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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I have a 1981 Hunter 25 with an inboard spade rudder and tiller steering. When running downwind in heavy tiller loads, there is some play in the rudder. When pushing, it sort of silently clicks a little bit, and then when you pull the tiller it sort of clicks back. Not a huge amount of play, but enough to be noticeable and very annoying when steering downwind in the bigger stuff. There is no play in the tiller/post connection at all, this is happening somewhere underneath the tiller connection for sure.

This winter when I did a refit, I dropped the rudder about a foot to try and see what the problem was. I could not see a bottom bearing, though there could theoretically be one there, and there is no bearing at the top. The rudder shaft is simply a fiberglass tube that holds a thin plastic sleeve and inside that sleeve goes the steel rudder post itself, which is attached to the rudder at the bottom and the tiller at the top.

I tried holding the rudder and having someone turn the tiller, to see if I could replicate this play, but holding the rudder as hard as possible and turning the tiller as hard as possible, there was no play in the shaft/rudder blade connection (unless I just couldn't hold it hard enough).

Has anyone had a similar issue with an inboard tiller? Could there be a shot bearing at the base of the rudder post? (I am awaiting a response from hunter but am not holding my breath either). I am going to rebuild the rudder this winter (it has water intrusion) but I am planning a pretty significant cruise where I will be 5-15 miles offshore for a few days this september, and I am wondering how serious this rudder issue might be. I am planning on having some sort of emergency steering for the trip, but I really need to know what the odds are of needing it and if there is anything I can do to fix this problem in the meantime...
 

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We had a Hunter 25, a bit older than yours. Our rudder post BROKE at the entry point to the rudder. Fixing it was no big deal, just ran a stainless steel tube inside the original post,
through bolt it in the rudder and weld the sleeve to the upper post. Just make sure all the holes for the tiller attachment line up so the tiller and rudder point correctly. I had play between the rudder post and the tube. Bottom bearing??? Never saw one. I cut up some milk jugs (the plastic ones) and slip the plastic inside the tube to take up the play. Felt fine after that. Hope this helps.
 

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I imagine there is some sort of a metal cap at the top of the rudder post, on which the tiller is allowed to pivot. It is probably fixed to the rudder post with a through bolt. If the hole for that bolt elongates at all, you would have some play. Since you saw no play between the rudder and post, and none between the tiller and that cap, the play must be between the cap and the post.
 

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I have a 24C&C and when I had play in the tiller I drilled and tapped a 5/8" stainless bolt on the upper post fitting. Tightened it to the post and it took out the play in the post from worn bushings.
 

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On my boat, which is older than yours (1967), the tiller head is connected to the rudder shaft by a key way or key insert that had badly worn down and allowed a lot of slop in the steering. Replacing the key way/insert entirely fixed our problem.
Since you say that this area is not the problem let's look further.
Is this your boat model? Hunter made several flavors of 25 footers: HUNTER 25 sailboat specifications and details on sailboatdata.com

This spec says it is a skeg hung rudder. There should be a lower bearing or shoe for the shaft to rest in. Perhaps there was a lower bearing there that has been worn down? I had to make a bronze bearing for our boat for this exact usage.

The worst case scenario is that the shaft has become 'loose' from the rudder itself which would suck. You said you tested for this but could not detect any independent movement of the rudder from the tiller/rudder shaft. Have you noticed if your rudder takes on water? If it is taking on water it will drip or weep for some time after it is hauled for the winter. Rusty weeping water is definitely a bad sign, if you notice it.

There should be metal tabs or straps welded to the rudder post that are encapsulated by the rudder laminate. If water gets in there the metal straps can corrode and if they fail the rudder can simply rotate on the rudder shaft - which is obviously not happening with your boat.

In any case, you should try to tighten up the rudder/tiller connections if it is bothering you. I do like the idea of using strips of plastic milk jug material for packing or bearing for the rudder shaft and tube. Another option is to make rudder shaft bearings with West System epoxy using their graphite filler (I think JimsCAL linked this).

Good luck however you proceed.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
This completely solved the problem thanks so much for ur post!!!

In case anyone else reads this with the same problem , this was a very easy fix. The bottom rudder bearing is not really a bearing, its a fiberglass bushing that goes around the rudder post. It had less than 1/16 inch of play in it so I wasn't sure this could be the problem. I hauled the boat out and followed the directions from the west system PDF linked above. It took about 2 hours to do the whole job. I have to say its like a new boat. That 1/16" was all it took to create all that play when sailing go figure. It now has zero play, and is so much more enjoyable to sail.

Sail net with its helpful and knowledgeable posters saves the day again :)
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
This completely solved the problem thanks so much for ur post!!!

In case anyone else reads this with the same problem , this was a very easy fix. The bottom rudder bearing is not really a bearing, its a fiberglass bushing that goes around the rudder shaft. It had less than 1/16 inch of play in it so I wasn't sure this could be the problem. I hauled the boat out and followed the directions from the west system PDF linked above. It took about 2 hours to do the whole job. I have to say its like a new boat. That 1/16" was all it took to create all that play when sailing go figure. It now has zero play, and is so much more enjoyable to sail.

Sail net with its helpful and knowledgeable posters saves the day again :)
 
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