Contessa 26 Tech Notes

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Askew's Mast Step Support Beam

By Kent Ross

Before, with Main Bulkhead Removed
Mast Step 1

When I purchased ASKEW my 1970 Contessa 26 I was concerned with the attempt someone had made to strengthen the mast step. It appeared that the fiberglass stiffener that the main bulkhead screws to had cracked in the middle due to the compression load of the mast. They had attached aluminum plates to either side and through bolted them, it looked rough, and to make it worse they had taken a black marker and written “Watch Your Head” across it.

Now this might pass muster on some ships, but not on Mine. After some careful thought I decided to make a laminated beam and install it on the back side of the main bulkhead to support the mast compression load better.

Step 1- remove the main bulkhead and hanging locker, make a cardboard template of the underside of the deck
Step 2- Build a laminating form, rip up some oak lumber into ½”x3” stock
Step 3- Laminate beam using oak strips, epoxy, and lots of clamps (had to be done 2 or 3 laminations at a time letting the epoxy set up before adding more) there were 6 laminations in total, giving a finished size of 3”x3”
Step 4- Fitting, after reinstalling the main bulkhead, and trimming the tops of the vertical posts to allow the beam to sit tight against the forward face of the plywood, I spent quite a bit of time sanding the beam to a perfect fit with a belt sander
Step 5-With the beam fit into its place I drove three long stainless screws through the fiberglass stiffener from the aft side into the beam, to temporarily hold it in position.
Step 6- Cut the corner of the hanging locker bulkhead to accommodate the beam
Step 7- Add 4 teak knees that were made to purpose from scraps, making sure that the beam is tight to the bottom of the deck. (I used a hydraulic jack and great care to make sure that it was tight)
Step 8-Varnish to taste.

The loose wires are after I took the Radar out at the end of the season and are usually fastened up in a corrugated plastic conduit.
Mast Step 2

In addition because the former owner had botched the job and severely marked up the fiberglass stiffener that was visible from the main cabin I opted to cover it up with a couple of pieces of teak also supported by made to order teak knees screwed to the main bulkhead.

After a little bit of varnish it looks great, And more importantly is immensely strong. After a season of sailing I hardly have to adjust the rig, it just doesn’t slacken up very much (before this improvement it had to be adjusted several times per year)

Looking aft from the head, beam extends the complete width of the cabin Mast Step 3

Quite an improvement – Looking forward from main cabin
Mast Step 4