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Old 03-07-2012, 15:15   #1
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Location: Melbourne, FL
Boat: Beneteau Oceanis 321
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Bent Rudder Post Advise

Hi all, I'm a new boat owner and a fairly new sailor on top of that (little over a year). After renting mostly a 23' from a nearby company for almost a year, I got a Hunter 28.5 as a "starter" boat. It seemed well maintained and in good shape except for the standing rigging, which has already been replaced. The surveyor found only minor issues, one being a possibly worn rudder bearing.

I had noticed that the wheel was very stiff when the rudder was turned to port, but that it was fine when the rudder crossed over to starboard. We've had the boat a few months now and I decided to have a local boat yard take a look at this steering problem, thinking it would probably just be the rudder bearing that the surveyor had mentioned might be bad. They finally got in to take a look at it today and sent me this email:

Quote:
The rudder shaft seems to be bent, and the upper bearing support for the rudder is cracked & loose (directly under the quadrant).
Fixing this would involve a haul out ($196) and then dropping the rudder, straightening the shaft and rapairing the bearing support. This would likely be +/- 16 hours mostly at $75/hr and $200-$300 in materials. All together around $2000. with taxes and all. (Estimate)
I haven't had any previous dealings with this boatyard (or any, for that matter), so I was hoping to get some outside advice on it. The repair is going to amount to about 20% of the total price I paid for the boat so I'm not really sure I want to sink that much into it if I don't need to. I was thinking of just replacing the upper bearing support, figuring that could get worse and cause more problems so it should be addressed at a minimum. I was wondering if I could just stop there, leaving the bent rudder post and the stiff steering on one side, and save myself a large chunk of change. My concern here is would the bent rudder post cause that upper bearing support to crack again through regular use? Or was damage to the bearing support likely caused by the impact that bent the rudder post in the first place?

My wife and I use the boat for day sails mostly and the occasional short weekend trip on the Intracoastal Waterway in central Florida (Indian River), so it doesn't see any open water use if that matters. We like the boat a lot and intend to keep it for at least a few years as it seems to be the perfect size for us and what we use it for. The stiff steering is annoying, but it really doesn't hurt anything except the auto-pilot, which has a hard time turning when the rudder is on the bad side. But since we just sail around on the ICW, we don't use the auto pilot much to begin with, so it's not a big loss.

So...
A) Bite the bullet and pay for the full repair
B) Fix just the support bearing and live with the stiff steering
C) Ignore the whole thing, the existing situation won't worsen and isn't likely to cause any further problem if left alone.

What would you do?

Thanks.
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Old 03-07-2012, 15:23   #2
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Re: Bent Rudder Post Advise

Quote:
Originally Posted by bstowers View Post
Hi all, I'm a new boat owner and a fairly new sailor on top of that (little over a year). After renting mostly a 23' from a nearby company for almost a year, I got a Hunter 28.5 as a "starter" boat. It seemed well maintained and in good shape except for the standing rigging, which has already been replaced. The surveyor found only minor issues, one being a possibly worn rudder bearing.

I had noticed that the wheel was very stiff when the rudder was turned to port, but that it was fine when the rudder crossed over to starboard. We've had the boat a few months now and I decided to have a local boat yard take a look at this steering problem, thinking it would probably just be the rudder bearing that the surveyor had mentioned might be bad. They finally got in to take a look at it today and sent me this email:



I haven't had any previous dealings with this boatyard (or any, for that matter), so I was hoping to get some outside advice on it. The repair is going to amount to about 20% of the total price I paid for the boat so I'm not really sure I want to sink that much into it if I don't need to. I was thinking of just replacing the upper bearing support, figuring that could get worse and cause more problems so it should be addressed at a minimum. I was wondering if I could just stop there, leaving the bent rudder post and the stiff steering on one side, and save myself a large chunk of change. My concern here is would the bent rudder post cause that upper bearing support to crack again through regular use? Or was damage to the bearing support likely caused by the impact that bent the rudder post in the first place?

My wife and I use the boat for day sails mostly and the occasional short weekend trip on the Intracoastal Waterway in central Florida (Indian River), so it doesn't see any open water use if that matters. We like the boat a lot and intend to keep it for at least a few years as it seems to be the perfect size for us and what we use it for. The stiff steering is annoying, but it really doesn't hurt anything except the auto-pilot, which has a hard time turning when the rudder is on the bad side. But since we just sail around on the ICW, we don't use the auto pilot much to begin with, so it's not a big loss.

