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Old 23-06-2016, 08:31   #1
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Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

I'm looking for a cruising sailboat and I came across this boat. Looks nice but then I noticed that it has a carbon fiber mast!? I don't think I've ever seen a cruising boat with a carbon fiber stick before, especially not something old and heavy like the Morgan 384.

It seems like this would be a liability in terms of maintenance/longevity and would perhaps make the motion a whole lot less comfortable (snap roll?). I'm sure it cost a fortune, but the way I see things it makes this boat a non-starter.

Would anyone see this as an advantage or is my analysis correct?
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Old 23-06-2016, 10:59   #2
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

I don't know a whole lot about carbon fiber masts, but that boat looks to be in great condition for the year/price.
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Old 23-06-2016, 11:42   #3
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

Tartan started doing carbon fiber mast 10-15 years ago on their boats. Not sure what the weight difference is between aluminum and carbon mast for the Morgan 384 so I do not know how it would cause the boat to snap roll. I don't think you will have any more maintenance from a painted carbon mast than an aluminum one. I think all boat eventually will have carbon spars.
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Old 23-06-2016, 12:01   #4
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

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Originally Posted by OrangeCrush View Post
It seems like this would be a liability in terms of maintenance/longevity and would perhaps make the motion a whole lot less comfortable (snap roll?). I'm sure it cost a fortune, but the way I see things it makes this boat a non-starter.

Would anyone see this as an advantage or is my analysis correct?
In terms of longevity it would depend on whether this is an upsized "cruising" carbon rig or a racing rig aggressively downsized. I'm guessing the former. If so it'll probably have better longevity and a lot less maintenance than an aluminum mast. You obviously don't suffer from metal fatigue like aluminum, if it's gel-coated it'll be zero maintenance, and if it's a cruising rig it should be a great deal stronger than the stock aluminum mast would be for the boat. It'll also be a bit stiffer and probably hold your sail shape a little better.

In terms of performance it's only a win. The rig will be significantly lighter, so it'll help stability and reduce pitching in a seaway. The ride will be better with a lighter rig. You'll feel worse about running heavy LMR-400 cable up it though (even if you actually have more weight margin to play with).

The only thing to watch for with carbon is that carbon + steel (including stainless) + salt = electrolysis big time. You need to make sure no steel fittings are in direct contact with the carbon or they'll rot to pieces. Use titanium, or make sure an insulating material (e.g. epoxy) is in between the two. I had the clew and tack rings on my carbon genoa's dissolve from the inside out because they were in contact with the carbon threads. Just wrapping the new ones in leather solved that problem.
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Old 23-06-2016, 13:05   #5
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

A carbon mast has a few fairly minor concerns beyond an AL one. Cruisers often do some rigging changes after doing some crossings to improve sail handling. You can't just drill some holes and stick something onto a carbon stick. Carbon masts are susceptible to significant lightening damage. You can cure this with insurance, but the insurance companies will probably charge for the service. The rigging on this boat is apparently a mix of rod and wire. The rod is pretty close to or beyond its use-by-date. Rerigging rod while cruising is more of a challenge than wire.
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Old 23-06-2016, 13:39   #6
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

Its obviously not original so would inspect the size, installation and rigging closely. But other than that there shouldn't be any real issue. Its a nice boat. I bet he spent as much on the stick and sails as he is asking for the whole boat.
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Old 23-06-2016, 15:18   #7
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

I would always choose a carbon rig over aluminium. Weight for weight the carbon is worlds stronger, reduces rigging loads, weight, tension on the hull, motion, etc. standing rigging attachment to carbon masts is a pretty well understood issue, isolation isn't difficult or tricky.

The one issue I can see is that it may cause to to spend money on performance sails, and then decide to start racing... The cycle can be problematic.
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Old 23-06-2016, 17:34   #8
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

Couldn't find the listing for the Morgan 384 so don't know the price. Had some issues with the mast on my Pearson 35 and thought about sourcing a carbon stick. Got a quote around $20,000 for the mast from a NZ company. Not a lot of money for a new stick given the marine industry. Probably won't go for it unless my rich uncle comes through as that was about 2/3rds of the value of the boat. Wouldn't be that bad for M384 as they seem to be around $50,000 on the market. The earlier 382 and 383 are about 10 boat units cheap.

