) not an idiot and no, you haven't destroyed your boat.
I'll go out on a limb and say this is a common problem on vintage boats with deck-stepped masts and cored cabin tops. I had the same problem on my old Cherubini Hunter
, to the point that the cabin top cracked at the front edge of the mast step.
Can you/how to fix: It is DYI-able, and the advice given by other members so far is good.
My suggestions (based on my boat):
Topsides check the mast step and surrounding area for cracks. and cabin top penetrations like the wiring/connector for the mast lights and antenna
. You're looking for any way that water can get into the core
. You can sometimes tell by tapping on the area with a 'soft' (brass or hard plastic faced) hammer. It the sound you get is a sharp 'tap' you may be OK. If it is a dull 'thunk' or 'thud' it's probably wet. If you are OCD like me, you drill 1/4" holes under the mast step and around the surrounding area, checking for wet core
. If you don't find it GREAT!!! Inject thinned epoxy
into the holes to saturate the core as much as possible and "tighten up" the area where mast steps, then fill the holes, fair, and paint
If you do find wet core... you have some decisions to make.
1. Sell the boat. Yes, I'm serious. Repairs
of this nature may be beyond what you are capable of and can be expensive when done by the yard.
2. Live with it. But know you have lost
or will lose the structural integrity between the overhead and cabin top, and that it will, eventually crack in the area of the mast step.
3. Repair it. If you DIY
this can get pretty involved. It could be anything from drying out the area under the mast step and injecting epoxy
to removing a portion of the cabin top and replacing everything under the mast step (which is what I did on the Hunter
. if you want further details PM me. It's too lengthy to post here).
That said, you can also:
Add a compression post and maybe a beam. I made a post of 1-1/2" thick wall aluminum
tube, with 4"x 4" x 3/8" thick aluminum
plates welded to the ends. Plates had 1/4" countersunk screw holes in each corner, so it could be securely attached to the overhead and cabin sole
. Vent holes were also drilled in the center of the plates so pressure could escape from inside the tube during the welding process. I made a bearing beam that ran athwartships across the cabin top our of a scrap piece of cedar 4x4. It was a little putzy (lots of sanding
, fitting and sanding
some more) getting it to match the cabin top curve, but do-able.
Check under the sole where the compression post will sit. Make sure it is sound. If there is airspace beneath the sole where the post will sit, that has to be filled in for support so sole doesn't deform. Pressure treated scrap can be used, with the grain vertical is best (wood is has better compressive strength with the grain vertical). If the treated wood is dry (generally meaning a year or more old) I would epoxy the snot out of it (i.e. multiple coats or soaking) using thinned epoxy so it penetrates, paying particular attention to the end grain. That way it should last forever.
Installing the post and beam was a two-man operation. With the help of some duck-tape (the handi-man's secret weapon ~ credit to Red Green and our Canadian cousins), one person holds the beam in place. We then used a couple jacks and posts to apply pressure to the beam, until we could slide the post underneath. We "eyeballed" it plumb (the boat was in the water/doesn't sit level), removed the jacks and screwed the post to the beam and sole. The beam was not attached and stayed in place due to compression.