So...
A) Bite the bullet and pay for the full repair
B) Fix just the support bearing and live with the stiff steering
C) Ignore the whole thing, the existing situation won't worsen and isn't likely to cause any further problem if left alone.

What would you do?

Thanks.
Well, guess who else has a bent rudder on a Hunter? me! Welcome to the club.

This is a known problem with Hunters. The rudders are pretty exposed. In our case, we had lost the mainsail to a hardware failure and were sailing only on the headsail, It didn't occur to us to change to a smaller one because she seemed to be handling well. However, (I think) it contributed to this incident. The waters were rough. We were in a channel, but it wasn't a deep channel, and the waves were building and very close together. At one point the wave under the stern but not the one under the bow moved, sucking up a lot of water with it. That made a very shallow place in the channel. The stern dropped and the rudder hit really hard.

We pulled the rudder out, and it's bent about 30 degrees.

Now, here's the thing. You can pay that $2,000, and have your rudder straightened, but it will always be compromised. Hunter rudders are built on a stainless steel post, and stainless steel is weakened by that kind of straightening.

I urge you to contact Foss Foam (Williston, FL) -- phone number 352-529-1104. I think you'll find that for the price you would pay to straighten this shaft you can get a new rudder.

If you do that, have them prep the surface for primer and paint for you. The mold release they use is very hard to get off with solvents. They can sand it. It won't look as "pretty" but it also won't feel sticky to the touch. You put down an epoxy primer and then standard bottom paint.

This is the *second* rudder I'm getting from Foss Foam. The one I just bent was put in in February. BTW your boat may be like mine. Mine does not have to be hauled out to replace the rudder. You need 12' of water and a repairman/diver who knows what he's doing. My rudder fits into a very tall shaft. Even through TS Debby no water got in the boat, even though the rudder was out. See if yours is put in the same way before you try this!
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Old 03-07-2012, 15:43   #3
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Re: Bent Rudder Post Advise

Had a bent rudder post on my Columbia 26. I straightened and strengthened the rudder post myself, here's how I did it:

I removed the rudder from the boat (pretty easy to do in the water on my C26). Then I set up a strong jig to hold the rudder firmly but cusioned along the leading edge. Then slid a ~20 foot pole (old mast) onto the post, and a couple of us pushed on it with everyhing we had (took a bit of cussing and swearing, and a couple beers). We were able to straighten the post out to spec.

Then I bought a chunk of stainless shaft that was slightly smaller than the ID of my rudder post. I dropped this shaft down into the post, then poured epoxy to fill and bed to the top of the shaft. I'm pretty sure this takes care of any shaft weakness due to bending/straightening. In fact, I'm concerned the shaft might be TOO strong! Next time the rudder grounds it may rip the transom off the boat instead of bending the shaft!

I measured the shaft diameter in both dimensions right where it had originally bent (just above the rudder). It was crimped very slightly, maybe by .020" or so. I figured this wasn't too bad and re-installed the rudder on the boat. As it turns out, that slight crimp is causing some tightness in the lower bearing that I can feel in the tiller. One of these days I'll drop the rudder again and grind that down.

My shaft was bent backward by less than 10 degrees, but it was enough to result in severe weather helm. Since straightening, the helm is perfectly balanced on all points of sail.

Not sure if this method is applicable to you, but it worked well for me! All it cost me was a chunk of tube, some epoxy, a few beers, and a lot of elbow grease! Good luck.
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Old 03-07-2012, 17:20   #4
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Re: Bent Rudder Post Advise

Quote:
Originally Posted by wristwister View Post
Had a bent rudder post on my Columbia 26. I straightened and strengthened the rudder post myself, here's how I did it:

I removed the rudder from the boat (pretty easy to do in the water on my C26). Then I set up a strong jig to hold the rudder firmly but cusioned along the leading edge. Then slid a ~20 foot pole (old mast) onto the post, and a couple of us pushed on it with everyhing we had (took a bit of cussing and swearing, and a couple beers). We were able to straighten the post out to spec.

