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Old Style Rudder

NightSailor

Captain
Can someone explain to me why the old style rudder pops off? In what conditions does this happen? Is the boat heeled over hard?

Next I'd like to know if a good sailor can use this rudder without any problems.
 

Webfoot

New Member
When you put the rudder on you loosen the wingnut first? Install rudder and then tighten wingnut?

Check bottom strap, is it loose? Still using the original deck screw?

Do you have the spring plate that goes on top of the top hull strap?

Used the old style on four boats since 1974, remember it would occasionaly pop loose if you had way too much weatherhelm and you had to hold the tiller way over when close hauled. If all the rudder parts are in good shape and the weather helm is correct, it will not pop off. I've got gooseneck set so I only use a few degrees of rudder deflection when the boat is close hauled and heeled over. No need at all to use the tiller extension and almost no strain on the rudder.

You can tighten the wingnut to the point where the rudder hits something and it stays locked, not really a good idea.
 

Wayne

Member Emeritus
Can someone explain to me why the old style rudder pops off? In what conditions does this happen? Is the boat heeled over hard?

Next I'd like to know if a good sailor can use this rudder without any problems.
Originally the complaint came from those who were pushing the envelope in competition, we see the issue more pervasive these days since most equipment of this age now has a couple of decades wear on it, at least.

The situation arises for two reasons. First, the spring plate and/or lower plate give enough to release when the boat is being sailed in the upper register of its wind range... either by vertical give or lateral twist. As Webfoot points out, broader awareness of weather helm adjustment and sailing the planing hull flat have mitigated this to some degree, but then comes the wear issue. Being bronze, the lip of the detent in the lower plate gets rolled and its mating edge on the vertical plate wears. The combination of these elements makes for a kick-up mechanism that releases with less force than intended.

The Sunfish Bible contains a 1967 article by Robert Johnstone called, Sunfish - Tuning to Win, where remedies are illustrated on how to tighten up the rudder plate's hold for both wear and the rigors of competition. In a nutshell, the solution at that time was to build up the detent of the lower plate with a layer of inner tube rubber. That, and screwing down both the bottom plate and the spring plate adjusting bolt so all the slack is eliminated. Of course, you need to remember to loosen the spring plate wing nut before beaching.

A little re-engineering might improve things. Double screw the bottom plate to eliminate lateral movement while still allowing vertical latching action; I've seen compact, stiff coil springs placed under the wing nut, but I've been thinking a silicon compression bushing might be a better solution... like the bushings found on performance automotive suspensions, only in miniature.

Get one of those $10 mountain bike quick release seat adjuster bolts and put it in your gooseneck; Adjust the weather helm for the wind du jour so you have a light touch at the tiller as Webfoot recommends; Hike out to “sail it flat” and take advantage of the planing ability of the hull and you should be able to do well with an older style rudder.
 

Webfoot

New Member
Well here's a question. Would the current style rudder cheek fit a old style rudder blade? Thinking that reusing tiller and old blade would put upgrade in the $100 dollar range. Parts to buy would be Cheek, Mounting brackets and new style Tiller Straps.
 

B I Tom

New Member
I have just acquired my first Sunfish. It has the old style rudder. I have found lots of information about what is wrong with the old rudder, but not much about how to actually operate it. This thread comes the closest. I am interested in general advice but also have some specific questions.

1. Is the way to attach the rudder to loosen the wing nut so that it slides in easily and then tighten down the wingnut? That seems obvious but I want to take little for granted.
2. How tight should the wingnut be for sailing? How easy should it be to kick the rudder out by just pulling on the rudder as if it were running into something? Does this depend on conditions? I will be sailing in a bay of Lake Michigan that is mostly sandy bottom, although there are some rocky areas. The most likely need for the rudder to kick out would be hitting a sand bar.
3. Is any of the give for the rudder to kick out supposed to come from the lower plate? That plate was loose when I got the boat but I tightened the screw at the forward end of the plate and that seems to have removed that give. That screw is the only attachment to the hull and seems like it might be inadequate.

I understand that the new design is preferable, though there is something appealing to me in the brass construction of the early system. I would love to hear from someone who loves these old rudders and has sage advice on how to sail safely with them.

