I have a bent rudder shaft where the shaft exits the hull. Is it advisable to remove and replace the rudder with the boat in the water? My primary concern is getting salt water up in the bearings and such. Any input is appreciated.
Rudders are a handful to remove when the boat on the hard. They are not supposed to be full of water so they are very buoyant. Typically, the shaft extends into the hull approximately 30 inches, depending on the size of the boat. One must slacken the steering cables, loosen the stuffing box, remove the cable sheave bolt and stop tube bolt to drop the rudder. In order to perform the last operation you must lift the rudder slightly to get the bolt out of the rudderpost. It may naturally rise due to the buoyancy of the rudder and then again, it may not. Even if you could easily remove it while the boat was in the water, it will not be easy to reinstall without help of a diver. My suggestion is to remove it when the boat is on the hard. Make sure that you have the space necessary below the rudder to drop it. Sometimes it is necessary to dig a small hole to get the vertical clearance required. This will depend on the draft of the vessel and the height of the cradle off the ground. If on jack stands plan to bring the shovel!
All Denr says is true but if you decide to pull the rudder in the water anyway, no damage will be done provided you don''t flood and sink the boat. The bearings are sleeve type and water seeps into them all the time the boat is in the water.