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post #1 of 12 Old 02-03-2017 Thread Starter
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Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

We've had our first boat, a 1978 Islander 32, for almost 3 years now. We've noticed from the beginning that it has a significant amount of weather helm, but only on the starboard tack. On port tack, you could steer with one finger, but on starboard you constantly have to fight the helm, which gets exhausting very quickly, especially in a brisk breeze.

We originally searched for and purchased the Islander 32 because it was supposed to be a very balanced boat, so we were surprised. We don't believe it's the rig, we've had a rigger look at it and the mast is in column.

We know that the previous owner modified the leading edge of the rudder to help shed kelp (he sailed out of Dana Pt, and kelp is an issue in SoCal). We believe that might be the issue.

We took it into the boat yard this morning to have the bottom painted, and asked about removing the modification and restoring the rudder to its original shape, and fairing it. The rudder is not symmetrical side-to-side, and has a lot of noticeable hills and valleys, so to speak.

The yard manager seemed to think that the repair probably wouldn't improve the balance that much, and he doesn't recommend doing the work. He pointed out that the rudder and keel were aligned nicely, so that wasn't causing the imbalance.

Here's what our rudder looks like from the side:

 photo rudder.jpg

Here's what an I32 is supposed to look like:

 photo I32_Rudder3.jpg

Here's a picture of the leading edge of the rudder:

 photo rudder forward edge.jpg

Now our dilemma. We need to decide whether to have the yard go ahead and restore the rudder to the original shape, and try to fair it as much as possible, or leave it as is. Of course the manager could only give his hourly rate and a best guess of the time required (maybe a day minimum, at $85/hr).

If we go ahead with the work, it may not improve the weather helm at all. Or maybe it will.

How important is a symmetrical foil shape in balancing the boat?

Should we restore the rudder to the original shape?

Or would leaving the shape as is and having the rudder faired properly be enough?

We appreciate any input, we have to let the yard know our decision on Monday morning.

Thanks,

Mary
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post #2 of 12 Old 02-04-2017
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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

Is the heavy helm worse under power? I've been on another boat with an oversized balancing tab and it was a bear to steer under power, but not so bad under sail. Under power it had a strong pull to one side.

I think somebody has 'over balanced' the rudder with that added area it has now. it's very likely that the modification is causing the issue. A seriously asymmetrical foil could conceivably create a heavier pressure on one tack over another. Also if the addition is not perfectly in line with the rest of the rudder that could introduce forces as well.

Seems it should be relatively simple to get the rudder back to original if it's in otherwise good condition. It would be nice to know how the modifications were carried out first, though.

If it was me I'd be getting out the grinder and the fairing compound.

Ron

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Last edited by Faster; 02-04-2017 at 01:02 AM.
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post #3 of 12 Old 02-04-2017
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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

Me too, you know a stock rudder works good and it would be a balanced boat. you have a botched owner mod and the boat is not balanced. surprise.
The forward section of the foil shape is the most critical. the shape needs to be symmetrical and the slightest bit off and it will not be balanced on each tack

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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

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Is the heavy helm worse under power?
It's not worse under power, but it still pulls hard to starboard.

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Seems it should be relatively simple to get the rudder back to original if it's in otherwise good condition. It would be nice to know how the modifications were carried out first, though..
We have no idea how the modification was originally done. The rudder does seem to be in good condition otherwise.

Thanks for the reply,

Mary
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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

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The forward section of the foil shape is the most critical. the shape needs to be symmetrical and the slightest bit off and it will not be balanced on each tack
That was our thought, too, but we were caught off guard and surprised that the yard manager seemed to think we would get no improvement by removing the modification. So now we're second guessing our assumptions.

Thanks,

Mary
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post #6 of 12 Old 02-04-2017
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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

I'm guessing that you don't work on your boat yourself. I also think the yard is basically telling you they don't know how/want to do the work you want them to do. It's going to take way more than a day to do the work. Also guess you are on yard time and can't stay on the hard very long without huge costs occurring

"We took it into the boat yard this morning to have the bottom painted, and asked about removing the modification and restoring the rudder to its original shape, and fairing it. The rudder is not symmetrical side-to-side, and has a lot of noticeable hills and valleys, so to speak."
Yeah.. time to think about new or rebuilding it anyway.

