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Old 29-08-2012, 12:19   #1
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Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

I am beginning my foray into boat selection for eventual cruising offshore. I like the layout and design of late 70's Ericson 35's, which have a deck-stepped mast. Taking into account that I am not an engineer, in theory a keel-stepped mast seems as though it would be more robust... am I correct? Obviously there are many factors that contribute to a solid rig that will stand up to the stresses of bluewater cruising, but if I can get a few specific criteria in line it will make my search that much easier.
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Old 29-08-2012, 12:30   #2
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

Properly done, and maintained, either approach is fine. I've seen more maintenance issues with deck stepped masts (in general, not specific to the E35).

Very careful inspection of the deck area where the mast is stepped is important and should certainly be part of the survey. Any signs of compression or distortion here is a bad thing.

If keel stepped, careful inspection of the plate, and the fittings securing it, where the mast rests in the bilge is very important. Often these are exposed to bilge water and I've seen some bad corrosion issues...inlcuding almost total wasting of the bolts securing the plate.

Ericson made some great boats!
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Old 29-08-2012, 12:34   #3
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

Both are suitable. I would not let whether the mast is keel or deck stepped be a determining factor as to which boat to buy. Many robust boats are deck stepped, many robust boats are keel stepped. Usually the rigging on a deck stepped mast is heavier than keel stepped.

I have one of each. When un-stepping masts it's always easier with a keel stepped boat, un-do the rigging and the mast won't fall over. Can't do that with the deck stepped, have to make sure the mast is on the crane before letting the rigging go.

With deck stepped no water comes into the cabin from the mast. Keel stepped you always get a bit. If you get dismasted the keel stepped might tear away part of the coachroof, no problem like this with deck stepped. Six of one and half a dozen of the other.
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Old 29-08-2012, 13:34   #4
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

i own one of each--fin/spade/deck stepped sloop, and a full keel, keel stepped ketch. i cruise the ketch. easier to jury rig a sail to a remaining bit of mast on a keel stepped boat than to patch a 3 ft hole in cabin roof and try to make a place for a sail to function on a deck stepped boat. stuff happens.
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Old 29-08-2012, 14:04   #5
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

It is the rigging that supports a mast, not the hole in the boat. I prefer a deck stepped mast for a number of reasons.
1. Takes up less space below, the mast section is much bigger than needed at the base to provide vertical support, a small I beam can do the same in less space.
2. You can make a support with two columns and a cross beam to leave the center aisle of the boat uncluttered.
3. You can step and unstep the mast without having to hire a crane.

A minor disadvantage is the in-mast wiring has to be terminated up on deck where it can get wet.
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Old 29-08-2012, 14:14   #6
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

Both of the masts on our ketch-rigged Contest 48 are deck stepped and I like it that way. It keeps the masts bases easy to inspect and our bilges stay completely dry. Heaven forbid that we should lose our main mast but our mizzen is of significant size that it would still drive the boat in the event of a catastrophe.

From a purely anecdotal perspective, I have seen more maintenance issues with keel-stepped masts.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 29-08-2012, 14:47   #7
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

having just finished repairing my keel stepped mizzen, which is actually stepped 2 1/2 ft below level of keel and 2 1/2 ft above the keel, i find i am liking these keel stepped boats much more than my deck stepped ericson. is not difficult to do maintenance on a keel stepped mast--is not difficult to replace a def3ective mast boot to keep out invading water--i just did that for my masts--was easy. now my mast boots are fully protective. no leaks milady..LOL
deck stepped masts for cruising are difficult whan something happens to break mast--will come out of deck taking some deck with it. there is a dish under deck stepped masts that tears holed in decking, big time. this dish needs to be replaced occasionally.
having researched many years the difference and the faults if each, i trust my life to keel stepped masts. no leaks milady..LOL--is awesome.
the pix of the deck stepped masts i viewed while researching did a good job of causing my liking for deck stepped masts to cease.
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Old 29-08-2012, 14:54   #8
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

I find most of the water coming in from keel stepped mast is not from the boot but from the masthead or where the halyards come out.
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Old 29-08-2012, 14:57   #9
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

mine are wood and do not have that problem. masthead is not open
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Old 29-08-2012, 14:58   #10
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

I have had each and prefer the deck stepped mast for reasons already stated.

