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  #1  
Old 10-06-2008
Tom Kringstad
 
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PS31 Rudder shaft bolt

We had a bit of excitement this weekend sailing back home from Branford, CT to Rhode Island. We left Saturday morning with wind out of the west and taking advantage of the tide through The Race made great time. We decided to stop for the night at Block Island instead of sailing through the night, which turned out to be a fortunate decision. About 4nm from BI new harbor the steering started feeling "heavy". At first we attributed it to the following seas. This didn't seem likely, but we were close to the harbor and figured we could make it in to the harbor and then check it out.

About 1nm out, we found we could not turn to starboard for some reason. By this time it was dark out and we were facing entering the harbor potentially only turning to the left. This of course didn't make any sense so I got out the emergency tiller and screwed off the access plate on the cockpit sole. That's when I discovered that the bolt that runs through the rudder shaft and used as leverage for the emergency tiller was missing.

Looking under the quadrant in the lazarette, I saw the bolt nearly all the way out and removed it. This of course took away all the steerage and the boat started turning into the wind. So, we doused all sails and I tried to see if I could fit the bolt back in, figuring the nut had loosened on the opposite side. However, I was not able to get the holes lined up between the inner and outer shafts. By now we were about .5nm from shore and decided to call for help and at least have someone close by in case we needed it. We were put in touch with Safe Sea. Their nearest boat was finishing another tow across the sound into Pt. Judith and wouldn't be able to head out again for about 10 to 15 minutes. I asked them to call me back when they were ready and in the meantime I would keep trying to fix our steering.

Back in the lazarette again, I played with the quadrant, eventually lifting it up a notch and with Barb slowly turning the wheel was able to line up the holes and put the bolt back in, giving us control again. Going slowly we made it in to the harbor and anchored up for the night. After we were buttoned up I looked for the nut in the bottom of the lazarette and found that it was still attached to the back of the shaft. So I removed the bolt again to examine it more closely, and found it was shorn, probably at the point between the inner and outer shafts at the back end. Thus when inserted it had enough length to reach the back side of the inner shaft and this was enough to provide leverage to turn the rudder post. Wanting to get home on Sunday, we taped the bolt securely in place, and monitored it regularly to ensure it wasn't coming out again. There was very little wind and we essentially motored all the way home and there was very little pressure on the wheel / rudder.

A few things have crossed my mind about this experience.

1) It makes sense now, but I did not realize previously that this bolt was such a key element in the steering system.

2) It's a bit disconcerting that the bolt is also a single point of failure for both the main steering and also for the emergency tiller. I wish the inner post had a different fitting for the emergency tiller that would allow turning the post independent of this bolt.

3) Having a third backup for steering that is ready at the need is now going to be an even higher priority addition. (I've been interested in the Hydrovane and will probably take another look at this as it would provide an emergency tiller along with a good self steering mechanism)

4) We'll also be carrying spare bolts for this part from now on. If the bolt had shorn off at the short end, we would not have been as fortunate. Perhaps a screwdriver of adequate size could be stuck through those holes in a pinch, but that's not a satisfying solution.

Tom.
PSC 31 #49 "Raven"

ps. Do any of you happen to know what size bolt this is? I left it in the post for now, and if I can get a replacement before going back to the boat that'd be helpful.

Last edited by tkringstad; 10-07-2008 at 01:32 PM. Reason: Added 'PS31' to title of thread for easier searching
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Old 10-06-2008
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Hi Tom,

Nasty experience for you! I wonder if the same construction is on the 37...

Say hello to Barb...


Bill
s/v Toodle-oo!
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Old 10-06-2008
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Hi Tom,

Good to hear from you, and glad it all worked out for you on that trip. I'm sure you could have done without that anxiety!!

Thanks for alerting us to this potential problem. I will certainly double-check ours next time I'm at the boat.

I confess that I did not fully follow your description of the problem. I am familiar with the bolt that the emergency tiller seats into. But I had thought it was a welded-in-place pin that simply runs across the inner diameter of the hollow rudder stock. You seem to be saying it is a through-bolt, that is somehow also connected to the quadrant? Hmmm.

It has been a while since I practiced with the emergency tiller, but my recollection was that the pin into which it locks is just a few inches below the cockpit sole. Looking at these photos of our quadrant assembly, if my memory is correct it would have to be welded in place, near the bottom of the upper fibreglass collar seen in this photo:



However, my memory could be faulty on that point. Maybe the pin into which the emergency tiller seats is deeper into the rudder stock. Could it be the bolt that appears at the center of this photo, where the quadrant clamps to the rudder stock?



