RUDDER FAILURE on an Ocean Passage? Let’s find out! (Patrick Childress Sailing #61)

RUDDER FAILURE on an Ocean Passage? Let’s find out! (Patrick Childress Sailing #61)

We don’t need the nightmare of a rudder
failure on our next ocean passage! This boat is 44 years old and with that alone
that gives me great concern about what’s going on inside of that rudder so let’s
dig into it and see what we have. Hello we are Patrick and
Rebecca Childress and this is what we did to our boat’s rudder to make sure it’s not gonna fall apart halfway across the ocean. Let’s get
started! Hello we are Patrick and Rebecca Childress and what? It really isn’t that hard to remove the
rudder from this sailboat. It just takes a bit of time. But first we have to dig
into this starboard Locker and get everything out of it to gain access to
the very aft end of the boat and disconnect the propane Locker drain the
drains to the outside above the waterline the next step is to get
everything out of the propane locker both the tanks and everything that’s
stored in there undo the mounting screws that secure it to the frame and then
loosen up all of the caulk and sealant that seals the propane box to the
fibreglass surrounded by that up I can get the whole box out of the way and
that will give us access to the whole aft end of the boat and easy access to
the rudder in all of its connections. I had to get out the vacuum cleaner and
clean up all of the dust and corrosion leftover from the copper ground plane
for the single sideband radio we just don’t use it anymore
if we resurrect it I’ll just hook up a ground wire to a bronze through-hole
fitting. satellite communications have pretty well taken over all of our
long-range communications I can tell you from a lot of frustrating experience
it’s far better to mark everything in its orientation to each other before
disassembly of any of the steering components these parts can go back in
any number of ways but they have to go back in the same orientation as when
they came out also where the steering cable sits in the quadrant is very
important to mark in our boat the steering cable on the starboard side
sits in the lower slot and on the port side
the steering cable sits in the upper slot of the quadrant it wasn’t really my
intention to show how to get the rudder out of this boat it’s something of an
afterthought so some of these scenes are a bit in retrospect actually when we put
the rudder back on but it’ll give you a good idea of what we had to do to get
this rudder out so before taking the bronze boot off of the bottom of the
skeg or before we disassembled any of the steering or other mechanisms inside
the lazarette area we set up a line that goes underneath the rudder then up to
the port side and the starboard side of the boat and then forward to a winch on
both the port and the starboard side so once everything was disconnected on the
inside it was very easy then just to lower the rudder down into a hole that
we had dug in the sandy soil then we could carry it off and start digging
into the rudder and see what its condition on the inside is I won’t show
you everything that I did to inspect this rudder shaft because it would just
take way too long and besides what we’re doing at the very bottom end of this
rudder is very representative as to what was done on the top end of the rudder
shaft I wanted to open things up check out the spline to rudder shaft connection
and also dry up the areas because I know water was getting into this
rudder from the top in the bottom end so I want to seal both the top and bottom
end with epoxy just as good as I can to make sure that no water can get back
into this rudder on this boat in the future. I was using a diamond-studded blade on the
angle grinder and holding that on just as much of an angle as I could to cut
this slot that I’m trying to now pound out with the hammer and chisel I wanted
as much angle as possible to make it easier for sanding later on to get an
even greater bevel for proper fiberglass adhesion when all of this is reassembled
so I already cut a similar slot on the other side of this rudder now I just
have to pry everything out and break it free from the closed cell foam that’s on
the inside of the rudder and whatever else might be holding it in place this is what I cut out from the leading
edge of the rudder to inspect the welds on the plate that attaches to the rudder
shaft so it turned out to adjust a lot of putty in here and then that was
overlaid with them with what looks like maybe two layers of fiberglass cloth so
it wasn’t a very strong structure and it’s been known with some other Valiant
40 owners that they would get a crack longitudinally along that leading edge
and also on the trailing edge so now it’s a matter of vacuuming up any rust
