Every couple of weeks, usually towards the end of the day, we get a windsurfer walking up to the center desperate to get a few strong hands together to help him with his mast that just wont come apart.
Storing a full length mast or driving around with one is a nightmare. On top of this we usually don’t find out about the stuck mast until we are going to head home at the end of the day which is usually when there are less people left to help us on the beach.
Why does it get stuck?
Before we put the two pieces together, grains of sand and dirt can get on the surfaces where they join. When we try to get them apart after a session on the water we notice that they are stuck. Even if we put the mast together completely clean, in the water there is sand, mud and dirt which gets in through the slot where they connect.
The best solution is preventing the mast from getting stuck in the first place. We do this by keeping the shaft and the inside of the mast clean, prefferably with soapy water and a clean cloth right before putting it together. Once the two pieces are together, put duct tape (or equivalent) over the point where they join. This will prevent any sand getting in on the water.
NOTE: I have no experience with camber sails but from what I have read this duct tape solution doesn’t work for cam sails. Check out Rogers post towards the end.
To get the mast unstuck
That’s all nice to know but what if you already have the problem? That is probably why you are reading this post in the first place. Well, do not dispair, there are a couple of tricks that you can apply.
Puring soapy water or oil over the opening and letting is settle in a little bit can loosen all the dirt inside. In order to get it as far in the mast as possible, bend the mast in various directions so that the liquid can seep in properly. You will properly have to do this a couple times.
Bending the mast
To bend the mast, find two points that are a little bit elevated and bounce the center of the mast as much as you can. After 15 minutes of this you can give it another try.
Two booms of doom
Another sneaky solution is to attach a boom on each side of the joint and to use the extra lever to turn the pieces in opposite diretions. This techique is criticised as it is said to possible damage the mast. Therefore the next method is suggested.
Tug of war
Get as many strong hands onto each side of the mast as you can find and have everyone turn the mast ends in opposite directions (as in each side turing clockwise or both anti-clockwise). If it doesn’t work in one direction don’t immediately dispair. Try out turning it in the other direction for a couple of senconds and switch back to the other side and alternate a few until it comes apart. Usually 3 or 4 attempts will do the trick if not less.
As a fun anecdote, my dad once won a crate of bubbly on a bet that he could get a mast apart. To be fair he had 28 windsurf teacher apprentices who all got together, fitting as many hands on the mast as physically possible and after two attempts of everyone turning counter-clockwise and them clockwise they finally got it apart to the crunching of sand grains.
There have been heaps of discussions on forums providing ideas and suggestions. In one they talk about the “Sword in the Stone” (of King Arthur) equivalent of masts. Another one that is interesting is to fill the mast top with water from a hose.