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Go Back   SailNet Community > General Interest Forums > Gear & Maintenance
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  #1  
Old 08-23-2009
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Tiller / Rudder Locked Up / Seized

So Himself has been really working hard and has the v berth almost prepped; scraped, sanded and scrubbed down. He has been covered in paint chips alot recently. As a reward I packed a nice lunch and then while he was busy scraping and sanding his heart out I stowed all the work supplies and tools in the cabin, started up the motor and cast off. The plan was to call him above deck when we were out of the slip and into the main channel out of the marina. I was planning on sparing him the anxiety he was gonna have watching me take her out with out anyone at my elbow watching... he is SUCH a nervous nelly...

So it was beautiful, sunny and calm, perfect weather for practicing maneuvering
our new little hole in the water... Backed out so sweet and easy, put it in
forward and eased ahead. Shifted the tiller to bring us to starboard and head
straight up the marina channel. And I notice the tiller won't move past the
centerline. HUMMM. Shift it slightly back to starboard, moves fine, shift back
to centerline and can't move beyond it. Try shifting back to starboard and
discover it is now locked in line with the center of the boat and won't swing
either direction. What followed was a slightly hysterical deck dance as I
realized I had no rudder and was heading towards a neighbors boat. fast. or at
least it seemed in the moment to be very rapidly... Hit the reverse and slowed
up enough to back away from the other boat, calling calmly but with great
urgency for Himself to come up RIGHT ******* NOW please, which, bless his heart
he did, and like a good german soldier he followed instructions, took the
outboard in hand and ran it while I directed us close enough to the end of a
dock to make the jump from the deck to the dock with a line in hand.

After that it was relatively calm. I pulled the boat to a stop and kept it from
doing more than kissing the corner of the dock. Snubbed her off to a cleat, got
a line from himself off the bow, and walked her around and back home into our
slip...

well damn. that was not how I was planning on it going... so much for the
romantic lunch on the bay...

Since it was a warm day I climbed into the water and dove the hull, searching
for anything that would explain the sudden and unexpected lockup of the
rudder/tiller assembly. I found the expected yucky stuff on the hull, not too
bad since I had scrapped it with a brush prior to the start of our short little
trip. But nothing else fouled under the boat that would account for the
technical difficulties were were experiencing...

It made no discernible noise when it locked up, but the outboard was running so
only a really loud noise would have been heard. It gives no feed back as to
*where* the bind is since it has no movement at all.

We have already had occur to us the "rudder dropping straight to the bottom of
the marina floor when we unscrew a critical pin" scenario.

So, now is a good time to remind myself of all that good stuff like challenges
are just unexpected learning opportunities and the whole purpose of a hobby is
to have an unending and undoable number of tasks to work towards completing. and
don't get a boat if you are goal oriented and not into embracing the journey.

So now our journey has taken a turn towards the repair and maintenance of a
tiller/rudder assembly on a Cal 28.

HELP!!!!!!??????!!!!!!! : -O

Some helpful pics for seeing what I am referring to;




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Old 08-23-2009
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Sara, I'm surprised you haven't received a response by now. I'm not familiar with the Cal 28 but by the pictures, it looks as though your rudder post is off center and possibly binding on the thru-hull. Could also be bearings and/or hinges at the skeg are worn and have allowed the rudder to bind against the skeg and/or the thru-hull, or a portion of the hull itself.


I know that's not much help. Surely someone with knowledge of your boat will chime in. Good luck. Sounds like you had a great idea for a wonderful picnic on the Bay.
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Old 08-23-2009
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Hi Sara,

That was a nice idea to get out for a sail. Sorry it didn't turn out as expected.

No first hand knowledge of your Cal 28 on my part. But looking at the photos and schematics, it appears you have a semi-balanced spade rudder connected to the tiller via a rudder post that is encapsulated in a fibreglass tube.

The good news is that this arrangement is usually fairly robust. I don't see the skeg that saildork mentions (but he may have better info than me), so it shouldn't be a question of pintles or gudgeons (i.e., rudder hinges) getting bound up.

You said you dove under the boat for an inspection. Did you carefully inspect the gap between the top of the rudder and the underside of the hull? Sometimes tenacious growth, such as barnacles, or other debris can lodge in this gap and bind up the steering. If it's all free and clear, you should be able to pass a scraper through that slot easily.

Like I said, this is usually a fairly robust arrangement. But alignment is still important. If for some reason the top end of the rudder post tube has shifted (even moderately), it's possible the rudder itself is now misaligned and binding on the underside of the hull. This could result from an overly flexing cockpit sole.

But I think more likely, as Saildork suggested, it could be rudder bearings.

Some additional diagnostics are called for. Hopefully some of our maintenance mavens will chime in with suggestions.
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Old 08-23-2009
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Hi,

The rudder post is off center. If you look at the profile of the boat you can see that the rudder post is set at an angle fore to aft. Port to starboard it is in line with the keel of the boat.

When I inspected it I ran my finger along the edge of the rudder where it lays along the hull. I could not slide a finger thru there. I don't know if I could slide a scraper thru, but we have ALOT of scrapers so I can try that and see if there is that much clearance. What I was able to feel was the half inch or so of slippery bumpy jelly like stuff that grows on the hull, even though I had just brushed it. No hanging weeds, just pulpy stuff close to the hull. I can scrape that off with a fingernail, so I don't *think* it would bind up something as big and as robust as a rudder... or could it?
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Old 08-23-2009
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sarafinadh View Post
... No hanging weeds, just pulpy stuff close to the hull. I can scrape that off with a fingernail, so I don't *think* it would bind up something as big and as robust as a rudder... or could it?
I doubt it. I was thinking more along the lines of solid material like heavy barnacles or other debris that could jam the rudder.

