Friday progress #14 rudder headstock

One of the jobs that we have from the survey is to repair the rudder headstock. He had identified that a couple of screws needed replacing. So, after removing the aft cabin headlining, we decided to tackle this while the cabin was empty.

The Rival has a really sophisticated, best of class, steering system that is almost maintenance free and very strong. The tiller bar (front to back just left of centre in the next picture) is connected to the wheel using three gearboxes and a number of solid rods connected with some universal joints and some rose joints. It is incredibly solid and heavy.

In the bottom right of the picture you can see the gearbox that turns several turns of the wheel into a limited movement of the rudder. The upright arm has solid stops to limit the movement.

The plate that has gone green (it is made of bronze so this is normal verdigris and can be cleaned off) is supposed to have four screws to hold it in place. The surveyor had notice 2 were missing. In fact one of the others had snapped off inside and the 4th had been replaced by a bolt head that had turned to powder when I touched it.

The grease hose had become loose, you can also see how the sealant has come away at the bottom. So it all needed to come apart for cleaning and repair.

I could’t get the horizontal arm to come free. So I took off the right hand end, it was very stuck so needed lots of wd40 and some creative use of a bar pushing against the nut, then as I unscrewed the nut it pushed itself out (yes I did have to encourage it with a hammer).

Next was to remove the tiller bar from the headstock. Pretty easy as long as you remove the larger horizontal bolt as it keeps the tiller aligned by going through a groove in the headstock.

Getting closer. There is now a two part “stuffing box” that is used to keep water from coming into the boat. Remove the two nuts and the top half just pulls off (it is there to compress the stuffing trapped below it to stop leaks).

And this is what it looks like fully disassembled. This is the tube that comes out of the top of the rudder. Fortunately, despite removing all the bits from it our rudder hasn’t dropped out of the boat as it is fully supported along it’s length and at the bottom rests on a bearing attached to the skeg.

In case you were wondering the square section at the top is for attaching the emergency tiller.

Very pleased with how it has all cleaned up. Once we have cleaned all the bits we have removed we can re-install it once we get a few parts: the seal (newer teflon based materials should create a better and longer lasting seal than the old grease coated flax), the screws, new grease and new rose connector.

We did a quick test to connect the emergency steering and that needs a bit of cleaning and rust removal as at the moment the handle doesn’t fit in the upright. So we will take that home.

This was a job that had been worrying me a little. The verdigris looked bad and our lack of knowledge and experience made it seem daunting. So very pleased that we got it all apart without breaking anything and that it should be a fairly easy job to reassemble so that it will last for a long time.

Steering failure is a very common cause of people getting into real danger so it is good to see how well built ours is and also to know that we know how it works and how to take it apart and re-assemble it if ever needed.

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