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Rudder bushings on the P26 are very easy to change. Did it several times when I owned one. Basically just a cylinder with a raised lip on the end. As long as the previous owner didn't put something like 5200 on it before it was replaced last, it should just pull out. Strange it would suddenly get stiff, so something changed. One issue with the rudder is that the shaft will wear in the area of the bearings and new bearings will then no longer take up the slack. Another is that if the bearing has been turning with the rudder in the tube, the tube can be worn. I saw a P30 owned by a fellow club member where this had been happening to the point that the fiberglass was almost worn completely through.
 

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You can certainly do an inspection in the water. If you need to drop the rudder, then you will need to haul the boat. The rudder on the P26 should turn very easily. You can even turn it through 360 degs with little effort. And when backing up, the rudder has a mind of its own and wants to rip itself out of your hands. If it doesn't act like that, something is not right and you need to find out what it is before your 200 mile trip.
 
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