particles that are in here and then cutting back this closed cell foam it’s
a really tough foam it isn’t hard it’s rubbery but still very strong and very
difficult to cut with the razor blade knife and then once we get this all
opened up I’m trying to cut it back to where there’s a dry area but in any case
I’ll set up a hair dryer in here on low temperature and let that blow for
overnight and help dry anything else that maybe we aren’t seeing so I got out
the electric drill and some wire wheels and started polishing away I was very
surprised I thought this whole area was just going to be one big soft rusty
patch that was going to fall apart into nothing right before my eyes but there
was still a lot of good integrity left in this spline and the rudder shaft
attachment that was a very pleasant surprise you can also see the welds they
are polishing up very nicely as well and they aren’t just disintegrating into
powder it’s a long way to reassembly but this was a good time to get out the
grinder with 40 grit paper and open up the bevel on this area of fiberglass so
that would have a good wide area for the new fiberglass to adhere to upon
reassembly of this rudder at this point I still dug out even more
foam because the very special filler I want to put in here I want to be able to
go underneath the existing fiberglass which will create a much stronger joint
when the new layers of fiberglass are installed over the top because it’s on
the deterioration of the spline I was just barely able to get the tip of a
fingernail between the spline and the outer edge of the weld but out of
curiosity we decided to go ahead and just grind away the entire weld and just
check and see how things looked and actually it was all very strong but at
least now we know and all the welds disappeared with the grinder and we
would install all new weld in this section of the rudder both sides of the
spline got new welds and this makes me feel so much more secure so much more
confident about this 44 year old rudder the bottom of the rudder shaft is now
looking great the top of the rudder shaft was good there’s no sense in
ripping anything out in the middle now the rebuild begins first I want to lay
in a very thin coat of epoxy resin slightly slightly thickened with
Cabosil I want this to soak into all of the cracks and crevices and crannies and
then build up from there layering in these fillers time is of the
essence I want a wet-on-wet application that is
I don’t want one layer that’s in there now to harden up past the tacky state I
want the new layer to adhere to a nice tacky previous layer if I wait for
everything to harden up then I could have a cold joint and it’s just too hard
to get into these tight places to sand them properly to have a good mechanical
join the next application is more epoxy but it’s made thicker with even more
Cabosil mixed in now for the big stuff little
styrofoam balls kind of like what you’d find in a beanbag chair and this will be
mixed in with the epoxy it’ll be nice it’ll be lightweight it’ll take up a lot
of space but first I want to mix in some Cenolite. Cenolite is a
silica aluminum product tiny little spheres it feels like in looks like sand
so this will help to thicken up the epoxy and take up the space in between
the styrofoam balls let me show you 1708 fiberglass cloth
it’s a biaxial woven cloth it’s very strong but especially on the back side
it has chopped strand mat this chopped strand mat is sewn on with threads it
isn’t glued on normally chopped strand mat laid out flat will be held together
all those oriented strands will be held together with glue that is not
compatible with epoxy resin this being sewn on there’s no problem at all using
it with epoxy resin and I always apply the 1708 chopped strand mat side down
good strong cloth been using it everywhere on the rebuild of our
sailboat on this project we are using Gurit LR30 laminating epoxy resin.
I’m not setting the best example here handling this cloth with bare fingers.
oils from the fingers can transfer to the fiberglass cloth and then inhibit proper
adhesion over fiberglass resin so it’s really best to always wear rubber gloves
whether it’s latex or nitrile whenever handling fiberglass cloth or resin all
the pieces of fiberglass cloth are all pre-cut it makes it so much faster and
easier to have everything just set up and ready to go and we put on a couple
pieces the same size to help fill up the void and then each piece of cloth after
that is a little larger and starts expanding out to that beveled area of
the rudder it was a lot easier to wet out the cloth on a horizontal board and
then lift it up and carry it over and slap it on down onto the repair area and
roll it out with a fin roller to roll out any air bubbles and excess resin layer after layer after layer went on I
