Of Masts and Men

‘There’s the boat!’ exclaimed the Sailing Fanatic, as we whizzed past the marina the other day. ‘I can see the mast!’

I peered through the car window at the hundreds of tall, shiny, silver sticks that mark out the marina for miles around, but could not see one with a big ‘This Is Your Boat’ flashing brightly upon it.

‘No, you can’t,’ I retorted. ‘They’re all the same.’

Apparently not. According to the Sailing Fanatic, our mast not only differs from all the rest in height, masterracksbd thickness and the type of ‘bits’ it has stuck onto the side, but it also has a very distinctive rake.

When appealed to later that night, my father-in-law (the Other Sailing Fanatic) agreed wholeheartedly.

‘A good two-foot of bend,’ he explained. ‘You can pick out the mast a mile away!’

Not me – but then I only know that our boat is our boat because it is the one moored at berth X200 in the marina. That and the fact that our key opens the hatch…

So I took a good look at the mast when we wandered down to the marina last weekend, partly to check out the rake, but mostly because we believe it to be the cause of rather a lot of water getting into the boat.

The mast is keel stepped, which means that it has been slid through a hole cut in the deck and, unless sealed properly, rain can seep through that hole into the centre of the boat.

It has rained a lot recently and, as we discovered when water started sloshing around the cabin a few weeks ago, it is definitely getting in somewhere. It seems to be collecting in a hidden pocket under the mast, too far for our (useless) bilge pump to have any effect.

But who needs a bilge pump when you have the Other Sailing Fanatic to hand! After a bit of head scratching he wandered off, only to reappear with an ancient Vax machine – you know, the sort that looks like an orange R2D2 and washes carpets as well as hoovers them. If anything was going to suck up the water, he claimed, this was the beast to do it.

He got caught lugging it aboard by our Very Tidy Neighbours.

‘Oh!’ said Mr VTN, ‘So you hoover your boat too! But we only use a little hand-held!’

The Other Sailing Fanatic grinned sheepishly.

‘You haven’t seen what we need to get rid of!’ he replied.

We waited until the VTN’s had gone before tipping our six Vax-fulls of water over the side.

A full investigation into the source of the leak then ensued. Chief suspect was the deck seal, but we also had suspicions that the water was getting in further up, through some of the rivet holes drilled to attach all the halyards, runners and other tweaky bits onto the mast.

But how to find out? An inspection was called for.

So I spent a strenuous half hour on Sunday winching the Sailing Fanatic up the mast. He was still dangling by the spreaders when our daughters arrived, full of excitement.

‘We saw you, Daddy!’ they called. ‘We could see you up the mast, from over in the car park!’

And there it was! The solution to my problem of mast identification!

I looked up at the Sailing Fanatic, swinging lazily in his Bosun’s Chair. He looked very comfortable.

‘Don’t even think it,’ he said.

Helen MacKenzie is a freelance writer. She contributes to the web site at The Sea Dreamer web site has articles, guides and news on sailing and cruising on the West Coast of Scotland.


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