Tom on Beaver Island
 

Webfoot1

Active Member
The bottom strap is meant to flex just enough to allow the rudder to kick in and
out. This is tensioned by the spring plate and wing nut on top. Two things happen,
the edges of the pocket in the lower strap wear out and the wood screw holding the
bottom strap pulls out. You will get to the point where you can't tighten the wing
nut tight enough and the rudder pops out when you are close hauled. If you
want to use the old system than at a minimum I would replace the wood screw
on the bottom strap with a stainless bolt/nut and fender washer. This leaves
you with a nice inspection port on the deck should you want to upgrade to
the new rudder later. Find someone with the newer rudder and try it out,
you can get a sense if the cost of upgrade is worth the frustration saved with the old
system. If you can do some simple wood working the cost is much less. The old
rudder makes a really cool wall decoration.
 

wjejr

Active Member
Hi Tom, When it comes to this forum, I am the "defender of the old rudder". :)

I have a 71 boat, and have never had a problem with it releasing prematurely. I was out in 20+ mph gusts with 20 degree shifts this past Sunday and again, no problems. Here is my advice on having that same experience.

1. Make sure the rudder tube is in place and in good condition. That tube prevents side to side motion of the rudder, and if it's missing the rudder is going to blow out of the bottom bronze strap. Mine had deteriorated to the point where it was falling apart. You can search this forum for the dimensions.
2. As Webfoot1 touches on, I replaced the bronze screw that holds the strap to the bottom of the boat. I believe it's a #12 bronze screw, but I cannot remember how long it is. I filled the hole with epoxy and then drilled a new hole so that the new screw would hold better.
3. Also as webfoot1 suggests, make sure the bottom strap is in good condition side to side. Mine looks perfect, and I have never seen one that wasn't, but then again I don't see a whole lot of 71 and older Sunfish. Who does? If yours is damaged, however, I would search for one on eBay.
4. I have the wing nut tight, but I wouldn't say it's at max tightness
5. I think about the boat being balanced. Dragging the rudder through the water sideways puts a lot of stress on the rudder, but more importantly it's really slow. When I was out Sunday I slid the lower boom out to 20" or so and pulled the outhauls tighter than usual. I always make sure I am not over-sheeted.
5. When I launch, I usually just drop the rudder into place and put the pin in with the rudder down.

Hope that helps.
 

wjejr

Active Member
Hi Tom, just wanted to make sure your questions were answered, but my time to edit expired, so I had to create this post.

1. When I launch, I usually just drop the rudder into place and put the pin in with the rudder down. Occasionally, I just slam it down with my hand being careful to have it lined up. When I do that, I also hold the tiller up with one hand so that it doesn't get bounced up by the rudder. I never play around with the wing nut tension.
2. It's hard to measure for you how tight the wing nut is. I tighten it by hand pretty tight, but I could make it tighter if i tried.
3. Yes, the bottom plate flexes, actually pivots on the screw, and the rudder releases.


Hope that helps.
 

B I Tom

New Member
Thanks. I have not taken possession of the boat yet, but will check this all out when I get the boat. I think the screw holding the bottom plate still bites into whatever is under there, but I will keep an eye on that after sailing the first few times.From my inspections, it does not appear that the brass is worn away at the sides of the pocket. This boat has spent its life on this island and I don't think it has been sailed a lot, so I am hoping the rudder mechanism is not worn out, but we will see (though probably not until next year because we are going home in about a week). Do or did you have one of theses old rudder-equipped boats?
 

B I Tom

New Member
Thanks for this very helpful response. I'm glad that there even IS a "defender of the old rudder." My boat is also a '71. I do know that the rudder tube is still there, but I will take a look when I get possession of the boat to be sure it is in good shape. I have not been able to figure out yet how to search the forum, so if you could guide me to the dimensions I would be grateful. Your second point #5 is interesting. Your first point #5 reminds me of how little I know about sailing. Many years ago we had a Jetwind (the Sears version of a boat that I can't remember the name of). I knew enough to sail it around the bay and get it upright when I tipped it over. I haven't sailed for years and am now, at age 70 and just retired, excited to give it another go.