But if you go down again and can determine that the top of the rudder is contacting the bottom of the hull,that would certainly tell us something.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sarafinadh View Post
Hi,

The rudder post is off center. If you look at the profile of the boat you can see that the rudder post is set at an angle fore to aft. Port to starboard it is in line with the keel of the boat.
P.S. Just to avoid confusion, I would not describe the rudder post as off-center, which implies that it is not on the fore and aft centerline of the hull (off-center rudders do exist, but rarely). Instead what you have is an angled rudder posted where the stock is canted forward. This is not unusual.
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Old 08-27-2009
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Sara,
I have a 1969 cal 34 with tiller steering which is out of the water for a major refit. I just removed the tiller and there are no bearings inside the shaft, although there is a grease nipple connection below the deck approx in the middle of the tube. Assuming you did not hit something that could have bent the rudder, I can only think that something is wedged between the top of th rudder and the underside of the boat. If it was caused by a build up of material inside the rudder tube, I think you would have felt the tiller gradually getting harder to move over time.
The only way you can safely take the tiller out while the boat is in the water would be to drag an old sail or net underneath the tiller before removing the cap on the rudder post.

Good luck
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Old 08-27-2009
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I think he means underneath the rudder.
Brian
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Old 08-27-2009
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I plan on putting cargo straps around the rudder in 2 places and then cleating them to each side. Word has it my rudder floats, so getting it to neutral bouyancy to reinstall may be the harder part.

I plan on checking for any sign of contact with the hull or rudder that would account for the jam, but frankly don't expect to find anything. Just doesn't add up with how the whole thing went down. If there is a bend in the rudder post then that's that and I'll at least know what the problem is.

Going to check for condition inside of tube and for anything that has been added into the tube to line it. relining or refacing the tube may be in order is there is a problem there.

spacers down at the bottom of the post to gap it from the hull that may have broken up and fallen off may also be a possibility but no one with my boat has been able to confirm or deny the likely presence of spacers.

Tommorrow is supposed to be warm and I will be going under to check it out then.

I really appreciate all the thought you all have given this!
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Old 08-27-2009
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Sara, Help me out as Iím a little confused as to what is going on in this thread. So, the rudder is jammed- stuck in the hard over position in the first photo? The tiller cap is through bolted to the shaft? Have you unscrewed the cover ring on the cockpit floor to see what is underneath? Iíd expect to see some sort of retaining clip/upper bearing there. Usually there is something to keep the rudder from falling out as well as holding the rudder shaft in alignment. The interior photo suggests there is something there as the tube flares out a bit where it is mated to the underside of the cockpit. If there isnít anything wedged in between the rudder and the hull, then something must have fallen down from the upper bearing to jam the rudder. A bent rudder shaft is a more remote possibility as the shafts are usually pretty strong and you would feel the effects immediately after an ďeventĒ. An ďeventĒ would be something like a hit (you didnít whack Anita Rock did you? Any whale collisions lately?- donít laugh, it happen to a J105 out in the Gulf of the Farallones a couple of years ago). Or did your rudder go hard over when you were in reverse?

If you think that you may have lost the ďspacersí between rudder and hull, you should be able to test for this by checking the play by pulling up on the rudder head. Spacers could be acting as a rudder bearing so you might not have a smooth surface to rotate the rudder on.

If you are thinking you have a bent shaft or a chewed up bearing, this is really an out of water repair. The foam core part of the rudder may be less dense than water, but the metal skeletal structure and shaft are not so donít be too surprised if it sinks when you drop it. There should be something you can tie a safety line to just in case. You donít want a bent shaft as this is a pretty major repair most likely requiring you to be out of the water. A bad bearing is almost as bad. Think pure thoughts!

My boat is over at Marina Village in Alameda, where is yours located? If you want, perhaps I can see your problem in person. Be thankful that your problem happened close to your slip. We started to develop upper rudder bearing problems about 400NM off shore during the Pacific Cup last year. Mid-ocean rudder repairs are not easy (especially when you are racing!)
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Old 08-27-2009
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oh my god, you have no IDEA how grateful I am that it happened within jumping distance from the dock! Well, actually you all prolly do ; -)

We are across the bay it oyster cove, right at the foot of San Bruno Mt.

Despite deceptive camera angles, the tiller is not hard over. it is locked in a totally neutral position, as is the rudder below, lined up exactly along the keel line.

We had no *event*, no whales, logfish or other submerged obstacles collide with us that we are aware of. My initial inspection underwater ruled out any line or object being the cause of the jam.

Tomorrow I open her up and start poking around underneath as well. I expect to pull the rudder out of the water. I am not counting on the buoyancy keeping the rudder off the bottom, and will have it soundly bound up before I slip the tiller cap off and start monkeying around with that collar.

The little bit of speculative info I have on the mechanics of the rig (much of it courtesy of a guy who has a boat VERY similar to mine, but 12 foot longer ; -) is that the rudder is very simple, no bearings, maybe bushings. There has also been speculation that there might be a groove worn in the shaft and that this is causing the problem.

The spacer idea was from someone else who had one go on his boat and produce similar results to what I am experiencing. I have no idea if my rig actually had one or not.

weather is good today so tomorrow should be a good day for gettin wet! And all offers of assistance gladly accepted! I'll keep ya posted.

and man, my condolences on that trip last year, WHAT a drag....
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