Then I bought a chunk of stainless shaft that was slightly smaller than the ID of my rudder post. I dropped this shaft down into the post, then poured epoxy to fill and bed to the top of the shaft. I'm pretty sure this takes care of any shaft weakness due to bending/straightening. In fact, I'm concerned the shaft might be TOO strong! Next time the rudder grounds it may rip the transom off the boat instead of bending the shaft!

I measured the shaft diameter in both dimensions right where it had originally bent (just above the rudder). It was crimped very slightly, maybe by .020" or so. I figured this wasn't too bad and re-installed the rudder on the boat. As it turns out, that slight crimp is causing some tightness in the lower bearing that I can feel in the tiller. One of these days I'll drop the rudder again and grind that down.

My shaft was bent backward by less than 10 degrees, but it was enough to result in severe weather helm. Since straightening, the helm is perfectly balanced on all points of sail.

Not sure if this method is applicable to you, but it worked well for me! All it cost me was a chunk of tube, some epoxy, a few beers, and a lot of elbow grease! Good luck.

This was suggested to me, but I had exactly the concern you mentioned -- maybe the rudder shaft comes out *too* strong.

We took a hard hit, and I personally feel that the rudder absorbed the impact and saved the boat from worse damage. I think the rudder did exactly what I needed it to do at exactly the right time.

I know someone else who is very knowledgeable, who has essentially the same rudder system as I have. He also straightened, and then added a smaller shaft, and filled it all with epoxy. He mixed the epoxy with chopped fiberglass strands, which strengthened the epoxy.

But I don't have his engineering skills, and there are a lot of Hunters out there. I prefer to stay with the original design specifications, which is what Foss Foam.

PS if you contact Foss Foam -- tell 'em Susan sent ya!
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Old 03-07-2012, 17:54   #5
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Re: Bent Rudder Post Advise

Talked to the guy who gave me the estimate a little more and it seems I made an incorrect assumption: Straightening the rudder isn't the bulk of the expense, it's repairing the busted support bearing. He thinks that will worsen over time and is not something that can be safely ignored even in its current state.

So it doesn't sound like skipping the step of straightening the rudder will save me much money, and there's not much reason to skip having that done if I'm going to drop most of the money on the other repair already.

Too bad I had only budgeted for half of what this is really going to cost me. Welcome to the wonderful world of boat ownership, right?
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Old 10-07-2012, 12:36   #6
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Re: Bent Rudder Post Advise

Quote:
Originally Posted by bstowers View Post
Talked to the guy who gave me the estimate a little more and it seems I made an incorrect assumption: Straightening the rudder isn't the bulk of the expense, it's repairing the busted support bearing. He thinks that will worsen over time and is not something that can be safely ignored even in its current state.

So it doesn't sound like skipping the step of straightening the rudder will save me much money, and there's not much reason to skip having that done if I'm going to drop most of the money on the other repair already.

Too bad I had only budgeted for half of what this is really going to cost me. Welcome to the wonderful world of boat ownership, right?
Curious why your surveyor didn't discover this prior to the purchase. Also keep in mind this is a defect that really can't be corrected on unsupported spade rudders and if the rudder post doesn't bend, you risk fracturing the hull where the rudder post enters (spider cracks radiating out from the bottom bearing are not at all uncommon with spade rudders). This might be the reason that pipes instead of solid rudder posts are more common. The best advice is stay out of thin water.
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Old 17-11-2012, 11:21   #7
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Re: Bent Rudder Post Advise

I have a Sabre 28 with a bent rudder post. Options I am considering:

-- Have sent requests for a new rudder quote to Sabre and Foss Foam (are the CA and FL companies different?) - am waiting for replies. However, from 2008,9 posts, the cost will likely be north of $4K - ouch!

-- Straightening the post. Yes, I am aware of the potential risks of doing this.

-- Building a new rudder myself. However, this is likely a LOT of work, even if I can get drawings from Sabre.

-- FAVORITE OPTION: Anyone have or know of a used rudder?

In my profile I allow email responses, so feel free to contact me at warefuller@gmail.com.


Thanks,
Ware
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Old 17-11-2012, 20:37   #8
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Re: Bent Rudder Post Advise

Warefuller,
I have a friend who had a bent rudder post on his Excalibur 36 and is just now in the process of having it straightened and he reglassing where it needs it.
It is probably the quickest, cheapest and easiest to do and since you have a skeg it would not compromise the strength substantially.
kind regards,
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