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Old 30-04-2009, 23:11   #1
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Lightbulb Contessa 26 with Broken Rudder

Helllp!!
I just bought a Contessa 26' which I thought was "fundamentally sound" and after spending 2 days aboard at her berth digging through all the goodies that come with a new boat, I untied the tiller, and pulled it back and forth only to find that it is broken right off just below the top pintle!!! Sailing season is upon me, I have this slip until May 31 and I need to figure out a solution that is a. reasonably priced and fast.

Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Fair winds,

Mike
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Old 01-05-2009, 01:43   #2
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I'm sorry to hear about your problems.
Where is your Contessa built?
Is it one of the later ones built in Canada, or is it a British built Contessa?
Some of the earlier British built Contessas had rudders made of wood.
I owned one of these for 22 years. I had to replace the original rudder with a new wood/epoxy rudder half way around the world from my home port.
So don't despair , the Contessa rudder design is fortunatly very simple.

Can you describe exactly what has broken and how it looks like?
What are your own skills? Are you able to do some fiberglass or woodwork?

Thomas
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Old 01-05-2009, 02:06   #3
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Hi Thomas,

Thanks for your quick reply! Wow! She is a Canadian build, by JJ Taylor, 1980. I am pretty good at jury rigging, but am not a precision design kind of person. I have attached a photo of the crack, which is not just a crack, it is a break and another photo showing the rudder/tiller as she sits.

I got a pretty good deal on the boat (I think), but wasn't expecting to pay out a big chunk before I even got her out of her slip!! Any ideas or suggestions from your experience will be greatly appreciated.

She is lying Vancouver Canada at the moment.

All the best,

Mike
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Old 01-05-2009, 02:46   #4
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Mike.
That rudder have to come off the boat for some surgery, no two ways about it. You should be able to do this while still in the water, if necessary.
I have heard about "rudder problems" with the Taylor built Contessas, but I don't know the details.
Maybe some other member that own/have owned Contessas know the details.
It is obvious that your rudder is not built strong enough. The break is in the region of "power transfer" between tiller and the underwater part, the area were you have the greatest strain.
You have to find out exactly what is going on. Why did it happen?
As the rudder is such a fundamental part of a cruiser, you just have to repair it "right", so it can't happen again.
Check the rest of the rudder for strength while you are at it.

But first -before you do anything else - try to find someone who have had the same problem as you have now. This will save you time and money in the end.
Have you heard about this site The Contessa Corner - A site for Contessa owners, sailors and dreamers. ?
It looks like a good place to get in touch with other owners of Canadian built Contessas.
Good Luck!

Thomas
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Old 01-05-2009, 03:15   #5
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Check out the Contessa 26 Association website:
Contessa 26 Association

"... everyone needs to know that only the first 50 or so rudders were made of wood and simply painted (not sheathed in any way); subsequent rudders were made of grp with a foam filling.
The weights did not vary significantly between the two types of rudder".

Jeremy has just told me that he still has the original rudder mould, so anyone needing a new rudder would do well to have one made at the yard.

Contessa 26 Association - Rudders and Engine replacement

and

Contessa 26 Association - Spares from Jeremy Rogers Yachts
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Old 01-05-2009, 03:42   #6
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Gord!
You are referring to the original J.C. Rogers built British Contessas.
Mikes Contessa i a JJ Taylor built Canadian Contessa.
The rudders are not identically built.
My memory from the Canadian Contessas I have seen, is that the rudder was not as heavily built as on my Rogers Contessa.
The site I linked to is aimed at the Taylor built Contessas.
Let's hope that Mike sorts out his problems.

Quote:
"... everyone needs to know that only the first 50 or so rudders were made of wood and simply painted (not sheathed in any way); subsequent rudders were made of grp with a foam filling.
I find this statement strange. I owned the Contessa 26 No 212,
and the rudder was definitely made of wood.

Thomas
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Old 01-05-2009, 12:31   #7
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Contessa Rudder

Aloha Mike,
Our Folkboat rudders are pretty much the same design in glass over plywood but the attachment to the gudgeon is just a little stopper block that prevents the rudder from lifting the pintles off the gudgeons. There are screws holding the stopper blocks in place. Once the stopper blocks are removed the rudder can be lifted enough to remove it. Our technique was to remove the stopper blocks, take the tiller off, put it on backwards, wiggle it back and forth to free the pintles from gudgeons. In your case, since the rudder is broken it might be a bit more difficult. It appears your rudder is attached differently?
You can use your rudder as a pattern, cut a new rudder out of marine ply, epoxy fiberglass sheath it and reinstall it. It would be better if you could find solid mahogany but it might be difficult. For a temporary fix you could epoxy the break together once it is dried, then put several layers of fiberglass cloth with epoxy round the break but it looks like there is some hardware in the way?
Surfboard foam can be bought in several different thicknesses if you do want to try to build one out of foam. I'm not certain how you would attach gudgeons and pintles securely to a foam core but I guess it could be done.
Good luck in your repair effort.
Contessa is a great boat. Sorry you have the rudder problem on your new to you boat.
Kind regards,
JohnL
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Old 02-05-2009, 08:26   #8
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rudder fix

You will need to take the boat out of the water and remove the rudder. You might try a temporary fix using some stainless steel plates either side of the rudder and through bolted. Did the previous owner know of the break? It would not be to hard to make a new one using surfboard type materials, ie a foam core and glass. You could do a new one the old fashioned way out of some wood planned to shape or even two sheets of 1/2 ply glued together and shaped with a plane and maybe power tools.

If you are interested in selling your self steering gear please let me know and I'll make a cash offer.

