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Most first generation Bristols have deck stepped masts and the steps are constructed in the same way. Starting from the exterior cabintop and working down, the steps begins with an aluminum shoe (which can be replaced from RigRite or from Metalmast Marine, if you need to replace it) that is screwed to an exterior. The brace is glassed and gelcoated as a part of the exterior of the boat. Under the gelcoat the brace is solid mahogany with a mild steel plate. There is no balsa coring in this area of the cabintop—simply hardwood thru the surface of the cabintop. This brace forms the top of an arch; the two legs of the arch being the two vertical frames of the head doorway. These vertical frames are 4x4 solid mahogany that extend down to a fiberglass pan that consititutes the cabin sole. Under the pan will be two wood supports that brace the underside of the pan to the top of the encapsulated keel.
The maststep structure is very sound on most of the old first generation boats—if anything the whole structure is overbult for the amount of stresses involved. There is one area of concern that should be checked:
masthead of most of the older boats is open, allowing rain to run down the
inside of the mast and accumulate at the base. The water here can work its way
under the rubber seal for the electrical plug and seep down into the wood
brace. To check to see if water has
leaked past the plug:
Step1: Look for dark brown streaks around the aream of the fiberglass overhead in the vicinity of the head door (the streaks are caused by the mild steel plate in the mast step brace rusting.
Step 2: Remove the #10 oval head screws from the wood trim in the vicinity of the head door and see if the threads are rusted.
To prevent additional water from seeping into the maststep, drill a drain hole at the aft end of the mast even with the top of the shoe to let any accumulated rain water escape. Alternately and a better, albeit more expensive solution is the have an enclosed masthead built for your mast.
There are certain signs of movement in the maststep support system.
1. Spyder cracks in the gelcoat around the support brace on the cabintop. Look for a problem with the support brace.
2. Spyder cracks in the gelcoat of the floorpan around the forward or aft edge where the sole meets the forward or aft head bulkheads. Look for a problem with the supports under the floorpan that tie the support arch verticals to the keel.
3. Head door not closing or opening properly when the boat is hard on the wind and the rigging is under stress. You have a problem somewhere.