Waggle board.

Repairing WABI’s rudder : back to normal posting from the workshop !

Some time ago i got a few comments on the blog that what some visitors enjoyed reading were the simple and practical jobs that keep a boat running on a tight budget.             Well, during my fast refit iv’e mainly been working on the hull although i did also have to repair the rudder because it was already damaged and got more damage during my summer voyage.

When i first bought the boat i noticed that there was a ‘step’ in the leading edge of the rudder blade and i at first thought that had something to do with the way the rudder kicks up but recent experience shows me that it was damage from the motor.  I did also discover that the rudder blade was in the cheeks mounted the wrong way round , so with the trailing edge facing forward.  At the same time the blade was slightly loose so the steering was pretty random until i corrected that problem and tightened things up a bit.

During the summer voyage the rudder blade did take more damage from the motor’s propeller chewing away at the blade when i engaged reverse gear : i thought that outboard was simply unlatching randomly but when my NZ friends were over Al showed me that was most likely happening is that the engine can kite up slightly when there forward flow past it and then the reversing latch won’t engage quickly enough to keep the leg down.

There were in fact problems in each component of the steering gear so iv’e taken the whole assembly off, taken it all home and stripped it all right down so that i can work on each part on the bench.    So, rather than just the rudder blade leading edge being chewed up badly i also had a total job list of :

  1. Rudder blade chewed up over about 8 inches of the leading edge.
  2. Rudder cheeks starting to crack/break away from it’s centre piece.
  3. Rudder blade uphaul and downhaul lines not working properly
  4. Not enough ‘pull’ length available on the tillerpilot….plenty of ‘push’ length .

Rudder blade leading edge   marked for cutting out damaged section .


Cut out ready for ‘dutchman’


Dutchman being prepared.


New piece glued in and 1 layer of GRP bandage all down leading edge (before filling and fairing)


Filling and fairing



Rudder cheek repair.

The main problems with the rudder cheeks is that the side pieces (cheeks) aren’t very strong or stiff enough so any amount of torque on the blade tries to pry the 2 cheeks apart….in hard running and reaching conditions such as the blizzard i had in Lyme bay last year i had to apply a fair amount of ‘heave’ on the tiller so that won’t have helped much.  Oddly, for such a small and light boat the helm can load up in some conditions : that has improved by getting weight off the bow and by reducing sail area aft first….even dropping the mizzen completely in brisk running conditions.

There is less to see with the repair as it was simply a matter of stripping all the fittings off and running a coarse-kerf saw down the joint each side, drying that right out and then running thickened epoxy glue into the joint.  Iv’e also cleaned out and epoxy plugged the smaller mounting holes along the forward edge so that the bolts are firm in the assembly.

Getting everything ready for re-assembly, rudder cheeks assembly repainted.




I think that the weak aspect of this type of rudder is the way the blade is mounted in the cheeks which doesn’t allow for tightening-up of the thru-bolt : while there is a bronze bush currently in the rudder blade it’s actually slightly narrower than the blade itself so the cheeks tighten onto the blade rather than the bush.   My solution is to have a much wider and full thickness bush made in acetal that is an interference fit in the cheeks and that i can then tighten the thru-bolt up firmly.

Acetal might not be completely ideal for the job, bronze would have been nice but would have been 4 times the cost and the workshop would have taken a while to get the material in whereas they had the plastic in stock.   As i write i’m waiting on a hole cutter being delivered so that i can cut the new hole accurately.


Plugging the old hole ready to use as a guide hole for the cutter.


On the bench, the queen does her stuff.


Slowly fettling the top of the blade and the inside of the cheeks to be a near fit.  The stainless steel fitting on the trailing edge is a new ‘found’ piece to help get the uphaul line on a better angle of pull….i did have a ‘doh’ moment when i realised that i’d glassed over the hole that takes the downhaul line….which now goes to a jam cleat inside the aft face of the cockpit.



Next jobs.

If all goes reasonably well the rudder will be back on and we will be on the water again for September and October, after that i’m coming out of the water this Autumn as there are other things that i need to get one with including 2 longer projects on the boat.

When i put the rudder and motor back in i will still have the problem of the outboard leg kiting up with the boat going forward and my temporary solution will be to just tie the leg forward via the cockpit drain hole which is in the face of the outboard well….that’s only a temporary solution and at some time i am going to have to modify the reversing latch itself and/or buy a new motor maybe next year….the engine/noise problems will be part of another post.


Something i have always wanted for WABI”’ is a sculling oar mounted at the stern, iv’e recently seen one that might fit so i might pick that up when i am down in Plymouth soon : iv’e always liked the idea of having completely independent ‘power’, i can paddle the boat like a big canoe in very light weather but sculling seems to be the way to go.

The second project will have to be a modification of the tillerpilot mounting to give me more tiller movement to starboard….minor job but needs a new part fabricating.

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