Mounting the mast seat

pat chapman

Willits biographer
I'm about to finish up rebuilding my 1957 OT 50-pounder that came to me set up for sailing. The mast seat was mounted directly to the inwales, but had long bolts with the dowel spacers underneath the seat, apparently to give the option of dropping the seat, if desired.

I like the lowered center of gravity by dropping the seat with spacers, but am concerned about the torque on it when sailing, if I do that. Did OT typically mount a mast seat directly to the inwales, or did they lower it with spacers as was done with standard seats? How typical was it for OT to use long bolts with the spacers under the seat? By the way, the build record for this canoe doesn't show sailing accessories, but they are definitely OT equipment. Perhaps this was all aftermarket and the owner just saved the dowels from the original seat.
My 1931 OT 50-pounder (not set up for sailing) has dowel spacers lowering the seats. I suspect that when the mast seat was installed, it was raised to be fastened directly to the inwales for just the reason you suspect -- to make the boat more rigid in the face of torque exerted by the mast. It was a good idea to put the dowel spacers under the seat -- saving them for the future, and saving the trouble of shortening the bolts or having to run the nuts up the full length of the bolts.

The 50-pounder is lightly built, and if you are planning to sail it, I would leave the seats up, fastened to the inwales.
My experience is that Old Town mast seats installed at the factory were typically bolted directly to the gunwales with short bolts and without spacers. The torque from the mast is significant especially in a lightly built canoe like the fifty pound model as Greg suggested. There is probably no harm putting it all back together as you found it saving the dowel spacers underneath the seat.

50 Pounder

I have a 1964 50 pounder that came to me rigged for sail. The sail rig did not show up on the build record either. It may not have been done by Old Town (the build record suggests a boatbuilder of sorts, may have bought the canoe originally and added the rig). The seat was bolted to the inwales. I think part of the issue is that there is no thwart behind the bow seat to help with the stresses too.

Pat - are you going to sail it? I am just curious about how the lightweight would perform. I took the rig and put it on another canoe speculating that it wouldn't have sailed that well. Also the ribs, planking, keel etc all seemed pretty lightly constructed vs those stresses:eek:. I do know the previous owner sailed it fairly often. There were some cracked ribs and planking near the step, but I could not definitely attribute the damage to sailing. Maybe more likely related to beaching it and hitting obstructions.

Thanks for the help with the mast seat, everyone. I'll be mounting my seat to the inwales.

I do intend to sail the canoe, that being the principle reason I bought it. I had it under sail for one weekend last May, and it sailed very well. At that time the canoe was in really sad shape with nearly all the ribs and planking cracked or broken, one inwale cracked, and the canvas replaced with 22 pounds of the most hideous gray fiberglass. I believe the damage was the result years of careless use in general, rather than having it under sail.

To bring this canoe back to life I've had to literally rebuild 90% of it. The only things original are the stems, ribs at each end forward of the stems, the seats, and sailing accessories! Because so many of the ribs are replacements the hull has rounded significantly, and I've had to add quarter thwarts to keep the sheerline true. Because of personal preference I've added 1/2 ribs, and not replaced the keel. The result is that it is probably a bit stouter than when it came from the factory, and I'm confident it can handle the stresses of the sail. I'll know more after I take it to the NW Chapter WCHA Fall Meet in a couple of weeks.

You can see me with the canoe on my head on page 16 of the last issue of Wooden Canoe!