The Diagnosis

A few days after the masthead of my recently purchased Rhodes Chesapeake suffered catastrophic failure, it was apparent my sailing season was over. Anxious to find out how extensively the mast would need to be repaired. I asked the gentlemen at Clark Boat Yard to haul her out and pull the mast.

I got a call a week later informing me that the mast was down and ready for me to come see. I rushed down to take a look. A quick Google search yielded that Clark Boat Yard had done extensive refits and repairs on wooden boats in their shop so I took solace in knowing that if anyone could fix it, they would be the guys.

When I arrived, I found one of the yard owners, Gary poking at the mast with his pocketknife, trying to determine where the wood was suffering from water damage. The serious look on his face told me I had a problem.

“You might need a new mast,” said Gary.

Any hope I had that this would be a quick fix sank like a rock.

He went on to explain that he thought the water damage to the masthead was extensive and that it might be cheaper to find a replacement.

If this were a cartoon, I would have been knocked down, sitting on butt, though instead of seeing Tweety birds, I would have seen seeing dollar signs circling my head.

He gave me the phone number of a local mast builder, Jim Titus who would be able to give me a second opinion and advice on what to do next. Following his advice, I contacted Titus who agreed to meet me at the yard later in the week to have a look at it.

Days, (that felt like years) later, arriving at the yard a few minutes early I walked over to the mast and noticed a member of the yard staff and Titus looking over to the mast. Unaware that I was walking up behind them, I noticed Jim look over at the man and make the sign of the cross. He was reading my mast its last rights.

“So you can fix her right up, right?” I asked, surprising them.

“Fraid not,” Titus responded.

He took out his own (much bigger) pocket knife and he began stabbing my mast less delicately than the yard owner had previously done. While I winced, Titus explained that there was water damage to the masthead, near the spreaders and the base. If I fixed the top, I would still be on borrowed time before the whole thing came down. Because of the simple rectangular shape of my mast, he explained that I might be better off building a new one or finding a replacement.

The two men wished me luck and left me alone to “say good-bye.”

Starring down at the broken mast with knife marks in it, I realized that boating was not going to be the relaxing past time I had envisioned.


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