When a rudder bearing is bad, can it cause a leak? - SailNet Community

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Old 05-18-2008
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When a rudder bearing is bad, can it cause a leak?

Toward the end of last summer, we noticed a small trickle of water emanating in the hull from near the rudder (but not exactly at the rudder) on my 20 year old J/28. By trickle, I mean there was a fine bead of water which leaked into the bilge. While it didn't amount to much or even cause the bilge pump to kick in, a leak is a leak, so before the boat was hauled, I asked our yard guy to check it out - he speculated that I had a pin-hole leak in the hull on the starboard side close to where the rudder tube is glassed in.

I am still awaiting the yard to start the spring work...

But in searching other comparable posts ('rudder bearings') , I am now wondering if this problem is really related to a failing Harken rudder bearing? I have some similar symptoms: turning to port, the rudder shudders but is fine going to port. And there is some play in the rudder that you can wiggle with the boat on the hard - but not the drastic symptoms that others outlined in the other posts.

If this is a failed/failing seal, then I'll hold launching until we get it fixed.

Any experiences and recommendations would be greatly appreciated. If there is someone in the Newburyport/Marblehead MA area that is an expert in this area, I'd appreciate the reference.

Bob
Verve
Salem Harbor/Marblehead
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Old 05-18-2008
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You really need to get someone that knows what he/she is doing to look at this. I once saw a Pearson 30 with a very bad lower rudder bearing (common on those boats) that had worn through the rudder post tube in one spot and had begun to cause a leak. Could be similar situation with you.
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Old 05-18-2008
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There's something going on that you need to address. There should be no play in the rudder and you shouldn't be able to move it by hand the way you're describing. Not an inch. The J's have had several problems with rudder tubes and that whole assembly. The boats are built in Portsmouth, RI, so you should be able to get good advice on the point. I would call the factory and ask about both your symptoms and who you can call in your area.
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As the owner of another J/28 (#69), I will be following this thread with interest; hopefully, we can hear from other J owners with similar experiences. My pre-purchase survey in Nov 2007 did not identify any problems with this assembly. However, I have experienced what I believe is some vertical movement or play in the fiberglass rudderstock when sailing downwind in following seas. I can hear and feel a "bump" when a wave lifts the stern. I wonder if this is caused by the bearings?
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When a rudder bearing is bad, can it cause a leak?

Responding your question: No. Those bearings are not intended to seal your rudder tube. But, in event of a really bad bearings, that could lead to a big play and knocks, hurting (sometimes chafing) the fiblerglass tube bedding over years. That could pose a leak.
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Old 05-19-2008
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rryan14,

The answer to your question is YES! And, the other symptoms you described indicate your rudder bearings are in need of attention and/or replacement.

This is how I know this: I have a J/36 built in 1981...a wonderful boat by the way. Several years ago, I noticed water in the bilge when the boat was at the dock and only when the winds were rough and producing waves hitting the stern. I also noticed water in the bilge when I took the boat out, but thought this was from the stuffing box...but it was really more than the stuffing box should have produced. It took me forever to finally realize where the water was coming from. My bottom bearing sits just above the waterline when the boat is docked. Although I never experienced any steering symptoms, I had the sinking feeling (sorry about the pun) something was wrong. I had the yard check the rudder and steering system at the next haulout which was two years ago. The rudder was slightly loose...maybe 1/2 inch of play total when measured at the bottom. My understanding is that J-Boats have a history of rudder bearings going bad. Anyway, that haulout was just over $6,000 and included replacing and glassing in new rudder bearings. I haven't had a drop come from the stern since.

What I'd do in this situation: Contact J-Boats and have them send you the specs. on the rudder bearings and rudder post. Having this information will save you and the boatyard a lot of problems.

It is my understanding no J-Boat has lost steering ability as a result of rudder bearing problems. However, I wouldn't want to be the one to destroy the statistics.
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