C'est la Vie is a 1966 Charlie Morgan 34.

Her home port is Everglades City, FL. Our typical cruising area is Southwest Florida, the Florida Keys, the Southeastern Atlantic Seaboard, and the Bahamas. We are C'est la Vie's third owners and purchased her in 2005. We continue to maintain and update this classic vessel. Please post any questions or comments about C'est la Vie or our travels via the comment links below.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What is hidden in your mast?

The newly fabricated compression post arrived late last week.  The 3 1/2" stainless steel pipe capped with a 1/2" thick stainless steel plate certainly appears stout.

We were surprised by small diameter, approximately 1", tubing that is meant to pass all our mast wiring through the plate an into the boat.  Only 1"?  The wiring for all the lights on the mast consisted of seven 12 guage wires housed in a 3/4" section of flexible conduit.  Add to this the oversized VHF coaxial cable plus the new NMEA cable and we realized replacing the old electrical wiring in the mast is the only option.

Thanks to the efforts of the previous owner all of the wiring in the mast runs through a 2" section of PVC.  The  PVC pipe is riveted to the mast.  Running the wiring through the pipe eliminates wires slapping the inside of the mast, reduces the risk of wires chafing, and greatly eases the addition of new wiring.

Anne and I converted all the mast head, steaming, and deck lights to LED a couple a years ago.  The low draw of the LED bulbs allows us to reduce the gauge of the wire running up the mast. We decided to run separate sections of 16 gauge, 3 strand wire.  One wire to the mast head lights and a separate wire to the steaming/deck lights at mid mast.  Fortunately Barbour's Marine Supply in Beaufort had a 100' spool of 3 strand, 16 gauge boat wire.  By lunchtime we had made our assessment and had all the supplies in hand.

Since fishing wire or rope through the mast is always a two person job, I elected to move on this project while Bud was  visiting.  We disconnected all the wiring and attached messenger lines to the wires at the masthead and midway up the mast.  Pulling out the existing wire and messengers should be easy, remember the PVC pipe that serves as a conduit through the mast?  Bud took station at the base of the mast and pulled the wire with such force that the mast began to slide across the saw horses.  What?  We did not wish to damage the new NMEA cable or the VHF coax with our struggle to purge the old wiring.  We attached additional messenger lines to the NMEA and the VHF cables.  With a little difficulty midway through the mast were retrieved the NMEA cable.  The large VHF cable gave more struggle than the NMEA the wire, but finally pulled through the masthead.   Now with no additional wiring left in the mast to damage we returned to the bundle of electrical wires.

I grasp the spreader mounts to keep the mast in place.  Bud heaved on the wires.  After a brief game of tug-o-war the wires released.   With ease  the remaining seven wire bundle, towing two messenger lines, slipped free of the base of the mast.  And to what should our wondering eyes behold?

A woven wire Chinese finger trap of a device used in industrial settings to pull wire.  This definitely explains why we struggled to pull additional cables through the PVC conduit.  Now we are home free!

But, wait - where is the masthead messenger line?
You tied it off right?
I thought you tied it off!
Well you were working up there!
@*&%, break out the fish tape.

"If there is a will there is a way", and we were successful in re-threading the new wire through the masthead.  The other wires all had messenger lines in place and installed easily.  By days end we had rewired and tested  a new mast head tricolor/anchor light, the steaming light, and the deck light.  We also tapped the attachment screws for the Garmin wind indicator on the mast head, re-installed the NMEA cable, and re-installed the VHF coax cable.  Thanks for your assistance Bud.

Here is an image of the current state of the masthead.

The hole in the mast with two lager rivets on either side is the attachment point for the removable inner stay. In the background is our growing pile of salvageable metal.  This pile now includes the lower mast section; the boom; and, the latest addition, 350 feet of 12ga braided copper wire.


  1. We love reading your blog. Please keep up the great work. Over the summer we bought a new Garmin Wind indicator also. It's still in the box waiting on our return to the boat next month.

  2. Gremlins Hammer, Thanks for the encouragement. Always good to know others are enjoying the updates. We enjoy reading your blog as well and are looking forward to you both returning to Gremlin's Hammer so we can learn from your ongoing boat projects.