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Rudder Repair

Sailing Sasha

New Member
Hi everybody, last fall I bought my first real sailboat, a Pearson 24! Unfortunately the day I bought it and took it for a sail a piece of fiberglass delaminated from the rudder. When I took the boat out of the water for the season, I discovered that it actually is a solid wooden rudder, and a previous owner had apparently slapped some fiberglass patches on it (which is what peeled off). Upon close inspection the wood has many deep cracks (see photos). There are even some cracks near the lower pintle/gudgeon; if I grab the rudder with two hands I can flex it somewhat (where the cracks sorta open up when I put pressure on it). Also, the whole thing is warped so clearly a total rebuild would be a good idea.

But this brings me to the purpose of this post :) To totally remake the rudder would take time, and since it is permanently affixed to the trailing edge of the keel it would take me a lot of work simply to remove it. Since sailing season is upon us and the rudder does technically still work, I'm wondering if I can simply sand off old paint, slap some epoxy on it and call it good enough for now. This way I can go have fun on my boat this summer, and not waste weeks or months repairing it during the summer, and then in the fall I could work on removing it and repair it properly over the winter. My main fear is that with those fairly deep cracks in the kinda punky looking wood, is it a concern that my rudder may snap off when sailing hard?

So my question to you all is do you think it isIMG_5510.jpg reasonable to try and patch it up for the summer, or is there a big risk of it breaking in half? And if a "good enough" repair is a viable option, how would you suggest I go about it? Am I overly worried and just paint would be fine? Or try and put some epoxy or similar hard filler to reinforce it?

I've attached a couple of photos to show the condition of the wood with some up-close views of where it attaches to the keel. Any input would be much appreciated! I would absolutely love to sail it ASAP if a patch job is sufficient, but I want to make sure I'm being smart about it.IMG_5502.jpg
 

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Dale Tanski

New Member
Hi everybody, last fall I bought my first real sailboat, a Pearson 24! Unfortunately the day I bought it and took it for a sail a piece of fiberglass delaminated from the rudder. When I took the boat out of the water for the season, I discovered that it actually is a solid wooden rudder, and a previous owner had apparently slapped some fiberglass patches on it (which is what peeled off). Upon close inspection the wood has many deep cracks (see photos). There are even some cracks near the lower pintle/gudgeon; if I grab the rudder with two hands I can flex it somewhat (where the cracks sorta open up when I put pressure on it). Also, the whole thing is warped so clearly a total rebuild would be a good idea.

But this brings me to the purpose of this post :) To totally remake the rudder would take time, and since it is permanently affixed to the trailing edge of the keel it would take me a lot of work simply to remove it. Since sailing season is upon us and the rudder does technically still work, I'm wondering if I can simply sand off old paint, slap some epoxy on it and call it good enough for now. This way I can go have fun on my boat this summer, and not waste weeks or months repairing it during the summer, and then in the fall I could work on removing it and repair it properly over the winter. My main fear is that with those fairly deep cracks in the kinda punky looking wood, is it a concern that my rudder may snap off when sailing hard?

So my question to you all is do you think it isView attachment 51092 reasonable to try and patch it up for the summer, or is there a big risk of it breaking in half? And if a "good enough" repair is a viable option, how would you suggest I go about it? Am I overly worried and just paint would be fine? Or try and put some epoxy or similar hard filler to reinforce it?

I've attached a couple of photos to show the condition of the wood with some up-close views of where it attaches to the keel. Any input would be much appreciated! I would absolutely love to sail it ASAP if a patch job is sufficient, but I want to make sure I'm being smart about it.View attachment 51089
Unfortunately there is lots of load on any rudder while underway and a failure will at best ruin your day or cost you your boat. An aluminum rudder or reinforcing with aluminum is not the best advice especially if you are in salt water. If you have copper based bottom paint you will have created a battery and the aluminum will be the first to dissolve.
I have repaired many rudders over the years, most fiberglass over a foam core. Once water gets inside nothing good happens. If it were my boat and I was going to keep it for some reasonable amount of time, I would invest in a fiberglass version of what you have. The old one will make an excellent pattern. Removing the existing rudder and hardware will be the biggest issue.
Unfortunately, this time of year everyone in the marine industry is very busy and fabrication better done in the off season will be difficult to hire out. If you have reasonable fiberglass fabrication skills it could be a good do it yourself project.
Where are you located? I maybe able to assist finding you help.
Dale Tanski
Obersheimers Sailor Supply
Buffalo NY
 
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