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Old 08-12-2002
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Control Head fix for Merriman Steering System

Early this season on a pleasant day sail on the Chesapeake, our home waters, my first mate and I were making our usual beat for home port. When making our final approach to our slip I discovered that the gear shift stopped responding. Uh Oh. No forward or reverse. To make things more interesting a 15 knot breeze was blowing us away from the slip. Where is my blood pressure medicine when I need it?

With the help of a few of our neighboring ''dock creatures'' we succeded in landing the boat in an empty slip nearby. Not our best docking maneuver at all.

After getting everything settled I went to work to find the source of the problem. Transmission worked fine manually and throttle could be accelerated with no problem. So I took a look inside the steering head binacle where the levers are mounted on the control head. Sure enough, numerous crack and the shift cable was broken free of its mounting.

Okay, so no problem I write down the name of the steering system manufacturer and model number and head off to West marine. Well to my surprise Merriman, the manufacturer, is no longer in business. Actually, they folded their tent around 1989. I have an ''85 Hunter 28.5. So my trusted West Marine store manager suggested we order an Edson part to replace my broken part. Two weeks later and $279.00 poorer, it arrives. Guess what? Does not fit. Back it goes for the refund. That''s good, but I''m still in need of the part. After numerous calls to Hunter dealers around the Bay I discover they can''t help and suggest a custom part.

So that''s what we did with my friend a master machinist and solved the problem. The new part is made of marinized aluminum and is solid as opposed to the original part made of injection molded plastic which cracked in several places from mechanical and thermal stresses. The grab rail at the helm is bolted through this layer and those thousands of times somebody grabbed it to steady themselves probably added up to additional stress on the control layer bolts.

If anyone reading this post has a 1980''s vintage boat with a Merriman steering system and needs the part let me know. We can make you a brand new one within 3 weeks. We need your original control layer with the handles attached to insure dimensional accuracy and we will remount your old handles on the new part saving you $100 bucks or so for new handles.

The price on the new part is $399.00 plus shipping via UPS from Baltimore. Let me know if we can help. email is the best at mdsoule@comcast.net or phone 410-465-4858.

Capt. Mel at TDP
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