The reason I was entertaining Carbon is wanted better light air performance. The boat is a centerboard so isn't as stiff as a deep keel boat. Wanted to add 4' to the mast without adding weight aloft. Boat is super easy to reef from the cockpit so not a problem maybe having to reef earlier.

Carbon is way stronger than aluminum as well as being lighter so it's also a safety factor. A one design fleet in SF Bay was having problems losing sticks. They went to Carbon Fiber masts and the problem was solved with a lighter weight rig.
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Old 24-06-2016, 09:08   #9
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

Having had 3 boats with carbon masts, I have yet to find a downside. Electrolysis over a long period is the problem already mentioned, and although the spar maker will have taken care, any after-market additions may not be so well thought-through. This boat appears very well cared-for, so I would be surprised if such a basic point had been missed.
The unmentioned bonus is that they are much quieter than aluminium spars and in a rolling anchorage, that is a big plus.
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Old 24-06-2016, 09:55   #10
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

Only a very well solid built old boat can afford it


Anything lesser will get squeezed

Tensioning is much higher with CF
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Old 24-06-2016, 10:07   #11
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

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Only a very well solid built old boat can afford it


Anything lesser will get squeezed

Tensioning is much higher with CF
Not so sure about that IMHO. You certainly could squeeze the boat to death but why? For sure, race boats put very high tensions on the shrouds, but that is for a specific purpose which doesn't follow through to the boat in question. You have I suspect, less requirement for shroud tension than with alloy spars (the carbon stick being stiffer) provided the rigging is adjusted properly, by which I really mean the diamonds. After all, multihulls using carbon spars usually have very low shroud tensions.
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Old 24-06-2016, 17:14   #12
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

See if you can find out who supplied the rig and contact them. I'm sure they could give an informed opinion on its it's original design criteria.

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Old 24-06-2016, 17:21   #13
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

A very large catamaran nearby was hit by lightning recently. The VHF antenna took the hit and the cable turned to fluff. Where it exited the carbon mast or where other wiring exited, the carbon fibre disintegrated.

I understand that the mast is now a throw away item. The boat requires complete rewiring.

The issue is not that carbon does or does not work, but rather what happens when things go wrong.

My own view is that if the technology has not had ten years of successful use, avoid it. The ocean is not very forgiving.

Plus you could cruise for a year or two for the price of a carbon mast.
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Old 24-06-2016, 17:57   #14
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

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Originally Posted by billgewater View Post
A very large catamaran nearby was hit by lightning recently. The VHF antenna took the hit and the cable turned to fluff. Where it exited the carbon mast or where other wiring exited, the carbon fibre disintegrated.

I understand that the mast is now a throw away item. The boat requires complete rewiring.

The issue is not that carbon does or does not work, but rather what happens when things go wrong.

My own view is that if the technology has not had ten years of successful use, avoid it. The ocean is not very forgiving.

Plus you could cruise for a year or two for the price of a carbon mast.
I have seen aluminum masts destroyed by lightning strikes, and I know of carbon masts that have been hit and were fine. So what does that mean?

My insurance company doesn't charge more for carbon masts so my bet (and theirs) is that they are no more likely to be damaged than an alumini mast.
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Old 24-06-2016, 20:58   #15
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Re: Carbon fiber mast on a cruiser?

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I have seen aluminum masts destroyed by lightning strikes, and I know of carbon masts that have been hit and were fine. So what does that mean?

My insurance company doesn't charge more for carbon masts so my bet (and theirs) is that they are no more likely to be damaged than an alumini mast.
I've seen a lot of boats that were hit by lightening while in Central America. None of them required an AL mast replacement. What was destroyed on the AL masts that you saw?
After a known strike how do you tell if a carbon mast has not been damaged?
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