Thanks again.

Tom
 

B I Tom

New Member
Over the winter I cleaned up and refinished the dagger board, rudder and tiller. They look great. I had to replace a few of the old brass or bronze fasteners. Now I have sailed this boat several times on Lake Michigan where we spend the summer (I'm retired) and I love it! I think I have mastered the use of the old style rudder and have had no problems with it kicking out, thanks to the great advice I got in this string. It's a little hard to get the rudder in place when the waves are bigger, but doable.

The plastic tube on the carriage bolt is cracked and has a piece missing. It seems like rigid tubing like that should be available somewhere, but I can't think of other uses for it and I don't know where to look. Any ideas? I have also looked on Sunfish part supplier websites and not found a replacemnt. As a more expensive solution, does anyone know a Sunfish parts supplier that has this part?

One other problem is that the flat metal piece at the end of the pin has broken off so it doesn't stick out and you have to deploy it to lock the pin by pushing it out with your thumbnail. Has anyone successfully fixed one of these? In the alternative, ideas for replacement sources?

Thanks.

Tom
 

wjejr

Active Member
Hi Tom,

Look for a post I made using these words: “PTFE Tubes”. That post should tell you what you need to know for replacing the tube.

You can find replacement pins on eBay for about $20 .

Hope that helps.
 

Alan S. Glos

Well-Known Member
Any decent hardware store sells plastic tube close to the size needed.

Soak your seized "toggle pin" in penetrating oil like PT Blaster then work the pin back and forth with your (gloved) fingers until it is free. then clean with fine steel wool. This usually works. You can also replace the pin with a 1/4" dia. brass or stainless bolt and nylon nut.

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY
 

B I Tom

New Member
Hi Tom,

Look for a post I made using these words: “PTFE Tubes”. That post should tell you what you need to know for replacing the tube.

You can find replacement pins on eBay for about $20 .

Hope that helps.
Got it. Thanks.
 

B I Tom

New Member
Any decent hardware store sells plastic tube close to the size needed.

Soak your seized "toggle pin" in penetrating oil like PT Blaster then work the pin back and forth with your (gloved) fingers until it is free. then clean with fine steel wool. This usually works. You can also replace the pin with a 1/4" dia. brass or stainless bolt and nylon nut.

Alan Glos
Cazenovia, NY
It's not seized. It's broken off so that the flat part doesn't stick out when it is in the unlocked position. Sorry, sort of hard for me to describe. If you can rotate it 90 degrees it works, but that is hard to do because there is no protruding part to push.
 

Weston

Well-Known Member
... Many years ago we had a Jetwind (the Sears version of a boat that I can't remember the name of). I knew enough to sail it around the bay and get it upright when I tipped it over. I haven't sailed for years and am now, at age 70 and just retired, excited to give it another go.
ahh. The Jetwind! The Sears version of the Surfwind. I too had one as a teenager in FL. Here is a photo of me and my brother on it many years ago. Today I have a ‘71 but decided to replace the old rudder with the help of Alan Glos On this forum. I picked up a beat up ‘66 last fall and may keep the old rudder on it.
C9126B27-5D09-437C-86CA-3E2CE33240A5.jpeg
 

Breeze Bender

Breeze Bender
Exactly. I will check the dimensions on the one you found against mine tomorrow and if it fits I will order one. Does it say somewhere that it fits the Sunfish? I didn't see that it did.
Thanks!
This is what I’d buy. New, original part, $12, free shipping. Last one available.
 

B I Tom

New Member
This is what I’d buy. New, original part, $12, free shipping. Last one available.
This appears to be the vertical pin, right? It is 6" long. I wrote the seller to confirm and see if they have the horizontal pin.
 

B I Tom

New Member
Sorta like a folding knife with the blade broken off—it'd be hard to open... :confused:

Oops...stumbled on a $2 item that's better than the original! :cool:

Sorta like a folding knife with the blade broken off—it'd be hard to open... :confused:

Oops...stumbled on a $2 item that's better than the original! :cool:

This appears to be too short. I want to call them and see if they have a longer one, but they are closed until Monday.
 