But it wouldn't be part of my boat decision unless 2 boats were under consideration and they were neck and neck; in which my gut would probably decide before my brain thought of the mast stepping.
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Old 29-08-2012, 15:16   #11
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

as i already stated, i have one of each and i prefer the cruising with keel stepped, as crossing oceans is difficult enough without problems with mast and step thereto.
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Old 29-08-2012, 15:31   #12
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

Properly done, a deck stepped mast is preferable to me. ... and if you are one of those "ultimate storm" worriers... it'll be easy to scuttle after you pitchpole!! :>)
There should be no wires terminated above deck with a deck stepped mast.
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Old 30-08-2012, 19:11   #13
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vasco View Post
...
I have one of each. When un-stepping masts it's always easier with a keel stepped boat, un-do the rigging and the mast won't fall over. Can't do that with the deck stepped, have to make sure the mast is on the crane before letting the rigging go.
...
Having also had both (and currently have both on the same boat) my comment on above:
On my deck stepped mast I could de-rig everything except the four lower shrouds which supported the mast very well until rigged up to lower the mast. Then taking mast off was much easier than trying to pull it up through a hole in the cabin top without damage.
Also, I don't think I would just have my keel stepped mast just waving about supported only by the hole in the cabin top. Just does not seem designed to provide lateral support without possible damage (mostly to interior wood trim). This at least seems true on my boat (although never tried it to see).

So, my opinion is opposite: I think much easier to un-step a deck stepped mast.

I would not base a purchase decision on a boat having a deck-stepper versus keel-stepped mast however (they both have their advantages).
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Old 30-08-2012, 19:37   #14
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

Unstayed, so the decision is moot: keel stepped. But I have been thinking about improving, and at the moment the design is for extended mast partners, tubes sticking up 4' from the deck. That way the penetration is up away from most of the water washing across, and the fulcrum is further from the keel-step. The actual contact point at the partners can also be much more substantial than a narrow ring. Also means I can avoid mounting anything directly to the mast, so less stress points. And finally, the extension protects that critical lower 4' of mast from dings. Have to see how it works, but the concept is very appealing. Unstepping....probably never! Restricts me from going under bridges unless they're very high, but I don't want to go to those places anyway. If I have to, I'll take the dinghy.

For the small boat, unstayed dipping/standing lug yawl, with matched mast steps so the mizzen can take the place of the main in case it breaks, and two mainmast steps in case I rig without the mizzen. Boomkin and Bowsprits detachable, everything fits in the boat under the cover. Perfect little beach cruiser. Or lifeboat, though that is the very last option. No squealing for help just because the ocean tried climbing aboard or the electric toothbrush shorted out.

Going unstayed appeals so much because it is so simple and reliable. It would take some major stupidity on my part, or a spectacular pitchpole or 360 capsize, or a rundown from something big going fast, to deprive me of masts. More likely they'd bend, in which case I'd have two new and interesting question-mark shaped wingmasts to rig. The little boat being ply might suffer worse, but again only from something real dumb. Much more reassuring than wondering which of the dozens of fittings or wires might pop sometime and see me immobilised.
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Old 08-09-2012, 20:38   #15
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Re: Keel-stepped or Deck-stepped Mast?

One of the reasons for a deck stepped mast is that it doesn't tear up the meat partners and create holes in the deck like a keel stepped mast can. Think Zehag has got it backwards. Can go with a slightly lighter extrusion with a keel stepped mast which gets racers all hot but largely immaterial to a cruiser. It's the wires that hold up the stick. Lose an upper shroud or stay and you'll be left with a stubby mast whether it's deck or keel stepped. Lose one or two lowers on the same side and you'll most likely lose the whole stick, once again, whether it's keel or deck stepped. Aluminum is very unforgiving if it's allowed to go out of column. As long as the shroud angles, wire size and chainplates are properly designed, both keel and deck stepped masts will work just fine.
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