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Eastport Pram Build #11: Step to Success…

One of the most sublime benefits of finishing the undercarriage of the boat (i.e. skeg & skids) is that now the damn thing will sit flat on its designed waterline. This means that now it’ll hold still so I can finish up the interior bits.

Now I can install the mast step underneath the forward thwart. First, I epoxied solid oak uprights to the laminated plywood (1/2″ thick) top. This supports the bottom of the mast, must withstand a tremendous amount of side-loading (shear) and be located precisely in the boat to create the 3° mast rake to give it that classic lug sail look and generate the proper amount of weather helm (important for proper sailing characteristics).

The “glue-up” of the mast step…

Mast step with all edges eased with 1/4″ round-over bit…

The mast step must be very carefully located beneath the mast partner in the forward thwart. Not only athwartships, but fore and aft. This is definitely a step (pun intended) that you need to get right the first time. There’s also no way to clamp it in place for a test fit. I ended up physically holding the mast in place while eyeballing the step to judge the angle. I also used a combination square to make sure the step was properly located. With a bit of trepidation, I did the whole mark, drill, fill, peanut butter, screw process. It was with an immense amount of satisfaction that I dropped the mast into the newly installed assembly and stepped back to observe the rake. Perfect!

Now in the interests of full disclosure, the forward thwart bulkhead that creates the flotation tank was about 2″ to far forward from the plans. This meant I had to tweak the dimensions of the mast step a bit so that it snugged up to the bulkhead. This is important as it’s another surface to help bear the load on the step, which gets loaded up in several directions during the course of a daysail. Once in place, a 1″ fillet was applied to all intersecting surfaces to strengthen the bond.

Properly locating mast step…

Mast step screws filled…

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