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Ask Sail: Misaligned Mast Track

I have a Cheoy Lee ketch, and the sail track on both wood masts has become misaligned. What is the best way to reattach the track? I plan on having the mast taken down when I have the boat hauled next month...
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Q:Pete, via sailmail@sailmagazine.com

I have a Cheoy Lee ketch, and the sail track on both wood masts has become misaligned. What is the best way to reattach the track? I plan on having the mast taken down when I have the boat hauled next month.

Don Casey Replies

The tracks are no doubt fastened to the masts with wood screws, and this is how you should reattach them. Once you remove the existing screws, do not reuse the holes, at least not with the same screws. You might be able to enlarge the holes in the track to a new shank size and those in the mast to the proper pilot size, and use larger screws in the same locations. Alternatively, you can shift the track up or down a bit to get sound wood for the new screws. Seal the existing holes with wood dowels glued in place.

If the track is the traditional “airplane” shape with the screws in the belly of the fuselage, use pan-head screws. If it is a flat track sitting on a separate spacer, the screws must be countersunk. In either case, a screw backing out will prevent you from hoisting sail—or worse, from lowering it—so take great care to make sure every screw is soundly installed. It is a very good idea to install an additional screw near the ends of track sections to keep the track from lifting at joints. Tandem screws on either side of track joints also help prevent future misalignments. Another way to maintain alignment is to file the ends of the track sections into a through tenon joint. This stabilizes each joint and, done well, virtually eliminates the risk of the sections getting out of alignment.

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