Just A Last Minute Mast

It’s official… we’re (almost) off cruising again.

SV Kaiquest, our Jeanneau SO 43, is (almost) ready to set sail south to California. We’ve owned her for exactly the same amount of time we owned Hydroquest, so she – and we – are itching for new horizons and adventures.   

I’ve been trying to find time to get this blog rolling again… The first post was going to depict how excited we are to get down to San Francisco (woohoo!) and how smoothly these past few months of offshore preparation have gone. Perhaps I would’ve made things a bit meatier by recounting some of the cruising experiences we’ve had in our home waters,  an ode to the beautiful Pacific Northwest.  

But all that might have made for a bit of a lackluster reinstatement of this long dormant blog?

Ah, in the cruising life, you just wait a bit longer and good story is bound to come along… 


Our departure was set for the last weekend in July. Provisioning done, to-do list (almost) complete, bags packed, friends set to come meet us in Bamfield on the west coast of Vancouver Island for the passage south.

On a Friday, exactly one week before our anticipated blast off from Vancouver, Will takes a call outside our office from our local rigger, Pro-Tech Yacht Services, assuming just a perfunctory follow up on the rig inspection and tune from the day before.  The call lasts fifteen minutes.

Will has a strange smile on his face as he walks back in towards me. It’s a crooked smile, more of a smirk, really, and his face flushed. Oh no, I know this look… it can’t be good.

“Sarah. Kaiquest needs a new mast”.

I am dumbfounded. “You’re kidding, right?” Deep down, I know he is not.

For those non-sailors out there, this is like being told your airplane actually needs new wings as it taxis down the runway. Or you’re all set for a road trip across Europe when the bottom of your car falls out. A new mast is a bit of a problem.

He follows up with a kicker: “A new mast from France takes 6-8 months”.

Oh my god. 6-8 months? Shock turns to confusion. But we’re leaving next week; we’ve been preparing like crazy for months. Thousands of hairs on my arms bristle, the office starts spinning even though I’m still sitting down, my heart is pumping faster and faster out of my chest. Our dreams and plans unravel before my eyes. I need air.

We step outside and Will explains in fits and starts as we pace up and down the street. It all comes down to an inconspicuous bulge in the base section of Kaiquest’s mast. First of all, what bulge?! I certainly hadn’t noticed it before. Will had seen it a week earlier, but only registered it as a bit ‘weird’. Thank goodness the oh-so-subtle change in extrusion shape was spotted by the experts. After the rig inspection, Pro-Tech had sent a photo of said budge to the mast manufacturer (a contact at US Spars in Florida, which is part of group Z Spar in France) for confirmation.

The phone call had been to pass on a warning, direct from US Spars: essentially, ‘Do not let that boat set any sail. The mast is toast.’

I sit down on the side of the road, gasping to breathe like fish out of water. This is a worst-case scenario for a sailboat about to tackle the notoriously rough Washington/Oregon coast. Clearly we’re not going anywhere: no Golden Gate bridge, no Californian livin’, no sail up the Napa river, no promise of new horizons this year.

The culprit? Well, it turns out that the brutal winter came back to bite us again.

Kaiquest was frozen in her slip for a couple of weeks in January. The dock was an ice rink. Our bimini was almost ruined by a thick layers of heavy snow, and we kept three heaters going down below until March to make things marginally live-able. Yes, it was perhaps as true a Canadian winter as we West Coasters have experienced in years. Hence our fervid enthusiasm to sail south!

The natural seepage of water out of the bottom of Kaiquest’s deck stepped mast must have stopped – plugged? At some point gallons of rainfall filled the bottom of the mast with water, and then the long period of sub-zero conditions froze the water inside. The ice expanded the aluminum extrusion, changing the properties of the metal and forever weakening it. And all this near the base – the most critical load point.

Will’s cell phone rings and he puts it on speaker phone.

“You aren’t going to believe this,” Says Pip from Pro-Tech [and I paraphase]. “6-8 months just got a lot shorter. US Spars in Florida happen to have a mast in inventory for a Jeanneau 43 of your era. It was never sold in the USA due to some cosmetic anodizing marks, but it is OEM for your boat model exactly”

What! The odds of this are actually zero.

He continues: ”You are not going to believe this either. US Spars has a truck departing on Monday, bound for Lynnwood Marina in North Vancouver – to deliver a mast next door (literally) that was ordered back in March. The guys in Florida will go in over the weekend and work to get your new mast on that truck on Monday.”

A miracle, to say the least.

“Now would be a good time to buy a lottery ticket, you guys.”


So here we find ourselves, sitting at anchor up Indian Arm, a week or so past our original departure date.

Kaiquest is hanging out mast-less. She is strutting her stuff as a topless wanna-be powerboat for the weekend. Vancouver and its surroundings are currently blanketed in widespread smoke from raging forest fires in our province. It is all a bit eerie.

But overall, things feel positive: Our new mast made it onto the truck and arrived from Florida exactly on schedule. Insurance coverage has been confirmed. Pro-Tech pulled Kaiquest’s original mast and work is in progress to transfer over the spreaders, shrouds, lights, etc. to the new one. They are definitely ‘on it.’

The bottom line is that we hope to have the new mast stepped before the end of this week and be en route this weekend. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for us!

So, it’s turned into just a last minute – eleventh hour – down to the wire – crunch time  – MAST replacement, and our departure from Van will probably only be delayed by only two weeks?!

Yes. I feel this next voyage is clearly meant to be, and the adventure will continue…

The inconspicuous bulge

Now do you see it? Maybe?

Mast crane moves in place

Crane brings the mast over

My inspection

New Mast arrives!! Our two masts, side by side

My dad comes to check it out

Mast-less in a smoky Vancouver

Now there’s time to clean the bottom


11 thoughts on “Just A Last Minute Mast

  1. Penny Talbot says:

    congratulations on renewing your love affair with cruising! And it must be meant to be – otherwise how could the sea gods have supplied you with the exact right mast at the exact right time???
    Enjoy the trip south! one of my favourite parts of the trip south is cruising under the Golden Gate Bridge at sunrise. Spectacular! have fun and happy sails!


    • theKaiquest says:

      Yes, it has to be meant to be and we’ll be toasting those sea gods on the way south. I dream of at that sunrise – thanks for the inspiration and kind words! Cheers, Sarah.


  2. willedare says:

    What a beautiful boat! And how fortunate that wise eyes noticed this very inconspicuous bulge. Darn that water + freezing temperatures… And hurrah for the serendipity of your new mast arriving so swiftly!


  3. Anne & Pat Hurlburt says:

    Congratulations!! We’re delighted for you and will be following your adventures, looking forward to regular updates updates.
    “May the winds be fair and abaft of the beam”!!


  4. Patrick says:

    Man, to have to replace a mast that was still standing, and finding out so last minute – that’s crazy awful! I probably wouldn’t have thought of water sitting in the mast base and freezing. Guess that’s a hidden downside of deck stepped masts.
    Hope it gets done on time. Moving all that hardware over sounds like a lot of work.


    • theKaiquest says:

      Patrick, you’re right, it’s been a massive undertaking (but luckily not work we’ve had to do all by ourselves)! Of course there have been small differences and surprises, so it’s taken a few days longer than expected. Good news is that the Mast is being stepped today! Fingers crossed.


  5. Fran Lloyd says:

    Murray and I look forward to hearing about your new adventures. Strick it ( so to speak) and live your dreams!
    Thinking of you…..lots of love


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