L&VW

Well-Known Member
The pins I found are made in different styles and lengths. I've got some [clevis] pins similar, but none longer than 3-inches.
 

B I Tom

New Member
This string includes a discussion of the plastic tube in the old rudder assembly. Mine was damaged, but this year it finally fell apart. I am on an island in Lake Michigan and supplies are limited. There is a hardware store, though, and I got from them two 5.25" pieces of polypropylene tubing, one .25"I.D. and the other .5"O.D. When you slide the bigger onto the smaller you get a VERY good approximation of the original rudder tube. It wasn't quite that simple, though. The smaller tube is a tight fit on the carriage bolt. If I sprayed the bolt with silicone I could slide the tubing onto it, though not easily. However, that stretched the tubing a bit and putting the second , larger piece on was tough, and not possible when the bolt was actually on the boat. You can't put the tube on the bolt until you have put the bolt through the brass (or bronze) piece on the bottom of the bolt, and at that point I couldn't slide the tubing into place. So, I used sandpaper to decrease the outside diameter of the smaller tube. I got them to slide together pretty easily and was then able to install the whole thing onto the boat. I haven't explained this very well, so if anyone wants to try this and has questions let me know. It was a bit of a pain but the price was right -- 28 cents including tax.

This tube is not as hard as the original but I don't think that matters and it is really pretty hard. As I understand the purpose of the tube, it is to keep the bolt from wobbling in the channel it sits in. It will work fine for that. If it is designed to maintain the spacing between the spring on the top of the assembly and the piece on the bottom, I'm not so sure. Any opinions? The fiberglass under the bottom piece of the assembly (where the bottom of the rudder bracket sits until it kicks out), has a groove worn into it where that bottom bracket has rubbed. Of course that happened when the original tube was in use, not my workaround. Anyway, I will watch that because I'm a little concerned about it.

Tom
 

Breeze Bender

Breeze Bender
This thread started in 2009 (when Webfoot was a new member!)

Wayne was our moderator and brilliant advisor. Wish I had met him, though I suppose I did through all that he taught me and continues to teach through this forum.

I will join in defending the old style rudder, as I have done here in the past! Having that plastic tube in place is key. Yes, as you say, it eliminates the wobble. The length doesn’t effect the tension. It is almost always missing or cracked, which isn’t unusual on a 50 year old boat. It sounds like you’ve found a good working solution. I don’t think the indentation will be an issue, just snug up that wingnut.
Have fun!
 
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Breeze Bender

Breeze Bender
ahh. The Jetwind! The Sears version of the Surfwind. I too had one as a teenager in FL. Here is a photo of me and my brother on it many years ago. Today I have a ‘71 but decided to replace the old rudder with the help of Alan Glos On this forum. I picked up a beat up ‘66 last fall and may keep the old rudder on it.
View attachment 40182
Hi Weston,
Great, classic pic of you and your brother.
Did your Sears Surfwind look like this? I’ve been trying to ID this boat of mine, and though it’s larger than the specs listed for Surfwind (and Jetwind) and has no sail insignia or markings at all on hull, Surfwind is the closest I’ve found.
Any insight would be appreciated!
 

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Weston

Well-Known Member
Hi Weston,
Great, classic pic of you and your brother.
Did your Sears Surfwind look like this? I’ve been trying to ID this boat of mine, and though it’s larger than the specs listed for Surfwind (and Jetwind) and has no sail insignia or markings at all on hull, Surfwind is the closest I’ve found.
Any insight would be appreciated!
Hi Breeze Bender, Yes, that looks very much like the Surfwind/Jetwind I had as a teenager. Same color as well. Mine had the same cubby for stowing and footwell like I see in your photos. Looking at your photos, I realize that I was missing the mainsheet bridle on the back of my boat. I can't really see the front of your boat, but the front deck on mine was squared off (not pointy like on a Sunfish). Your sail looks a bit different from mine as well. I recall the upper boom being slightly longer than the lower boom. Do you think your sail might be an after market Sunfish type sail?