My suggestion is to have a conversation with one of the aftermarket rudder manufacturers (it's all going to be costly) or talk to somebody who works fiberglass for a living. at the very least have the yard remove the rudder if you can't do that yourself.

This photo shows it as needing lots of "love" it's swelled at the bottom.. the "foil" was just added and glassed over easy to remove with a saw! But the whole rudder again... looks like it's time...




IMO, It's a pretty well accepted fact that cost of rudders is not a promise that they last very long in respect to the boat hull. Few if any have a dry core and need yearly care to keep them safe and sound. I don't agree the imbalance is the rudder alone, just a minor change in prop shaft alignment caused and fixed it on my boat. mast pitch is another factor that is hard to see but very much part of getting a balanced helm. An inch at the top can mean lots of differences in the boat's handling. Hulls twist, flex, and more under rig tension. most is not apparent.

Loosing a rudder is even more costly. I hope you have a emergency set up on board. Good idea to photograph and measure all the rudder, it's post and bearings and keep the information stored with the boat's other stuff.

Drill a hole in the bottom of the rudder..and have a bucket handy... tell me I'm wrong? Sorry.. it's looks worse in text then it really is. Rudders are a high maintenance item, in my book
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post #7 of 12 Old 02-04-2017
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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

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It's not worse under power, but it still pulls hard to starboard.
We have no idea how the modification was originally done. The rudder does seem to be in good condition otherwise.
Seems to me you really don't have much to lose by cutting that abortion off the rudder, and fairing it as best you can - without removing it, esp if you're on the hard now. The designer, Bob Perry hangs out here now and then, with luck he can advise you as to the original shape, though there should be plenty of images available to get it close.

A decent angle grinder, suit and dust mask, googles, some cutting wheels, half an idea of the pattern and watch out for whatever metal may or may not have been used in attaching the add-on. 2-3 hours, perhaps, to cut it off, and probably a few days of careful fairing and sanding followed by new paint.

Highly doubtful you will make things any worse...

Ron

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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

I thought I'd update this thread:

So we went ahead and had the yard remove that awful appendage from our rudder. The yard did a nice job, and the shape looks pretty close to original. They also did a nice job fairing the rudder and it was nice and symmetrical to the eye.

Here's the rudder before and after for comparison:





And here's a picture of the piece that was cut away (this a top down view - the straight edge on the right is the side that was cut away from the rudder):



Last weekend we finally got a chance to go for as sail and see what difference, if any, removing that appendage made.

It made a difference for sure. The helm just felt better. However, there was still a lot of weather helm on starboard tack, but the amount of pressure it took to compensate was much less, maybe about half the force would be my guess. On port tack the boat felt great, there was just a bit of weather helm whereas previously there was almost no weather helm or maybe even a bit of lee helm.

So without a doubt it was worth it to get the rudder back to something close to original. We are much happier and thank everyone for their input and insight.

Of course, we are still wondering why the imbalance from starboard tack to port tack. The keel and rudder look fair and well aligned, the prop shaft seems to be dead center as well. Any ideas what we should suspect or look into now?

The boat does pull hard to starboard under power and the more power the harder the pull. Not sure if that is what to expect under power or not as this is our first boat. Any ideas or suggestions appreciated.


Thanks in advance,

Mary

Last edited by Faster; 3 Weeks Ago at 08:09 PM. Reason: removed repetition, used IMG code for pics
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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

Mary

I've changed your photobucket links to the IMG code option. Photos show much better that way.

For many boats with a balanced rudder and the prop relatively close to it, under power there is often a constant push on the leading edge of the rudder that tends to make the helm 'pull'. The direction depends on the prop rotation, and the weight of the pull generally based on the area of the balanced part of the rudder blade. I doubt you can do anything but add some friction to your wheel brake (if you have one) to relieve the load a bit.

All in all, I think you should be happier with the boat returned to Bob Perry's original plan.

btw.. if that third pic is looking down on the top of that 'tab' it's very asymmetrical and that would have given you all kinds of grief...

Ron

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Re: Islander 32 Rudder Dilemma

Looks much better!

As for the weather helm being stronger on one tack, something else to consider might simply be the prevailing swell and current we have in Southern California.

The current can often push strongly on your rudder and give you the feeling of weather helm when you change tacks. If you have a knotmeter you can compare it to speed over ground to see the effect of the current.

Not saying that is the problem, but something else to pay attention to/consider.
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