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Old 26-05-2019, 14:14   #1
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Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

While looking for our next boat I fell in love with the Catalina 400mkII. We looked at 4 different examples and settled on a well maintained, loved 2001 model with low engine hours and useful upgrades.

We did a sea trail this weekend and she is all and more that I hoped sheíd be...

But there is one serious concern, the steering at both helms are extremely stiff. It feels as if the steering brake is tightened but it was totally free. The present owner, who has been meticulous in maintaining the vessel and following all the directions in the handbook thinks the helm feels normal. Both my wife and I agree that it takes probably 3 times as much effort to turn than other boats weíve sailed, including other dual helmed vessels with the smaller diameter wheels.

I can think of a few possible reasons for this, one a simple fix, the others not so much. Iím having a survey done on her but would like to know if there are anyone with first hand of similar issues, especially on the same model of boat. If anyone has advise on what to look for at the survey thatíll affect the steering in the way described, please let me know.

All help is much appreciated.
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Old 26-05-2019, 15:11   #2
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

It could be a zillion things, but you reminded me of the Catalina 309 I bought new in 2007.

Just one of it's numerous big problems was stiff steering that it developed after about three Michigan sailing seasons.

Turns out the rudder post was installed crooked, which resulted in the factory having altered (butchered) the bearings to make them work. Marginally.

When I was troubleshooting the problem, I removed the deck plate behind the helm where the rudder post is visible, and the post was waaaay off center from the circular deck opening. As I investigated further, I saw where they had done some aggressive grinding on the bearings to jerry rig them. This turned into a difficult fix for me, and Catalina wanted nothing to do with it. I talked to the factory manager, and sent him numerous photos, but he said "I can't tell what I'm looking at". Which is weird, because I was a professional photographer, and the problem was pretty darned obvious.

I'm currently sailing a 1996, Catalina 28MKII, with a whole lot less issues.

I can't speak intelligently on dual helms, but it must have a rudder post somewhere that I'd want to check for straightness. And, check the bearings. After my previous experience, stiffness in the steering would be a solve it first issue. Mine was a definite case of 'let's just get this thing out the door', so they do happen.
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Old 26-05-2019, 15:53   #3
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

I have no firsthand experience with those models, and this may not apply to you, but one thing you might check are the quadrants and cables, as you may already know. I met a gentleman with a fairly new big Catalina, but I can't recall which model who had just sailed his (new to him) boat down to LA from San Francisco. He thought the steering was a little stiff. When he arrived he thought he'd look at it. He was down to a couple strands left on the cable on the quadrant. Things were not lined up as they were supposed to be. I'd say, in general, always good to trust your instincts.
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Old 26-05-2019, 15:53   #4
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

Thanks for the advice. A bend rudder post or another issue with the alignment of the post and the bearings supporting it is definitely a possible cause. Donít think it is something that happened during production though as itís been 18 years since it left the factory.

Grounding the boat on the rudder can certainly bend the rudder post or damage the bearings Iíd think....
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Old 27-05-2019, 05:54   #5
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

I suspect you may have an Edson ďRadial DriveĒ steering system.
Unfortunately, Iím having trouble accessing Edson's web-site. Check /w them, for documentation.
https://edsonmarine.com/content/EB-3...Inspection.pdf
https://edsonmarine.com/product-tech...enance-sheets/
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Old 27-05-2019, 09:49   #6
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

Thanks for the literature Gordmay, exactly what I needed. You rock man.
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Old 27-05-2019, 13:14   #7
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

I think the first test is to remove the steering cables from the quadrant or radial drive sheave and see if the friction goes away. If the rudder turns easily (with the emergency tiller) then you have a problem in your steering gear which is probably easier to fix. If it's in your rudder or rudder bearings, that's a bigger issue.

Find out from Catalina forums what kind of bearings they used. If something like the Jefa bearings from Denmark, they can corrode and cause lots of friction. I know; I am $4000 poorer as a result of having to change out my Jefa bearing.

Finally, does the boat have an autopilot drive that connects directly to the rudder shaft, like a linear drive or linear hydraulic drive? If so, that could add a lot of friction.

Cheers,

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Old 27-05-2019, 13:42   #8
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

If I were you, and seriously looking at a Catalina 400, I would join the C400 group. There you will find a wealth of knowledge. Go here and register Catalina 400/445 International Association.
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Old 27-05-2019, 14:53   #9
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

Quote:
Originally Posted by cygnussailor View Post
If I were you, and seriously looking at a Catalina 400, I would join the C400 group. There you will find a wealth of knowledge. Go here and register Catalina 400/445 International Association.
I tried to do it already but have not been accepted by the group yet. Not sure I can do anything until Iím accepted.
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Old 27-05-2019, 15:05   #10
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

I'll fire off an email and see if I can wake someone up!!! If you know of anyone else looking for a nice C400 I have a 1998 extremely well equipped for long distance cruising. I call it a Mk 1.5 since it was built during the transition from Mk 1 to Mk 2. It has, for example a keel stepped mast but it also has the aft dedicated shower.
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Old 27-05-2019, 15:50   #11
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

Thank you very much! I really appreciate it. Will keep your boat in mind if something bad comes out in the survey.

I won’t be able to do any long term cruising right now. Two weeks in the Bahamas probably the most I’ll have time for in one stretch... I’m on the east coast of Florida. Still working full time which interferes with my sailing a bit but essential at this time...
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Old 27-05-2019, 16:12   #12
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

I have a 2002 C400 MKII. Here's where I'd look but the boat will need to be in the slings during survey to be complete:

1) As someone said the spade rudder is vulnerable during a grounding especially if it has the wing keel. There's very little if any difference in depth between the keel and spade rudder so if grounding was in it's past a bent rudder stock is possible. When in the slings look very carefully for any difference in clearance between the top of the rudder and hull from stop to stop. If the post is bent laterally that will be easy to eyeball.

2) You'll have to empty both lazarettes to check the tabbing on the mounts for the pulleys below each wheel. the early MKII's have a weakness there which causes the pulleys to misalign.

3) Early MKII's like yours had the bottom bushing (delrin both top and bottom) installed with self tapping screws from the bottom up into the hull. I couldn't think of a better way to screw the pooch than this. But to Catalina's credit they do have a fix. When in the slings look to see if all four screws are still in place and holding the bottom bushing in place.

4) Ask the owner if anyone ever greased/oiled the bushings. If they did you may have to replace both since Delrin will slightly swell with greasing and that could cause the tightness.

The other recommendations already posted about isolating the rudder stock/quadrant from the cables are solid, just don't think you can do that during a survey.

Great sailing boat though, sort it out and you won't be disappointed.
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Old 27-05-2019, 17:02   #13
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

Excellent advice Ken. I know that she has been grounded a bit by the present owner and one time the cable from one pedestal came off and he sailed it from the other side. Im not sure if I should not look for another 400 if the rudder stock is bent....
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Old 27-05-2019, 17:20   #14
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

If one rudder stock is bent, you would typically feel the steering tightens and loosens progressively as you turn one wheel as the stock moves. As you don’t say it acts as such, it’s not a bent rudder stock.

It’s the cable tension -a simple fix.
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Old 27-05-2019, 17:21   #15
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Re: Catalina 400 MKII stiff steering

No necessarily, depending on your purchase price and/or negotiations. New rudders are available and dropping that rudder is not that difficult.
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