I am in California and would offer to help if I were close! Maybe there is another member here that is?
Regards,
Barry
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Old 02-05-2009, 11:55   #9
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Dont use plywood,even though it is often used it is not an appropriate material as too much of the wood fibers are running in the wrong direction. I probably wouldnt use foam either for this type of rudder. I would glue it up out of something like western red cedar and then glass it with double bias or better yet triaxial fabric and epoxy.Easy materials to work with that will produce a long lasting reasonably light rudder.
Steve.
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Old 02-05-2009, 13:05   #10
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Aloha Mike,
I don't agree that you need to take the boat out of the water. You need to take the rudder out of the water. I do agree that plywood is not the best material but if it is marine grade it will do just fine if it is sheathed in fiberglass (using epoxy resins).
Have you gotten it off yet?
Regards,
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Old 02-05-2009, 14:24   #11
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Plywood has been used in boatbuilding for rudders for many years, I myself have sailed very many hours with both centerboard and rudders made from plywood without a problem. No glass or resin, just a few coats of varnish....
My suggestion was based on the assumption that the owner does not have a lot of cash available and might not be able to afford the import of a new rudder from the UK or exotic materials to make a new one.
It probably is possible to lift the rudder off with the boat in the water, but some of the 26's have had locking pins put on the pintles to stop the rudder falling off. I guess you might do this with luck and a deep breath.
My question is when was the rudder damaged? Maybe it happened when the boat was on the slip, maybe another boat hit it?

Barry
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Old 02-05-2009, 15:47   #12
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Barry, Mike is faced with the situation of starting from scratch, essentially no rudder but he does have the hardware, so he has 2 choices, buy a new one if someone still makes them, or build one. if he chooses to build one he has a number of choices on how to do it and while certainly he could build one out of plywood and yes plenty of rudders and centerboards have been built that way it remains a poor choice for the reason i stated. Using a light weight clear solid lumber as the core such as cedar combined with epoxy and structural glass rather than just boat cloth will yield a good strong rudder at fairly low cost. When you have the choice it would be foolish to use plywood for this purpose, dont get me wrong, i love BS1088 plywood,just not for this application.
Steve.
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Old 02-05-2009, 15:55   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clockwork orange View Post
Barry, Mike is faced with the situation of starting from scratch, essentially no rudder but he does have the hardware, so he has 2 choices, buy a new one if someone still makes them, or build one. if he chooses to build one he has a number of choices on how to do it and while certainly he could build one out of plywood and yes plenty of rudders and centerboards have been built that way it remains a poor choice for the reason i stated. Using a light weight clear solid lumber as the core such as cedar combined with epoxy and structural glass rather than just boat cloth will yield a good strong rudder at fairly low cost. When you have the choice it would be foolish to use plywood for this purpose, dont get me wrong, i love BS1088 plywood,just not for this application.
Steve.
I certainly agree with you, but he does have the old rudder to use as a template, he just has to get it off. Looking at the photo it appears to have three pintles, two of which can be seen. The one at the waterline looks like a bolt. There are some obvious repairs to the rudder from the past. Was the rudder weak? There have been a number of holes drilled in it, one of which is on the fracture line. If I had the rudder in "hand" I might decide to repair it, but I would prefer to build a new one. I'd use wood with glass sheathing. Easier to shape than ply, but as strong?
Barry
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Old 02-05-2009, 19:54   #14
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Mike,what are the rough dimensions of the blank you will need to shape a new rudder from, ie,top to bottom, fore and aft and maximum thickness, you may be able to buy an already glued up wood blank.
Steve.
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Old 02-05-2009, 21:21   #15
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Smile

Wow! Thanks for all the suggestions! I have pretty much decided to haul her out to remove the rudder. It will give me the opportunity to inspect the hull, and make sure I have no more (obvious) surprises in store for me.

So, I think I will haul her, and remove the rudder. The next question is what to do from there....

1. Fix this rudder. I am planning on sea-trialing this boat and so knowing that the rudder is 100% sound will make me feel better. I don't know how much confidence I would have with this rudder repaired, as I can see the foam next to one of the pintles and so think there may have been some water ingress.

2. Make a new rudder myself. I have a partially made plywood rudder for my MacGregor 24' swing keel, and a partially finished plywood tender. When I say partial, I mean they are those projects that get put on the back burner, because I haven't figured out what to do next... (in other-words, fibreglassing, which I am not experienced in and have been procrastinating on)...

3. Have one made for me. I have got queries out to several foam foil makers, and have not had much luck with them having the Contessa design on-hand. My concern here is cost. I have no idea what sort of cost I am looking at.

If I decide to go with a new rudder, my issues are (thanks to what I have learned from info and links provided on this forum) weight, durability, fairing and cost. I would like it to be balanced correctly.

I am not particularily skilled as a craftsman, although, copying the shape of the existing rudder is easy enough, I am concerned about making sure the rudder is properly faired. My patience for fiddly detail work is limited.

Steve, I haven't got the exact dimensions yet, but have emails out to try and find them. I found a folkboat plan, but I suspect it is only a rough approximation.

I like the idea of a pre-made blank. Is there a place one might find such a thing?

I have a Cedar one-piece rudder on my Mac 24' and it seems bullet proof, but hasn't seen salt water.

Anyway, as I see it, I will haul out and I may do a temporary fix as suggested by Barry... (I will need steerage to get to the haul-out anyway) and then perhaps see if I can get a blank and have it sheathed. If, upon haul-out, it appears that a temporary fix will do for the summer ( I am a bit sceptical) then I will have some time to get to know the boat, and make, or have made a new rudder during the summer. This will also allow me to see if I can remove the old rudder and install a new one in the water.

Thanks for your help, and any further suggestions are much appreciated!

All the best,

Mike
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