Thursday, 23 March 2017

Mast maintenance

Most years Bonita's mast stays in place on the boat. I usually sandpaper and varnish it by hoisting myself up the mast in the bosun's chair, a simple device consisting of a plank of wood and a loop of rope. This definitely provides good exercise, but I worry that the varnish may not protect some of the places where the wire rigging lies against the wood.  About once every 5 years or so I get the mast lifted out by the yard crane to do the job properly. This was last done in 2012. We don't know how old the mast is but it must be over a hundred years old.

                                                          The mast under cover

The mast only just fits into our garage-cum-workshop. Its a tight squeeze to get it in and even more difficult to get it out again without damaging the new varnish. But it must do the mast good to be out of the winter weather for a couple of months.

All solid wooden masts seem to develop longitudinal cracks in them, running along the grain of the wood. These cracks don't appear to weaken the mast significantly but its a worry that they might let the damp in. The cracks need to be filled by a flexible filler that allows some movement without splitting the wood further.  No doubt there are modern synthetic compounds that can be used but the traditional filler for this is a mixture of beeswax and linseed oil. By heating them together in roughly equal quantities you get a useful filler that can be squeezed into place, can easily be varnished  and never completely hardens. After this it takes several tins of varnish before the mast is ready to be craned back in for the new season.