lost count of how many layers of fiberglass cloth went on to fill up this
patch it’s just amazing it takes a lot more than what you ever expect now there
becomes the complication of applying too much epoxy resin too fast and building
up too much heat during the hardening process the last thing to go on is peel ply and
that will go on just as though it was another piece of fiberglass cloth
it’ll be wet it out except around the edges so that it can be grabbed and then
peeled off when everything is set up the following day and along with that peel
ply any of the Amin blush which is a reaction between the hardener and the
surrounding humidity will come off with the peel ply if that doesn’t happen then
amine blush will act as a release agent and cause all kinds of complications and
down the road but of course the amine blush can be washed off with some water
is it some soapy water and a lot of rinsing and then I’m gonna scuff up the
surface with 80 grit or maybe 100 grit sand paper and that’ll give a good mechanical
bond if the peel ply isn’t used so then we
get out a straightedge and check to see where the high spots are the low spots
see if we need to add more fiberglass cloth anywhere or get out the putty and
start the faring. So after laying in more layers of fiberglass into the very low
spots putting some of the not so low spots and sanding the very high spots
it’s time to check the levels again so now we mark the high spots and we’ll
grind those down and just complete the faring process until we have everything
just right the faring compound that we use to build up the low spots as a
two-part epoxy compound called S-fair 600 and we bought that from AMT
composites in Durban South Africa good stuff easy to sand and easy to mix much
better than mixing up our own epoxy resin with a bunch of fillers one more project to do on this rudder is
to lay in a couple layers of fiberglass along the trailing edge the skinny edge
of this rudder seeing how the leading edge just wasn’t built that terribly
strong at the factory I just want to make sure we don’t ever get any cracks
along this trailing edge so I’ll lay in a layer of 1708 and then on top of that
some very lightweight traditional weave boat ply and then after everything is
sanded down and fared out everything should be ready then to lay this rudder
flat and start laying on a couple coats of epoxy resin as a barrier coat and
then it be ready for remounting and of course peel ply is the last thing to
go on to the trailing edge of the rudder and it is finished better than ever and
ready to go back on it really isn’t difficult then to put
the rudder back in place we just drop it down in the hole on top of the rope
that’s going to hoist it up and Talente actually has the hardest job holding
that shaft in place and guiding it up through the rudder log well I just give
a little crank on one side of the boat and bring it up a bit and then go to the
other side on the other winch and give that one a crank and slowly slowly back
and forth we raise that rudder up into its place and once the rudder shaft
comes up through the shaft log then I can start slipping on all the components
that will help to keep the seawater out of the boat and at the very top end of
the rudder shaft that’s where the bearing the upper bearing will be
fastened and that’s good the whole weight of the rudder II then can be
hanging from this upper support but we’re not going to let that happen just
yet we’ll keep the rope underneath the rudder just to give it a little support
while we do the rest of the work of the assembly once the bronze boot is
properly bolted in place then we can take away the blocking that was helping
to support it during that installation get rid of the rope support under the
rudder and start filling in the hole in the ground we’re just took 16 minutes to show took
over a week and a half to do but it was well worth the effort now I know just
how solid our rudder is. We know several cruisers who have lost their rudders far
out at sea it’s a terrible ordeal they have to live
through and work through. One Cruiser that we know lost their rudder, their
Spade rudder. The rudder snapped off halfway between Bora Bora and American Samoa. We were
fortunately upwind from them at a coral atoll, and we were able to gather some lumber
together and deliver it to them out in the middle of an ocean so they fashioned
together a makeshift rudder and as soon as the wind picked up it just didn’t
work. it kept breaking so they spent another month working their way six
hundred and thirty miles to safety in American Samoa. At least now we have
great confidence we’ll never have to live that sort of an ordeal of a failure of our rudder halfway across an ocean!

