A 31 year-old boat is going to have some issues. This one is hidden, like the others I’ve chronicled lately, and you wouldn’t know there was a potential problem unless you looked around in those places you can’t see easily. Okay, here’s the photo, and the challenge is to identify what you’re looking at before you read on:
Got it? You’re looking at the rudder stock brace and bearing plates. See a problem here? That’s what 31 years of living under the cockpit sole will do to 3/8″ mild steel channel stock. Beneath where the bearing plates enclose the shaft you see a large U-shaped opening. This opening was probably not much bigger than the shaft diameter when the boat was built. With all that material missing, rusted, and compromised, the strength of the bracket is greatly lessened. Here are a few more photos to help you see how it’s attached to the boat.
Looking down on the bracket, you can see how the bearing plates are mounted. These plates are relatively new, as I replaced them two years ago. The old ones were also mild steel, and were in terrible condition. I had the new bearing plates made of stainless.
Here you can see how and where the channel stock is mounted to the sole of the cockpit. Those three pairs of bolts you see in the upper middle part of the photo hold the channel stock to the sole – well, sort of: Actually, what really holds it there (I think) is 3M 5200. When I replaced the bearing plates two years ago, I was really trying to remove the whole bracket for replacement. I didn’t have the right tools or enough time to do it, so I settled for replacing the bearings. Having had several years to think about how to do this, I’m now pretty certain I need the proprietary de-bonding compound for 5200, and Fein-style vibrating tool with a chisel fitting attached, and a pry-bar.
Here’s the end view. Most of this metal is gone. I think it’s still safe, but it’s just a matter of time before a brisk sail in strong winds and lots of weather helm distort the bracket due to the lateral pressure exerted. Or more likely, the structure will just rust into powder which will induce a lot of slop in the helm.
Here’s a photo of why it rusted on the end, but the rest of the bracket is in good shape. Any water that falls on the surface where the rudder stock exits the deck passes right down the shaft. I don’t know how to seal this. The way it was installed makes me believe that it was never intended to be drip-proof. As the water leaks through, the first place it falls is onto the rudder bracket below.
How to fix: I’m going to acquire 3/8″ stainless channel stock. Machine the cuts (shaft relief, bolt holes) myself, re-bed in 5200 (I don’t envision ever needing to take it off again) and bolt back in place.
I’ll feel a lot better about it when it’s been replaced.