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  #1  
Old 04-26-2007
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Question Rudder delamination

Last May I had the survey done when I purchased my 1980 Hunter 37' Cutter, and the surveyor reported that there was an area of de-lamination on the rudder. Unfortunately I purchased the boat in Wisconsin (I live in Michigan) and didn't have the time or resources to repair it myself over there, and really didn't feel like paying the yard to fix it for me.

My question is this, starboard vertical of the rudder, the surveyor found a 10" x 8" area of de-lamination. In his words "no shell bulge or shell split - can be re-bonded with resin injection into shell void." I have thoroughly examined the rudder and (comparing it to the photos and my memory of last spring) I can't see where anything has changed. Can anyone recommend what I should do here? If I should drill out and repair this, any recommendations on a product if thats the case?
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Old 04-26-2007
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Hi there, I suggest you post some detailed pics, so we can make a judement call! I've just had to repair a ghastly mess on my rudder - see below!


The other photos in that series show you how I tackled it, but I'm very happy to answer any additional questions you might have!
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Old 04-26-2007
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I have an area of delamination on my rudder with the same condition but smaller than what you describe, mine's maybe 5 X 8". There was no moisture detected on the survey but it has a hollow sound if I tap on it. My boat is a 1984.

My solution is to leave it as it is. I'll trace around the area with a sharpie before it goes back in the water and check on it again each spring to see if it's getting bigger. But I figure it hasn't caused a problem in 24 years so it probably isn't going to.

The surveyor agreed with my plan. He said if I ever decide to fill it, the repair should be simple to do. Drill small holes through the shell at the top and bottom of the area. Mix some epoxy and fill a large syringe. Inject this into the bottom hole. Repeat until the epoxy comes out the top hole. Tape both holes over and allow the epoxy to set. After that's done, remove tape and sand smooth.
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Old 04-26-2007
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Capn...personally I think leaving a void in the rudder untreated is dangerous in a cruising situation. Any salt water intrusion can fill that gap and go to work on the underlying stainless in an anaerobic environment. Furthermore, a void of that size is a stress point on the rudder structure that might fail when heavily loaded. Not the kind of thing I would leave unattended if I was going to be in potentially rough waters.
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Old 04-26-2007
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Pearl, if water gets inside, it will freeze next winter and will expand and crack the shell. I would suggest making sure it does't have a leak and fix it.
I'm in Wisconsin and have dealt with this in my C30.
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Old 04-26-2007
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BlackPearl, I don't believe or trust that surveryor. Ask yourself, how and why did that "delamination" come about. How are rudders made?

Typically--almost universally--they are made by welding up an upside-down "F" shaped armature with the rudder tube being the long bar of the "F" and some steel plate or tube making up the short bars. Then some open-cell foam is added over the armature, and one or two layers of fiberglass wrapped over it.

The fiberglass skin bonds to the foam because it was formed up over it. It can delaminate becase:
1-The fiberglass was never properly wet out on installation, which is pretty hard to screw up on that simple thin job.
2-The fiberglass is bonded perfectly well, but the foam has come apart from impact or water penetration (it turns into black goo).
3-The foam has come apart because water penetration has rusted the armature, and the bond between the armature and foam has broken down and/or the armature is breaking down.

So you've got one slim chance that this is a sign of sloppy construction, which you might want to gloss over, and two good chances there is a more serious internal problem.

