Do Not Deviate (Part 2)

If you have read this blog from the start, you know that I am a firm believer that if you want to get a project done on time and on budget then the best way to do this is not deviate from the designer’s plans.  As soon as you make a change to one little thing it causes a whirlwind of changes to the other things required to make the first thing work. I call it the Law of Compounding Changes. Another builder friend of mine calls it the Law of Compounding F&%$ups. Sometimes I think his is a more fitting description. In the end, after all the bugs are worked out of your system caused by your first “great idea” you have to ask yourself, was it worth it? More often than not the answer is no.  I believe this, but I am really bad at following it.

I’m lucky to have several friends in the area with sailboats with the vast majority of them being “trailer sailors”, West Wight Potter, Hobie Cat, McGregor etc. One thing you pick up pretty quickly when you are sweating on the ramp rigging your boat for launch is the faster you get in and out of the water, the more fun you have. My goal is to have the boat rigged and in the water in 15 minutes. To do this I had to make some changes. The original plans for the main mast on the pathfinder calls for a 5.4 meter (17.5 foot) aluminum main mast that is lifted up and inserted through a hole in the main deck and plugged into a mast step on the floorboards. I had already deviated by deciding to build a wooden mast, that adds weight.  Trying to maneuver a heavy 18 foot stick covered in sails and ropes on a windy ramp into a little hole in the deck does not sound like a fast or safe way to rig a boat. I had to figure something else out. I decided quite a while ago to build a birds mouth hollow spar (R&D August 2017) so I figured the problem would most likely work itself out as the main spar was built. Off to the table saw!

Table saw mast stave

The staves where milled out of douglas fir.

Main mast staves

The clamps held them tight while a whole bunch of glue was applied.

Main mast glued

The wiggly sticks were forced into shape

end shot

Straight enough!


With a power planer, block plane, and sanding tube it went from 8 sided to 16 sided, 32, and then finally round.

Main mast sleeve

A coat of glass later and the mast was done.  Now it was time to figure out how to rig it.

The traditional way to speed up rigging and striking the mast is to add a hinge at the deck line called a tabernacle. Here is a picture of a tabernacle on a CLC Pocketship I pulled from the web.


That looked like a decent place to start so it was off to the table saw to build a lower block for the hinge.

tabernacle block 1

I drew out the hinge and then cut a block of douglas fir to make a block to transition between the round mast and the square section tabernacle hinge.


Main mast on tree

The block was glued to the mast and wrapped in shrink wrap and staves to keep it straight. While this cured I set about designing the lower section of the tabernacle. It was during this time I came across something on the web that caused me to deviate from the deviation. I know, I’ll never get done at this rate.

So this is the final build.

Mast hinge

This is a mast hinge from Dwyer Mast ( It is the same part that my buddy Jason has on his West Wight Potter. I like this because it is low profile, easy to use, and I do not have to do any invasive modification to the structure of the boat. If this mod doesn’t pass sea trials all I have to do is make another mast, no harm will be done to the structure of the boat. I did make a white oak transition plate and glued it to the deck making sure it was level with the lines of the boat.

Mast hinge block

A compression post was necessary to transfer the load from the mast to the step block in the bottom of the boat.

Compression post

The result?

I attached the hinge plate to the bottom of the mast with 8″ stainless lag bolts installed wet with epoxy. I also reinforced the area with fiberglass to keep the wood from splitting out around the bolts. If this was a free standing mast I do not think it would work but since the mast is supported in three points by the stays I am hopeful the whole setup will last. I will report back once I get it out in the water. Until next time.




Raise the Mizzen!

Over the last several months, I’ve been working on multiple different parts of the boat at the same time. A lot of work has been accomplished but it makes it really hard to put out a readable blog post. I have finally arrived at a place where I can tell several complete stories about what has been happening since April. When I left you last, the floorboards were installed, the mizzen mast was round, and I had just chopped a giant hole in the back of the boat.

While this post is about completing the mizzen mast we are rapidly getting into the parts of the boat that were named by drunken sailors. Here is a quick guide for the odd and sometimes confusing language that sailors use to describe the parts of the boat. This is by no means a complete list, just a visual guide to get through the next several posts. Hope it helps!

Parts Explained

During my research on how to build a main mast I came across a video from Chuck from Duckworks Boat Building Supplies that shows how to coat wooden masts with fiberglass sleeves.  I really liked the idea of sleeving a mast so I gave it a try.


This is a poor picture of the fiberglass sleeve.


The sleeve grows and shrinks in length depending on the diameter that you are coating. I have a 1 7/8″ mizzen mast, I used 2″ fiberglass sleeve and I needed 1.5 times the length of the mast in fiberglass to completely cover the mast. Once the sleeve was on I wet out the glass with resin and wrapped the whole thing in shrink wrap to keep the glass tight against the wood. To let the excess resin out I made a little rotary poker tool and ran it down the mast.

Once the resin dried the shrink wrap came right off leaving an almost perfect surface for final sanding and varnish.


Sanding is fun; sanding is therapeutic (original quote taken from John Harris, CLC boats).

Mizzen fiberglassed and sanded


In trying to make a perfect surface for varnish I wound up sanding a little too much and cut into the fiberglass layers in a few spots. No harm done to the mast but I do have several white spots under the varnish. Fortunately you cannot see it from three feet away. Five coats of Total Boat spar varnish later:

Mizzen varnished

What do you do when you have a complete mast, boom, and sail?

Mizzen flying

Mizzen sail