it in to separate the goo from the sail
  3. Flip the sail back over and peel off the number
  4. Apply goo remover where the number was just removed from to clean up the area

Use a soft cloth like an old tshirt for rubbing the goo on the sail.

The reason we first apply goo remover to the backside of the sail is to separate the goo from the sail so that the goo comes off on the number.  If you start by applying goo remover over the number, it separates the vinyl number from the goo, then you’ve got to scrub the sail a lot harder to rub the left over stick goo on the sail.

*I’ve used Goo Off Professional for years for this and it worked fine.  Only after I ran out of it and bought Goo Off Heavy Duty did I realize it didn’t work with all solvents.  It works with Acetone, but that stuff evaporates so quickly you can only do small sections at a time.

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Reducing Netgear Switch Fan Noise

I’ve got a Netgear (JGS516) gigabit switch in a closet just off my kitchen near the family room.  Even with the door closed the fan noise it audible even above the refrigerator that is just a few feet away.  Quite distracting when trying to watch a movie or have a quiet meal in the kitchen.  So I did a little project to reduce the noise.

The switch uses a 5v 40mm x 40mm  x 20mm fan.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as if quiet 5v fans are made this size, so I ended up getting a 12v fan of this size (Scythe Mini Kaze Ultra 40mm x 20mm Silent Mini Fan).  To get a 12v power source I pulled apart a cell phone charger, fed the wire through the vent opening and spliced it together.

With the fan running full speed, it still wasn’t quiet enough, so I got a variable speed controller so I could turn it down.  With the fan on the lowest setting the sound is barely audible in the closet let alone with the door closed and there’s just enough air flow to be sure the barely loaded 16 port switch doesn’t get too hot.  And finally, I can very easily pull the mod out and return it to it’s original configuration.



After with the speed controller in the back right corner:

Netgear After

Speed Controller
Netgear Speed Controller
Vent Wiring
Netgear Vent Wiring
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Laser GoPro Mount Locations

This article also appeared in the Fall 2012 Edition of The Laser Sailor and is now featured here as well.  It was written with help from Kyle Martin.

Sport cameras are a relatively new breed of cameras that are compact, waterproof, durable and can be easily mounted on all kinds of surfaces.  This makes them great for boats and sailing and especially the Laser.  The footage from these cameras is great as a training aid, as a keepsake of your sailing and as a way to share sailing with friends and family – just don’t bore them with 20 minutes of you sailing upwind with nothing happening.  Not only do most of these cameras do video, but they can also be used for time lapse photography either to watch the whole series, or just to pick key photos of maneuvers , scenery or technique.

Disclaimer: While great for training and pleasure sailing, cameras are not legal equipment for racing on a Laser.

There are several different brands of cameras on the market each with their own strengths, weaknesses, price points, features etc.  Kyle and I both use the GoPro Hero2 cameras, but any of these cameras could be mounted in the shots below.

Easy to set and forget, sees a great scene into the boat and all of the activity in the cockpit
Con: Often submerged leaving wet spots on lens, risk of snagging others mainsheet
Tip: Use a tripod mount on the bow eye for the most secure attachment.
How-to Video
GoPro Bow Mount GoPro Bow Mount View
Mast Facing Forward
For best results, angle slightly off center to port. This ‘looks’ ahead around a mark or down the line on a start.
Shows boats ahead of you
Boring video if you are in front
Go Pro Mast Mount
GoPro Mast Mount GoPro Mast Mount View
Side Mast Facing Aft
Tip: To mount use a roll-cage mount with extra long screws
Pro: Similar scene as the bow, but from a higher elevation.
Con: Only works upwind
GoPro Side Mast Mount GoPro Side Mast Mount View
Pro: Wide view shows boats around and position in cockpit
Con: Unsteady in waves, weight aloft
GoPro Masthead Mount GoPro Masthead Mount View
Pro: Closer view of cockpit than masthead
Con: Good video one tack, ok video other tack
How-to Video
GoPro Mid-Mast Mount GoPro Mid-Mast Mount View
Side of Boat
Tip: Use a suction mount on the smooth hull surface.
Pro: Interesting angles
Con: more likely to be underwater, greater risk of getting banged against something
GoPro SIde of Boat Mount GoPro Side of Boat Mount View
Pro: Great shots of hand-over-hand activity in the cockpit, putting the viewer in your seat
Con: easy to obstruct the view with hands or bang camera with tiller extension and hiking out shows all sky
GoPro Chest Mount GoPro Chest Mount View
Pro: Nice point-of-view shots
Con: Scene changes fast as the wearer quickly looks around the boat to sail
GoPro Head Mount GoPro Head Mount View
Boom Facing Starboard
Tip: Wrist mount fits boom perfectly
Pro: Unobstructed rear view downwind
Con: Completely obstructed view on port tack by sail
GoPro Boom Facing Starboard Mount GoPro Boom Facing Starboard Mount View
End of Boom Facing Forward
Tip: Use roll cage mount
Pro: Shows sailor in cockpit and what’s ahead when sailing upwind
GoPro End of Boom Facing Forward Mount GoPro End of Boom Facing Forward Mount View
Stern Facing Forward
Pro: Shows sailor plus what’s ahead
Con: Slight risk of snagging your mainsheet
Pro: Shows sailor in cockpit and what’s ahead when sailing upwind
GoPro Stern Facing Forward Mount GoPro Stern Facing Forward Mount View
Side of Dolly
Pro: Can be used right-side up, or down
GoPro Side of Dolly Mount

Jon Deutsch
Races Lasers, PHRF boats and anything else he can find to race and usually has a video camera running. Check out his YouTube channel.

Kyle Martin
Races Lasers and makes a variety of tips and tricks videos on how to make the most of GoPro Cameras. Check out his tips on his YouTube channel.

Other YouTubers posting Laser footage:
laserinternational, ClaySails, DCSSInstructors, Districttwelvelaser, ericjpetersen1, GRSALaser, jondeusch5, kylemartin101, laserd8, LaserPerformance, LaserTrainingCenter, lightningfleet192, nalsalam, paigesailor, prsalaser, robsuhay, rwbeigel, SailProCameras, sdalin27, syelland100, ussailing2, wjsymes, xdlaser, zorgetbetty, 5FishBoy5, raffak1, GreatDaneLaser, pgihockey13, sailingshack, lasertouring, jonemmettsailing, eshedsailing

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J109 GoPro Post

Sunday afternoon we made a GoPro mount for the back of a J109 that I’ll be racing in next week at the Annapolis NOOD Regatta.

We took a 8′ white wood curtain rod, fit it in the flag pole and added a GoPro to the top of it.  I have yet to add a safety line and bungee tensioner to help keep it from bouncing around.  Look for video from this next week.

Here’s what it looked like:

Rear view

side view

And here’s the view:



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