sunfish hull autopsy

this is a guest post from Alan Glos ( – an excellent resource for various Sunfish parts & supplies. he posted the same story & pictures at the Sunfish Forum.  I am re-posting it here with his permission.


Warning! The following post contains text and images that may be disturbing to some Sunfish aficionados. Viewer discretion is advised.

Autopsy results. A deceased, Sunfish sailboat, hull number AMF32630M751 (hereafter referred to as M751) was examined on 8/13/13 to determine cause of death. The owner stated that he and his wife had purchased the boat second hand and sailed it once in a 20 mph northwest wind on a lake in Upstate NY, and minutes into the ill fated voyage, a distinct cracking noise was heard and the mast sagged forward. They limped back to shore, sold the hull to a local boatwright (of questionable repute) and eventually transferred the rig to a new hull.

Gross examination revealed a 38-year-old hull, white with blue coaming and red, white and blue deck stripes. Other than the aformentioned mast hole failure and cracked deck, M751 was in otherwise good health and seaworthy.

Incisions were made in the deck at several points using a Makita 4” angle grinder with a 3/16” cut-off blade.


Internal organs were removed and examined and determined to be in overall good, seaworthy condition. The following organs were harvested:

  • One full set of hull and cockpit aluminum trim
  • One coaming (blue)
  • One plastic cockpit bailer assembly (a transplanted organ for the original DePersia aluminum bailer)
  • One mainsheet swivel cleat
  • One mainsheet, 3 loop bridle with deck eyes
  • One stainless steel external gudgeon bracket with matching internal back-up plate and stainless mounting screws
  • One brass deck drain assembly
  • One bow handle (slightly pitted)

With the permission of the owner, these organs will be placed in the local organ bank to be made available (at a price) for transplant.

Cause of Death: Examination of the external mast hole and the internal mast step revealed catastrophic failure at the base of the mast step and the keel possibly due to birth defect aggravated by high wind conditions at the time of M751’s untimely demise.


Close examination of the area between the mast tube base and the keel revealed inadequate fiberglass and resin resulting in fore and aft movement of the mast tube assembly.


Had the hull been newer and in better overall health, surgery involving a total mast step reconstruction could have added years to M751’s life, but it was deemed to be economically infeasible. Life support was suspended and a full part-out procedure was elected.

The remains minus the harvested organs were interred in the Madison County Landfill in the Town of Lincoln.



4 Responses to “sunfish hull autopsy”

  1. 1 pandabonium August 26, 2013 at 2:48 am

    Oh, man, that is gruesome! May it rest in peace (in pieces). Namo amida butsu.

  2. 2 D Keep August 28, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Speaking as an autopsy pathologist, that is a pretty good autopsy report!

  3. 3 Jbrew September 26, 2016 at 7:09 pm

    Didn’t seem like a death sentence to me. A new mast step seems like a pretty straightforward job – like a broken leg. Cast and splint.
    Install a stout socket at the keel – lay up a new tube to fit in the socket – reinforce removed deck and attach tube with lots of reinforcement under deck – cement tube into socket and glass deck back in.

    • 4 my2fish September 27, 2016 at 6:47 am

      Jbrew, yes as Alan mentioned, the mast step repair could have been done. I think based on the hull age and condition, he must have determined it wasn’t worth the effort this time.

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