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Life Threatening Part Substitutions

When I ascended the mast in July, 2000 I only expected to tighten some screws on the Profurl extrusions that make up our genoa furling system. But it became clear that something was very awry from the rust stains that were greeting me at the top.

Backstay pins on Prout Escale catamaran

These two rusty pins hold our two backstay toggles to the mast. The Prout Catamarans' mast and spar supplier (ZSparUK) only encloses 316 or 304 stainless pins with their mast heads. As the mast was stepped by Prout Catamarans in America, it is entirely clear who we can thank for this braindead installation. Presumably Prout employees must have lost the 14mm pins en-route to the US and someone made a hasty substitution so that the mast could be stepped for the Miami boat show. At least the stainless steel washers are probably right. Note: Both ends of all masthead pins feature the same cotter pin and washer combination which is not typical of ZSpar (they use a pin with one swaged end, see below).

Forestay pins on Prout Escale catamaran And here is the pin that holds our forestay. The corrosion on the present pins has progressed to a point where they are blooming with rust, uniformly covered with little brown corn flakes. Does it ever end?

I consider this example of substitution to be criminal - it puts lives at risk. While the mast has not come down and killed anyone, we aren't circumnavigators either and can choose the weather we sail in. Others might not have been as fortunate.

As usual, inquiries to Prout Catamarans got the run-around. Customer Representative Gail Monk initially tried to shift the blame to Z-SparUK, which supplies pre-assembled masts to Prout. Ever more galling, Prout Catamarans refused to pay for the mast pull and pin substitution, even though the fault was clearly with them as the builder, regardless of whether the pins were defective as delivered by ZSparUK or not.

I suppose this is yet another instance of "excellent" customer service explaining why Prout is no longer around. Is Broadblue going to be a better company? The fact that Rob Underwood is the MD there does not fill me with confidence.

Extracted Masthead pins from Prout Escale Catamaran

Above is a picture of the three masthead pins after extraction. Note how there are three distinct "smooth" spots on each one. This is where the pins were covered and confined by the masthead.The rougher surfaces around the three sections were either external to the mast (cotter pins) or the bearing surface for the stainless stay toggles (see picture below)

Detail of Extracted Masthead pins from Prout Escale Catamaran

The detail of a pin above illustrates how much the pin had degraded by the time we extracted it. Naturally, we wonder about the material properties of the plain steel pin that Prout had used. Even in a non-degraded state, would it have been as strong as it was expected to be?

Below is a 14mm replacement pin with its washers and the cotter pin from ZSparsUK. Note the different geometry and the fact that this is a stainless pin.They're certainly the least expensive part of the repair. Removing the Prout-installed pins took a lot of persistence, creeping oil, and skill. We were very lucky: Neither the pins nor the removal process had damaged the Aluminum masthead. Thus, we did not have to throw away the masthead - Yay!

Actual Z-Spar pin for Prout Escale catamarans

Installing the new pins was very easy. Note the liberal use of Tef-Cel to prevent Aluminum degradation found elsewhere in the rigging. The bearing surface for the toggles was also covered with a heavy grease to minimize friction.

Stay Pins in Mast

Best Estimate of Time Required:
Ascend Mast, Document 2 hours
Correspond w/ZSpar, Prout 8 hours
Order Correct Replacement Parts 0.5 hours
Take Down Mast 8 hours
Remove/Replace Masthead Pins 4 hours

Total 24.5 hours