Richmond VA

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.

Rigged

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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