I'd want to dril several pilot holes low in the rudder, and in the bulge, and see if anything oozes out. If there is ANYTHING besides clean dry foam and FRP in there--you have a problem and it needs to be fully explored. Which, unfortunately, can mean exploratory gouging all over the rudder and a reconstruction of replacement, depending on what you find. If there's been water damage inside, you really don't know how bad it is unless you open it up down to the armature--which means a total rebuild/replacement. If there's just "a little" water and you want to trust drying it out and resealing it, that's your other option.
If that bulge comes away clean and shows it just was never wet out properly, then by all means, just glue it back down and glass a patch over the seams. But if that's all it needs, you're on a lucky streak. Pick up a lottery ticket for me too.
Rudders can take a decade to fail, the problem is, they usually fail at the least convenient opportunity.
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Old 04-26-2007
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Pearl, if water gets inside, it will freeze next winter and will expand and crack the shell. I would suggest making sure it does't have a leak and fix it. I'm in Wisconsin and have dealt with this in my C30.
Up here in the frozen north, most of us have drilled holes in the bottom of our rudders. The hole is plugged while the boat is in the water, when we haul out, the plug comes out, and so does a lot of water.

I think it would be a good idea to drill a hole right into the center of the delaminated area and fill it with epoxy. If water is getting in there, which usually happens, and if it is dissolving the foam, which can happen easily, you need to deal with it - or else your rudder may well just not be there one day.
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Old 04-26-2007
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I'd all but forgotten about that little area of delamination on my rudder until this thread came up. Now I'm reading about anaerobic corrosion, black goo, lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

So I did a little more reading and this is what I found.

BP,
Your rudder and mine were probably both made by Foss. Foss Foam Products has been building rudders for the major manufacturers, including Hunter, for 35 years. The rudders are composed of a stainless shaft surrounded by high density closed cell polyurethane foam covered with fiberglass and gel coat.

The Foss website states that rudders should be painted white. Dark paint on the rudder (like VC-17) can cause damage as a result of heat from the sun when the boat is out of the water. The heat can result in dimensional changes in the foam. If the rudder is painted a dark colour, it should be covered with a white sheet when it is out of the water and in the sun. Foss recommends that blisters be filled with resin or cut away and repaired.

There is a good reference to do the resin filling repair in the west system manual from west marine. I missed a couple of steps in my earlier post. The method described is to use two syringes and drill each hole so that the tip of the syringe screws into it tightly. Drill the first hole at the base of the delaminated area and the second at the top. Inject epoxy in the lower hole until epoxy starts out of the top hole...then lock down the lower syringe with tape and start injecting epoxy into the top hole until the plunger springs back. At that point, lock the top syringe down and let the epoxy kick off. Don't try to remove the syringes until the epoxy has cured. The internal pressure helps to bond the epoxy to the foam core and the delaminated skin. After it is cured, the epoxy on the syringe will come right off and you can reuse them. Use epoxy and 404 to fill the small drill holes.

I understand that drilling a hole in the bottom of the rudder as described by sailorman is common around the Great Lakes (I'm on the next lake to the east from you). However, the moisture meter says my rudder is still dry so I'm still in no hurry to be drilling holes in it. Before you start turning your rudder into a colander, you might want to run a moisture meter over it yourself.

Last edited by CapnHand; 04-27-2007 at 12:01 AM.
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Old 04-27-2007
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While you are repairing your rudder, keep in mind that quite a few Hunters have lost their rudders due to shaft breakage. It would be a good idea to have your rudder shaft x-rayed.
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Old 04-27-2007
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Sailormann, help me understand this:
"when we haul out, the plug comes out, and so does a lot of water."
So, the plug is not keeping water out. Rather, it is ensuring that whatever water has saturated your rudder is not moving, so it is stagnant water, which is exactly what stainless needs to develop crevice corrosion and sudden failure.
What's the purpose of the plug then?? And, doesn't the constant saturation in the rudder worry you?

Foss may be the only guys in the business but I take them with a grain of salt. They botched a replacement rudder for a friend--it couldn't fit because they modified it to the wrong dimensions. Terribly slow shipping, terribly slow remake, no explanations and often the phone calls and emails weren't returned. I know everyone has problems, but not talking to the customers is the kind of problem that really makes me wonder.
Especially when the customers are not able to sail, because you've botched their new rudder.

There's got to be a better way to build rudders, or to steer boats. Maybe it's time for steering boards to come back.
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