The story on my Jetwind: I bought a very used styrofoam Sea Snark for $50 and then fiberglassed the hull. It was a tank! We'd flip it on hot Florida summer days and fill it with water and slowly sail around in our floating bathtub. My Dad saw I was serious about sailing and found a damaged Jetwind with a homemade trailer for sale for about $150. So I bought it and repaired the damage to the hull. The homemade trailer was too short and did not have enough support and the front trailer roller had crushed the keel between the mast step and the bow. I cut a hole in the deck and reinforced the inside of the hull with oak and fiberglass. I noticed that the inside of the hull had no flotation foam, so I jammed in as much discarded closed cell foam blocks that my Dad could bring home from the Appliance Store he worked at. (i.e. foam blocks used in packaging refrigerators, stoves, etc.)

Because the Surfwind/Jetwind had a factory weight of 90 lbs and a sail that was slightly larger than the Sunfish sailplan, it could be faster than a Sunfish from that same era. The Jetwind also had a more comfortable deck and larger footwell. I look back at my Surfwind with fondness, but I definitely love my growing Sunfish family ( a '71 with an updated rudder, daggerboard and sail; a '76 Super Sunfish; a '77 Sunfish that weighs less than 120 lbs and now a '75 Minifish that I'm updating)
 

Breeze Bender

Breeze Bender
Great info, Weston, thanks! Yes, my boat has the squared bow (Scow design, pic attached)
I guess the mystery is solved, though there are a few discrepancies.
It’s nowhere near 90 lbs and it’s dry. Probably more like 130. The sail is larger than a Sunfish sail and the mast is 2’ taller (at 12’). Yes, much larger cockpit than the Sunfish and that forward storage cubby is the key feature. You have confirmed that your Surfwind had that (the Jetwind did not) so I think that’s the clincher. Shorty Pen specs don’t match mine, but those specs must be off.
I’ll know more about the speed if we get a nice upcoming weekend so I can finally do ‘sea trials’. I was told by the previous owner that this boat really flies. I’d like to get a few good pics while on the water so I can update my ad. This one’s on craigslist for $500 but so far only curious people replying, nobody has seen the boat.
I admire your current Sunfish collection! Glad you’ve added a Mini to your fleet. I’ve got 3 of them and they are a blast.
Thanks again, Weston, and Happy Sailing! ⛵
 

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Weston

Well-Known Member
...
I’ll know more about the speed if we get a nice upcoming weekend so I can finally do ‘sea trials’. I was told by the previous owner that this boat really flies. I’d like to get a few good pics while on the water so I can update my ad. This one’s on craigslist for $500 but so far only curious people replying, nobody has seen the boat.
...
Would love to see the pics of your boat in action and also to hear about its speed. I'm working with 40 year old memories. :)
 

Weston

Well-Known Member
Great info, Weston, thanks! Yes, my boat has the squared bow (Scow design, pic attached)
I guess the mystery is solved, though there are a few discrepancies.
It’s nowhere near 90 lbs and it’s dry. Probably more like 130. The sail is larger than a Sunfish sail and the mast is 2’ taller (at 12’). Yes, much larger cockpit than the Sunfish and that forward storage cubby is the key feature. You have confirmed that your Surfwind had that (the Jetwind did not) so I think that’s the clincher. Shorty Pen specs don’t match mine, but those specs must be off.
I’ll know more about the speed if we get a nice upcoming weekend so I can finally do ‘sea trials’. I was told by the previous owner that this boat really flies.
Hi Weston,
Great, classic pic of you and your brother.
Did your Sears Surfwind look like this? I’ve been trying to ID this boat of mine, and though it’s larger than the specs listed for Surfwind (and Jetwind) and has no sail insignia or markings at all on hull, Surfwind is the closest I’ve found.
Any insight would be appreciated!
Hi Breeze Bender. I just saw a Jetwind sail for sale on Facebook marketplace. In case you’re interested. Here’s the link Log into Facebook
 

Breeze Bender

Breeze Bender
Thanks, Weston! I ‘saved’ it, but I know my mast is 12’ so this sail is too small. The Jetwind was smaller than the Surfwind, which is what I have. Though it has no insignia, it is in excellent shape.
I did have a Jetwind several years ago. All that remains of it is the forward hatch cover and the rudder and gudgeon.
 

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