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65 Replies to “RUDDER FAILURE on an Ocean Passage? Let’s find out! (Patrick Childress Sailing #61)”

  1. Ok here I am in Australia about to be lockdown.
    Why don’t you just fill the rudder with all fibreglass ?

  2. Do you have an old sailboat and are wondering if the rudder may fail or fall off someday? Have you ever seen the inside of your rudder. Are there other things you would do to make sure you don’t have a rudder failure mid-ocean?

    Let’s talk about sailboat rudders, and rudder failures here…and how to prevent rudder failures out on the big ocean…

    Have you ever had a rudder fail on you?

  3. Just as generalt recommendation. Never use steel brush (chemical Fe) on stainless steel surfaces. Nor use products containing silicon carbide. This will ruin the surface of the stainless steel and may set off more sereous corrosion. As long as no humidity, no problem. Corr. Engineer by profession. Your videos are very good and informative.
    sv Hulda (home made from steel ☺)

  4. Those old welds looked very cold. They were basically sitting on top of the metal, didn’t look like much penetration.

  5. interesting , would be interested in seeing photo of past rudder structure failure . with the bronze post intact , cant imagine that failure being a problem. . a post and alum, rudder on board for emergency rudder would work fine , and should be on board. failures most likely in rudder linkage, sailors should be familiar and ready for such. ……… another good reason for outboard motor and smaller cruising sailboat . , each to his own.

  6. Great video Patrick. Any lubrication on the top thrust bearing? And, is that Zeppelin ‘That’s the Way’ being played at 9:15?

  7. An excellent episode imo, I just 💕💕 the technical aspects of…. errr 'everything' actually. I can only ImAgiNe the wave of chill running down the spine of losing a rudder or mast @ sea in the midle of nowhere.

  8. Quite the project. Based on what you found, I feel pretty good about not opening my rudder up for some time. Is that the original propane locker? Keeldragger (TB-V40 #278) has a smaller locker.

  9. On the rudder cable(s) (I couldn't see well enough to be comfortable) please make sure the cable anchors are in the correct position. The "U" should be over the side of the cable closest to the end of the cable. "Never saddle a dead horse." If those little devils slipped out at sea, you could have rudder failure.
    Grease? I'm a fan of Aqua Shield.

  10. I really enjoyed this video, well done informative and interesting. Love the way you pass so much information in a short period of time. Thanks skipper, cheers

  11. Great video folks. Patrick, you are a craftsman. You mentioned satelite radio communications have pretty much replaced SSB. Do you have a video on that subject?
    Best regards,

  12. I know that feeling of wondering if the rudder is ok. I totally rebuilt the rudder on my Tartan 34. Replaced the post and fingers. I used 2 part foam, west epoxy, 1708 without the mat. It seems there are as many ways to repair a rudder as there are rudders being repaired! Thanks for the video

  13. Nice work! I did nearly the same thing on my Valiant 40 decades ago, and it is still like new. I can't believe how fast you've accomplished such a massive job! You're living the dream….

  14. Great video, I think a lot of people would enjoy a video about what to carry and how to make an emergency rudder at sea.

  15. Great rudder rebuild video Patrick. So many great tips on how to tear into a rudder, check for damage, and then put it back together stronger than ever. Certainly the peace of mind was well worth the ordeal. It is clear that you knew how the Valiant 40 rudder was constructed and based on problems reported by other owners you knew what to look for and had a plan to fix it. What resources do you recommend for other boat owners to use to find out potential problems on their brand/model of boat and any plans that show how they may have been constructed. Hi Rebecca! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Haha, it looked like a decent burial for your rudder, especially after you stuck it to death with that chisel! 🙂
    Interesting video. Thanx!
    Happy greetingz, Wim

  17. Rudders are probably the most stressed component of a vessel. Especially if trying to hold a high deflection, at any meaningful speed during rough seas. Of all the work you did probably the most valuable time spent.

  18. What would you estimate the cost for a boat yard (near Mass.) to do this same project? Thank you for your insight and amazing videos as usual.

  19. Very informative. After watching a lot of sailing stuff lately under our "CCP Virus lock down" I think I was way to hard on you guys with my poorly worded comments. You do provide an actual service much more than I gave credit. For that I apologize. For people that want to know how to sail your channel is terrific! Thanks a lot. I prefer your content more than a lot of other "home movie" kind of sailing series.

  20. DAMN!! You don't hold back on preventive maintenance. Bet your efforts are paid off with the knowledge that your rudder is better than new, no need to be concerned or wonder about it. EPIC PATRICK!!

