Haul out adventure 2010
April 5, 2010 · Print This Article
For four years I have been sailing Del Corazon my little Choey Lee offshore 31 ketch. I had always assumed that the machining in the top of the rudder-post lined up with the rudder. In other words, if the tiller lined up mid-ship then the rudder would as well. One mid winter day I discovered that the rudder was off by about 5 or more degrees. To make matters worse I was convinced that after tying off the helm and tugging on the rudder with a boat hook I got it to move on the stock. I no longer felt comfortable sailing her and she sat in the slip until I could arrange for a haul out.
Economic times as they are, and the fact that I can barely afford to own a boat in the first place meant I needed to be smart and thrifty how I went about repairing this thing. I arranged with Carl at the Berkeley Marine Center for an overnight “haul and hang”. They would lift my boat at 5pm, I’d take the rudder off and they would splash me at 8am in the morning. I could then take my time to rebuild the rudder and avoid the lay days with the boat in my slip instead of the yard.
I prepared by doing as much of the work as possible in my slip. One of my concerns was the logistics of removing the prop and shaft, which needed to be removed in order for the rudder to come out. The bronze shaft is keyed and pinned into a steel coupling that bolts to the back of the transmission. I heard stories about difficulties separating these two parts so I decided better to do it in the slip rather than have difficulties in the sling at 8:00 at night. I used some bolts and an appropriately size socket to press the shaft out of the coupling.
The next problem was how to get the disabled boat around the marina both before and after the rudder comes out. The solution was to get my Avon inflatable and the 7.5 evinrude that had been in storage for the pass 3 years up and running. I repaired a few leaks in the Avon and after a number of rounds with the 2 stroke outboard motor my little tug was fit for service.
Finally all was ready to go for my haul and hang. I brought my now disabled boat over to the long dock at the Berkeley Marine Center were it waited for it’s turn to be hauled. It was there that one of the OCSC boats dragged its out board motor across my port quarter on the way into a slip. It made a gouge about two feet long and at its deepest about a 1/8 of an inch, through the still new looking Awlcraft paint down to the old gel coat.
Well I got to hand it to OCSC for their honesty and forthrightness. They had informed the Berkeley Marine Center of the mishap and agreed to cover the cost to have the damage repaired. When I went into to the BMC office a plan was already in affect to haul me and make the repairs at no charge to me. This meant I had about a week to do rudder repairs before the boat started accruing lay days.
That evening Del Corazon hung with her keel about three feet off the ground. I had quite the posse come out to help with the rudder removal which also included removing the prop and shaft. Thanks so much to Jack Suanders, Lathen Spalding, John Davie and Eli also Sky and Chiara.
Once the rudder was removed I ground away the fiberglass to expose the skeleton underneath. I was most concerned about the relatively small area were the stock attach to the rudder. I put a great big pipe wrench on the stock and a friend and I did our best to turn the stock in the blade…but nothing moved. I hit the wrench with a hammer, still nothing moved. I exposed a big beautiful C shaped stainless steel casting that attached the upper stock to the lower stock. It was in great shape with no evidence of cracks or rusting. It had some bar welded to it to add support to the blade and that was all in great shape. The upper stock was connected to the casting with a machined taper that was keyed and bolted with a large bronze nut that was pinned with a cotter. I removed the nut and hit the end of the shaft with a heavy hammer. One would think if the shaft was loose or moving there would be evidence by now. Nothing budged. The stock to blade connection was solid as a rock. They are indeed misaligned by about 5 degrees but non-the less solid.
Some of the old-timers in the yard made comment about how it is not the first time they have heard tale of a mysterious “spin”. All the experts that inspected it thought it was fine. A few folks thought I should weld it “just to make sure”. I didn’t really like the idea of welding. I showed it to a welder I have the utmost respect for and he was convinced that it was fine and that welding could even weaken it by concentrating the force in a much smaller area than that of the taper. This made the most sense to me and I finally had to chalk my spin up to winter madness.
I replaced the core material that I removed from the rudder with expanding foam. Then I epoxy glassed the blade back into shape. After a couple coats of epoxy barrier paint the rudder was ready for bottom paint.
The gudgeon that held the rudder at the bottom had worn egg shaped and had at least 1/8” of play. I brought it over to Dave at the Prop Shop in Richmond and he machined in a standard size bushing.
About this time Bob at the BMC was finishing up the repair to my hull. He did a great job. It is impressive that he can get a patch to look that good. Another good reason to use the Awlcraft branded paint instead of the Awlgrip.
While I waited for my bushing to be machined, I took the time to paint the long overdue nameplate. I had been working on the design for years, and always thought that I would carve the plate out of wood. The curve of the stern complicated the project so the carving never got under way. The stenciled stern plaque is “down and dirty” but I’m happy with the way it turned out.
My friend Dick Wren of Master Mariners fame, realizing I’ve been pinching pennies, gave me about a gallon and a half of high quality bottom paint that had been sitting in his garage too long for his worm prone mahogany bottomed boat. Now the Del Corazon has new black bottom paint.
The rudder and prop-shaft went in with out a hitch. The stuffing box on the prop-shaft was leaking profusely when splashed. BMC kept me in the sling until I had the leak under control, which took about 10 minutes of contortions.
Motoring back to my slip the rudder felt tighter. The new bushing in the gudgeon was worth the time and effort. I am glad that the whole adventure yielded a performance improvement.
When I got my boat back to the slip I was taken back by how dirty my boat had gotten in the yard. The EPA has cracked down on the boat yards water pollution and made it almost impossible to use water in the yard. All bottom paint needs to be removed with a dry sander attached to a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Gone are the days of wet sanding with a fire-brick. Consequently the yard never gets hosed down and when the wind picks up (or class at OCSC lets out) the yard turns into a dusty mess. Good idea to have your mask on.
After washing my boat down I realized that the Marine Contractor that had been boring holes and grinding a new iron ballast next to me in the yard had covered my boat in iron dust and particles. By the time I washed my boat, my recently painted cabin top and decks were covered in rust stains. It also appears that the particles have melted to make little mountain shaped pimples on the surface of the paint. My super smooth awlgrip finish now looks impossibly dirty and to the touch feels like sand paper.
In retrospect I should have been more concerned about the mess the contractor next to me was making. There is nobody to look after your boat but you. In the past I’ve been grinding fiberglass in the yard and been asked to stop and tarp off my work as not to get dust on other boats. The BMC must know the damage fall out from working with steel can cause. I did expect them to look after my interests and safeguard my property while in there care, in the yard.
I know shit happens. Boats get hit, paint drips, boats topple off of stands and things break. Boat yards are dangerous places. But as my dock mate said “ When you go into the yard you expect your boat to come out in better shape. You got a patch on your hull, stained paint and you paid them $300; sucker!” I got lots of stuff I want to do to my boat. The last thing I need to do is re-do the stuff I just did.
I like the folks at Berkeley Marine Center and over the years they have been good to me. I do all my work my self and I appreciate their tolerance and help with that. In the same respect, I do my best to abide by the yard rules, keep things tidy and pleasant and I pay my bills. So far the BMC seems sincere in trying to resolve this problem. They offered to acid wash my boat which Awlgrip expressly advises against. A week later and I’m still waiting to for a call with a reasonable and equitable solution. I’ll let you know how it goes..
1-2-2011: Cree Partridge came to look at the boat and agreed to acid wash the boat. After sitting on the work dock for two months with no progress I took the boat back to my slip. I don’t expect BMC to follow up. I’m sure they don’t really care.