If so, then maybe we should add this one to our preventive maintenance list, and carry spares. That bolt would be subject to exposure to salt water (from the interior of the hollow rudder stock), and susceptible to corrosion. Thanks for the warning.
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Old 10-06-2008
Tom Kringstad
 
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Hi John,

It's the bolt beneath the quadrant that you see in the second photo you posted that sheared and is the one used for the emergency tiller.

Tom.

ps. Hi to you as well Bill. Glad to hear you and Lori kept Toodle-oo. Hope you had a good summer sailing.
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Old 10-07-2008
Tom Kringstad
 
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Some follow up information to this post.

The bolt in question is the one that runs through the center of the clamps that hold the quadrant to the rudder stock as shown in the second of John's photos above.

The bolt on our boat was a 5" stainless steel carriage bolt, size 3/8-16 with a flat washer on one side and a nyloc nut on the other end. (if you replace the bolt, make sure to also use a new nut) Our bolt was threaded the entire length, though I don't believe it needs to be.

Some notes on my experience replacing it. Our bolt was shorn at the back end of the rudder stock where it meets the outer sleave. This left a 1-3/4" section of the bolt inside the quadrant clamp and attached to the nut on the back side. To remove it, I replaced the nyloc nut with a regular 3/8-16 nut and by turning the nut was able to pull the remainder of the bolt out. If this happens to you, I'd recommend inserting the new bolt as far as you can before removing the nut and the rest of the bolt as it was quite a challenge to get the holes lined up again and insert the new bolt. (I had removed it first to know for sure what length bolt was required)

I also added a locking washer on the back side along with the new nyloc nut. I'm not sure it's needed, but there was room for it and the threads of the bolt still reach the nylon at the end of the nut.

I took a few photos and will see if any of them help illustrate this. However, John's photos above are good for knowing which bolt it is.

We'll still be investigating options for a second backup for the steering. It was not a trivial task to replace this bolt. Access is through the lazarette and it would not be pretty having to hang upside down inside there and trying to get the holes lined up with pressure on the rudder while in any type of moderate seas.

Tom.
'89 Crealock 31 #49
"Raven"
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Old 10-10-2008
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Rudder shaft bolt

I wonder if a second bolt above the quadrant might be a reasonable solution.
I replaced my quadrant last year with an Edson. They required that I measure the rudder post to .001 of an inch. They then bored the quadrant slightly undersized which made for a very tight fit. My old quadrant had alot of corrosion in the bore and the fit had become sloppy which would put all of the steering forces on the bolt.

Adam Owens
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Old 10-10-2008
Tom Kringstad
 
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I'm not sure how feasible it would be to drill a hole for another bolt above the quadrant. The emergency tiller would not be inserted as far into the rudder shaft and thus wouldn't have the same stability perhaps. I don't know though. I'll be curious to hear if John's system is different or not. The bolt that runs through the clamps for the quadrant is actually well above the static water line. I don't know that it gets very much exposure to water directly. If it did, I would expect that at least some water would end up in the lazarette, and ours is bone dry.

I did notice after removing the bolt that the hole that runs through the quadrant clamps has become a bit "sloppy" as you describe above. We have also had some issues with the handles for the seacocks interfering with both the arm for the autohelm as well as with part of the quadrant itself. When turning the wheel all the way to one side it would end up rubbing against the handles. So, I need to find shorter handles for the seacocks or cut them down a bit. I don't know that this had any causal effect on the bolt failing, but I'm sure it didn't help.

Tom.
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Old 10-19-2008
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Rudder Shaft Bolt

Regarding a redundant steering capability, some may also want to consider installing a below-deck autopilot with a tiller arm attached directly to the rudder shaft. In this case, the tiller arm (e.g., see those available by Edson) is attached with a seperate bolt and the autopilot can then be used to steer the boat home in the event of a failure in any other component of the steering system.
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Old 10-19-2008
Tom Kringstad
 
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We actually do have an Autohelm, I think the 6000 model. The unit is installed in the starboard side of our lazarette and the arm attaches to the steering quadrant. There may be other types of systems, but ours still relies on the same single bolt that failed. There is not a separate bolt going through the rudder shaft.

Tom.
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Old 10-21-2008
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Rudder Shaft Bolt

The attached pic is a PSC 34 with an Edson tiller arm. I believe Edson may discourage attachment of an autopilot directly to the steering quadrant, but I know a lot of people do it and I'm not sure whether the PSC 31 could accomodate a tiller arm.
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Rudder shaft bolt-psc-34-edson-tiller-arm.jpg  
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