  21. There is a product called "coremat" which would reduce the number of layers significantly, as well as weight and amount of epoxy needed… here is the product description: Core Mat is a low density non-woven laminate bulker containing micro balloons. Use to save weight, stiffen and thicken laminates. Dimensionally stable, excellent wet out, and conformability. Improves impact strength and reduces print through other reinforcements. Core Mat is available in numerous styles, thicknesses and widths.

  22. Since you two have a background in renovating houses, please consider doing a video comparing the investment economics of flipping a house versus refitting a sailing yacht. I reckon a house project needs at least a 20% annualized return to be worthwhile (invest $1 increase value by $1.20), whereas a sailing yacht I reckon loses half of the total investment, labor and materials, in terms of realizable market value (invest $1 increase value half of $1) – which is why so many old sailing yachts are not worth fixing up, whereas old houses are more frequently worth fixing up. Thanks for another first rate video with exemplary editing and narration.

  23. What kind of steel is your rudder shaft and internal supports made from? I just built a rudder from scratch for my Reliance 44 and I used Duplex 2205 Stainless steel. It's pretty expensive, but it's designed for continuous immersion in salt water. I also made my welds radial (around the circumference of the shaft) which should be much stronger since the welds will be in shear over the entire weld instead of having a high tensile stress concentration at the outer part of the weld.

    Thanks for sharing your experience!

  24. When I took the rudder off the boat I bought last year I saw the post had corroded to almost a pinpoint just above the flange. I'm lucky it didn't break on the way up the coast!

  25. thank you for this video. of course i enjoy all of your video's. (thinking i haven't missed any). This particular one covers an area that's been concerning me, as is should anybody buying an older vessel.

    on another note:

    Getting that boat is getting closer to my finger tips. but the more i think about it, knowing i can only sail 4 to 6 months a year, it seems ridiculous to buy a catamaran for myself and pay to park it 6 or 8 months a year.

    Knowing what i think i know, ya'll have seen successes and heard of war stories of shared boat ownership. i realize that most fractional owner ships consist of 4 owners and scattered usage allowances. My thought is two no more than three owners (total) including myself. Possibly from the southern ocean, making our winters opposite of each other.

    Can you tell us some of what you've witnessed, the good and the bad? I'm confident that i'm not the only one that'd enjoy some sound knowledge in that category. my business ( is seasonal, giving me the colder months to sail. surely there are many in the same boat as myself. I'm hoping to circumnavigate over a few (but not too many ) winter seasons.

    again, thank you for such remarkably good video's with experienced, sound advice.

  26. I kid you not, I was on a 48/50 foot timber displacement cruiser, single screw about 60 NM from land and seas getting nasty in about 50 fathoms of water the rudder just fell clean off. We first noticed something was wrong when she started to go off course and initally thought the auto pilot was the culprit. Cut a long story short, the Skipper got the dining table, ripped it from its mounts, turned it on its side and hammered 3 inch wood screws (yes, hammered) into a jury rig/tiller arrangement and hung the impromptu tiller/rudder from the stern with ropes/screws etc. (we had good lengths of spare timber on board laying in the bilge) next he unscrewed the compass from its mount in the wheelhouse and hammered it onto the aft deck. He got us back on course and said to me, thats the course we follow, stick to it and I did. We arrived back in Port safe & sound. Next day hauled out and found that the previous owner had "secured" the rudder to the stainless rudder shaft with plain metal/low carbon nuts/bolts and of course corrosion set in and whala! no more rudder. All credit to the skipper at the time, thinking outside the square got us home.

  27. Hello, hope you are both well!
    I have lost a rudder, not that big of a deal, on a Mull 22. The reason I'm mentioning it is the rudder was transom-hung on stock welded pintles with stock gudgeons on the transom. The rudder was barely a year old but it had a rough life. Crevice corrosion or maybe just fatigue made the pintles break off. So, anyone who's about to head out may want to change out their welded pintles with something sturdier, like the continous rod/clevis gudgeon type with no welded pintles (gudgeons on the rudder too).

