AND REPAIR OF YOUR RUDDER ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
What goes wrong with the
Santana rudder is covered elsewhere so I won’t go into that. But,
Santana 525 boats were made with rudders of the same construction as
most other sailboats in her class. Gel coat (or resin)-over
foam-over-stainless. No glass. (There are many choices of products to
use for repair, and I chose the West System as it is widely available
and it works exactly like the directions say.
Buy the book 002-550 if you aren’t
familiar with working with this stuff. It is a great help. This product
is epoxy which is different from the polyester resins used to make your
boat. That is a good thing as it doesn’t shrink when curing and can
have additives mixed with it to change its properties) When we had Opus
out of the water for maintenance, we noticed rust bleeding out of the
side of the rudder (below right).
This could not be a
good thing. Removal of the rudder is easy, just takes two people.
Loosen the two top bolts and when you pull the long one out the rudder
will fall out (into the hands of the guy down below). First was to sand
off the old finishes to find that the rudder had been repaired already
The fissures or cracks had been filled as they were, and this is
the wrong way to do it. If you’re going to try to fill these cracks,
they must be opened up first with a tool that makes a V-shaped gouge,
then filled (see picture, and see the West System book). If you just
fill them as they are, then you have no strength in your repair and
they will likely crack again. I opened up the leaky cracks with an old
can opener and filled them with thickened resin from West System
directions. After curing, sand or file all till flush. My rudder had so
many fissures that I could tell there was no hope of re-fixing all of
them in a timely manner so I chose to bond a layer of glass cloth over
the whole thing. You will need to be able to suspend the rudder as well
as lay it down, so plan ahead. The top of the rudder was letting water
in around the shaft, so using a dremel tool; I ground a groove where
the two materials meet. I also noticed the stainless steel had been
worn where it pivots in the body of the boat and I’ll go into repairing
this later. The top of the rudder had cracks also, so I ground down the
whole thing and planned the following two step fix: Level the top
surface of the rudder (my Black and Decker Work mate table was perfect
Apply masking tape around the perimeter of the top to hold the
resin within (NOTE I left
small spots in the top surface un-touched so
I would have reference points around the perimeter for the proper
height). Now mix up resin using the appropriate hardener
conditions, pour it onto the top of the rudder and use a tooth pick or
similar to work out the bubbles. (Hint- a vibrator sander applied to
the body of the rudder quickens this part. The high speed vibrations
make those little suckers come right to the surface) Pay particular
attention to where the rudder meets the stainless shaft and make sure
the resin runs down around the shaft; we want a tight joint here.
Now move to step two. (skip this if your shaft is pristine)
In my prep, I had sanded the bearing surfaces of the stainless shaft to
that I could build the surface back up with a mixture of resin and
graphite. Take the left over resin in the cup you had from the top of
the rudder, and mix graphite powder into it. Now apply the mixture to
the top and bottom where the surface is worn. I use a disposable brush.
Some of the mix will run down and mix with your other resin on the top
of the rudder but no harm. Let it go. I didn’t need much surface
buildup and a thin layer is all that was necessary. Now go away and do
something else while it cures. I had a Moosehead, you may like another
All cured up now so you can commence getting the rudder sides ready for
their fix. Change the rudder orientation to make the shaft horizontal
and the thin or aft portion straight up. Having prepped the surface
with 120 grit or even 80, lay the glass cloth over the rudder and cut
off most of the excess. I recommend the thin edge up because if you do
it the other way ‘round, the glass won’t join well at the thin part and
you will have to do more work later to get your shape back. You want to
mix your resin and roll a coat of it onto the surface of the rudder.
Then with a helper lay the glass over the rudder making sure it extends
over all edges on both sides. Now roll or squeegee more resin into the
glass so that you have 100% filling of the glass strands. Work one side
then the other. The hardest part for me was getting the bottom surface
to lay down flat. I finally gave up and redid it in a later step. Once
you are satisfied that you have no air left in the surfaces you can let
it set up for an hour or so. Once it is firmed up but still tacky, mix
up some more resin and 406 silica to a mayonnaise consistency. Apply
with a squeegee and make a thorough coating of this mixture. Fill all
those little low spots between the fibers of the strands of glass.
We’re going to come back and sand the thing smooth later so put on just
enough to fill but not so much to make your work load worse. You don’t
want to sand back into the glass, just smooth the surface you added.
I’m no expert racer, so I didn’t see the need to blueprint the
surface (fairing in sailors terms). I just got it as flat as I could.
When this coat sets up for an hour or so come back and look to see if
there are any other spots that need more resin. If so, mix up another
small batch and put it on those spots. (NOTE if you wait until the
resin sets up you will have to deal with washing off the amine blush
that occurs when the stuff cures and then sand to have a mechanical
bond. Not insurmountable but it is easier if you do these steps before
any thing cures up) Now that the coating is thick enough, and you’ve
filled all the low spots, take a break. About 12 hours from now you can
start sanding. If yours looks like mine did it is a nasty stringy
looking mess. You can make short work of the mess with a air powered
cut off wheel. But if you don’t have these resources, you can cut
through the mess with tin snips. If you are careful, you can start
smoothing with 80 grit but it cuts fast so be careful. I went with 120
because it is slower. The end result is that you flatten the high spots
down level with the low spots. My preference for sanders is a
half-sheet electric pad sander. It leaves no marks and helps keep
things flat. A two foot straight edge is very handy to show you where
you need to work. Keep in mind that if you cut too deep, you can always
mix more epoxy and add some back.
At some point I call it close enough and wipe the whole thing down
with acetone in prep for bottom paint. If not finishing with bottom
paint then you will need to finish with either gel coat, an epoxy paint
that is rated for below the water line or West resin with 207 hardener.
Without a proper top coat, you will get degradation from UV. (VC
Offshore bottom paint. with Teflon. Apply outside, fumes are Toxic. )
From here I chose to build up the bearing surfaces for the rudder.
It is a simple job and I short cut the whole thing by not going into
the boat to remove the rubber hose than connects the upper an lover
bearings. I just scuffed the tubes applied the epoxy-graphite mixture
and inserted a well waxed rudder shaft. When it had hardened to a soft
plastic feel I broke the rudder loose so that the bond would not
strong. If there is a secret to this job, it is proper planning, and
lots of wax or mould release. Remove the rudder the next day.
Clean up any blobs or run-over areas. Finish with the application
of a good waterproof grease and you are back to a like-new condition in
the steering department. This method differs from the West book, but if
you have no reason to remove the rudder in the first place the you will
want to climb into the stern, and follow the instructions in the book.
One of the most important things to do is to remember to cover the
rudder while out of the water. Direct sunlight can over heat the
rudder causing the shell to split. It is very common to see
boats on the hard without rudder protection, and rudder failure is one
of the most common and serious proplems to have.
Author’s note: 1) I particularly like the West pumps
for dispensing their product. I have measured epoxy in measuring spoons
for years and this is much better.
2) The mixing pails are
top notch too. They clean up for re-use with ease. 3) What ever product you choose,
play with it on some scrap material first until you get used to how it
works. 4) Protective gloves are a must
when working with this stuff as you will be using acetone to remove it
from your hands or what ever it runs or spills onto. 5) A well ventilated
area is a must. Either that or wear a properly rated respirator. I’d
much rather loose brain cells to the results of the brewmaster than the
chemist that made acetone.
sanding, shiny spots are the low spots. Needs another application