Wednesday, July 8, 2009


Some of you may be wondering why it’s the beginning of July and I’m still going on about throw pillows and peeing in a bucket. Here we are, fiddling around at the dock, while sailing in the Southern Hemisphere gets steadily colder and more bracing. Low pressure systems are bouncing all over the charts like cats in a hot buttered skillet. And meanwhile, just to the north of us, Fiji’s got swaying palm trees , tropical sunshine, and a friendly military dictatorship ready to welcome us with open arms. So what’s the hold-up, already?

I can answer that question in two words: compression post.

Sereia’s mast, as you may recall, was installed by Taiwanese children who lived in an industrial sweat shop and didn’t get much time off to go yachting. As a result, they stepped the mast six inches forward of the supporting beam. The problem with this is that when Sereia is under sail—as she would be, say, when completing a 1,000-mile passage to Fiji—enormous pressure is exerted on the mast from the combined forces of wind and rigging. I’m no engineer, and I don’t know exactly how much pressure we are talking about. Lots and lots of pounds, though. More than you could lift.

And in the case of Sereia, that pressure is transferred to the deck, which consists of a very thin sheet of marine plywood, sandwiched between two relatively lame-assed layers of fiberglass. This is a very dangerous situation, one that could result in the mast smashing down through the cabin top, thousands of gallons of sea water surging through our home, and Sereia sinking to the bottom of the ocean. Which would be unpleasant.

If you’ve been following our adventures for some time now, you will remember that Peter solved this problem in 2005 by installing a steel compression post beneath the mast. We were particularly fond of this fix, because it had the twin virtues of solving our structural problem, and providing us with a stripper pole in the salon.

At the beginning of the cruise, the compression post was straight and strong. Designed in two pieces so as to incorporate the dining table, it kept us safe through 12,000 miles of ocean voyaging.

Here’s what it looks like now:

Not sure what the problem is? Let me help you with that:

Now that our crooked steel pole has roughly the same compressive strength as a cornflake, Peter’s been having Dad nightmares. Usually these involve the mast falling down on the baby, an unhappy scenario that also creates a hell of a mess. Clearly, the pole will have to be replaced. Peter is considering several options, such as using a solid length of wood, or retaining the same design, but with much thicker steel.

Thank God I’m not the captain. I’ve been having much better dreams. Like last night, for example, when I dreamed I was standing at the helm in nothing but a fishnet body stocking and a harness made of black webbing and stainless steel shackles.

Unfortunately for Peter, he’ll have to get us to the tropics before that dream can come true. Strange… I’ve never seen him so motivated in my life.


  1. Awesome visual, thanks for that! Is the current compression post hollow? How the heck did it get bent like that? Anyway Sereia is looking downright shipshape (but for that post ;) ) Enjoy Fiji, can't wait to get there myself!

  2. Man I feel your pain. After 3 months of intensive refitting our decks are almost done (no more leaky teak) and our number 2 cylinder is losing compression so we get to rebuild the motor. its always something.

    cheers and good luck!

  3. I would think that a one-piece compression post might be a bit more secure... harder to install the table, but if it comes down to a choice between the table and the cabintop...

    maybe cut a slot in the table and install it around the post.

  4. Not that I really know what I am doing but, have you considered using an old section of mast as a compression post? You might be able to scrounge one if you can find a wrecked mast laying around the yard.

    I just replaced the compression post on my cheoy lee project. The original had cracked thanks, in part perhaps, to the same Taiwanese craftsmanship. I just used steel and increased the diameter and wall thickness of the tubing. We shall see if that works...

    I'll also second the suggestion of a 1 piece compression post and a 2 piece table.

    Good luck.

  5. Obvious stripper pole abuse!

  6. Clearly the post is not designed for 110 lbs of solid lithe muscle swinging on it. Ya need thicker walls and, for effect, brass.

  7. should combine your passion for cooking and stripping.leave hubby and devilboy to straighten out the boat, go to japan,make a buttload of money (not everyone can prepare sashimi while spinning upside down naked)come back and buy a sailboat that doesn't do these things when your not looking.jefe moreno

  8. Having spent time in Fiji, I can't image it changing much from a crusiers perspective.

    5 months more and the Southern Hemisphere season turns. It is entirely plausible to head north in November to spend the summer season amoungst Fijian cyclone hiddie holes.

    In Whangarei you have nautical resources up the ying yang (so as to fix the strippers pole & toilet--basic necessities to be sure), access to 1st world medical resources and a stable base to plan your future moves.

    Why go into the teeth of winter? Those palm trees will still be there long after you & I are dust.

    However, perhaps you have a some jaunty, pithy response that sweeps away this reasoning like a broom. I hope so, 'cause it at those moments when you truly shine.