    Also, the drain on your propane locker: I can't tell if the white hose is 1/2" or 5/8" or what, but I have experienced that type of white nylon "thru-hull"/hose barb break off after they are 6 or 7 years old. They break at the top of the thread, right at the flange, leaving just a sort-of white washer (the flange) attached to nothing. I had this happen to me a day out of Turtle Bay once, although admittedly that one was exposed to sunlight. It was above the waterline, and I just blocked the hole with a trim tab zinc (two discs of zinc with a bolt through the middle), substituting a longer center screw.
    Yes, your locker drain is above the waterline, but at speed I would expect quite a head of water in that hose from the stern wave.

    It looks like your rudder post is solid in some views and hollow tube in others. Because of the diameter and the depth of the groove under the Quadrant clamp, I'm guessing solid. However, I have seen tubular rudder stocks break off right around the waterline above the rudder and below the counter. One guy I know shoved fiberglass strands (like rope, not chopped strand) down his hollow post followed by an epoxy pour, to fill that part of the tube, from the foam core in the rudder up past the waterline. Without removing the rudder from the boat or the boat from the water, or even removing the water completely from the inside of the rudder. Just so if it Did crack at the waterline, hopefully it wouldn't break off.
    If someone's rudder stock were made from bronze pipe or solid round, I wouldn't expect Any such problems (beyond a bit of wear at the bearing).

    If anyone is replacing their steering cables, I would like to mention that it is very easy to overtighten them. This will be very hard on the sheaves. The cables should be just tight enough to not drop out of the quadrant groove when the helm is hard over. That means when one is adjusting the tension you want to hold the wheel Hard against the rudder stop, and see if the slack side drops off or not. Check both ways, and stretch the heck out of the tight side with the steering wheel. If you don't have positive, mondo strong rudder stops like Patrick and Rebecca, by all means get some. It can be the type shown, or even static length ropes. These are Essential for keeping the rudder in the boat.

    My own personal belief is that there is no way to keep water out of rudders like this. Maybe I'm wrong.

    Also, I just want to mention if I may, That if anyone doing this to their own boat feels it's time to replace the black hose on the box (rudder post/bearing/seal), to not use just any black hose. That hose is not the same as black "rubber" sanitary hose, not the same as black wire-reinforced "Carlisle-type" hose, and not the same thing as black marine exhaust hose (we call Peedro, because they use a lot of it in San Pedro, I guess). Please use the type of black, Non Wire Reinforced hose that you would get from Edson, Buck Algonquin, Spartan Bronze, Vetus, Elk Brass(?) etc. The difference is not obvious, but the correct choice is going to have twice as many plies or more, as the other choices.

    Anyway, you did a heck of a good job on your own rudder, Thank you for sharing.
    Patrick, what are those two tanks under the aft end of the cockpit for?

  28. Having lost a couple of rudders I will always put an eyebolt and safety line so at least I have the broken rudder for parts n patterns

  29. Excellent show Patrick. I'll bet you are glad to have done this while Brick House was on the hard instead of having to take things apart while at sea.

  30. Love watching your videos! Especially now being forced off duty in April, I’ll have a chance to catch up on all your past vids. I hope you’re healthy and safe in Cape Town! Fortunately or, unfortunately….I suspect I’ll be able to get a good deal on a boat soon!

  31. I totally agree with you that it is not that hard to remove a rudder from any boat, as long as you don't time into consideration. Sometimes it takes me 45 minutes (or longer) to tighten one (1) screw. It's not hard, but it takes time…..

  32. It's unfortunate that so many boat builders gave so little thought to how well the rudder was built. I know quite a few people who have lost rudders on the water and one person I know he rebuilt his rudder the moment he bought his boat since it was a known weak point on those boats.

  33. Thanks so much you guys, really appreciate your videos. I also have a Perry Boat 1986 Tayana 37 Pilot House, Cutter rig. As a kid this was my dream boat, but as you know, she needs lots of love. Thanks again Cheers,,, Pops

  34. How much would a new rudder cost delivered to your location? Was it a consideration to buy a new rudder?

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