Way back in the 1980s, the previous owner had the Roamer towed from Washington DC to Colton’s Point Marina in southern Maryland. One of the guys who did the tow said it was particularly difficult because the rudders were locked in position. The Roamer wanted to turn to the left all the way down south. When we got the boat, I found the steering gear broken and the rudders absolutely unwilling to move. We ended up cutting them out and having new ones made.
The original plain steel rudders were frozen in time…circa 1985, I do believe.The key phrase here is “dissimilar metals.”
The rudder view from the inside.Here we have the aluminum Schedule 40 pipe for a rudder shaft log, through which runs the rudder shaft itself. Threaded onto the top of the aluminum pipe is a standard bronze packing gland nut. Three different metals (more, actually, because they’re all alloys) in a water environment. Add to that the fact that the boat didn’t move for years before it was finally hauled and you have a seriously locked up rudder shaft.I was unable to remove the gland nut even with a 4′ pipe wrench. Penetrating oil didn’t help. Heat did nothing.
A 12 ton ram chained to the rudder achieved…nothing but an interesting photo opportunity.Again, heat did nothing. These rudders were simply not coming out.
Enter the sawzall. And out came the rudders! 😉
Note that there is a grease nipple on the log. From the look of it, the logs hadn’t gotten a maintenance shot of grease since it left the factory in 1969.
With the rudders out, I sent one off to my favorite marine engineer for replication.
What came back from the fabricator was a nice set of brand new stainless rudders and hydraulic steering gear.The tie rod is actually straight though it looks curved in the pic.
The view from the inside.Rather than threading a bronze gland onto the aluminum, we’re using a shaft log hose and spud approach that will isolate the aluminum from the bronze. The Devoe epoxy coating will also help isolate the aluminum from the carbon in the hose.Most important, though, is that we will actually use the boat, so the rudders will be less likely to lock up solid.
The new rudders from the outside.We took a different approach with these than Chris Craft did. The rudders don’t come into direct contact with the aluminum log. Instead, there is a delrin sleeve pressed into the log and the stainless rudder shaft turns inside that. For all intents and purposes, the stainless is isolated from the aluminum, at least in the wet part of the system.
In retrospect, plain steel rudders in an aluminum log with a log hose and spud might be a better approach than the delrin sleeve. With a shot of grease into the logs, there’s no reason why the original Chris Craft approach wouldn’t work well. In fact, plain steel is less aggressive against aluminum in a wet environment than stainless steel. Check your galvanic series if you don’t believe me. 😉
My concern with the delrin sleeve is that if aluminum oxide forms between the log and the sleeve, it will compress the sleeve and squeeze the shaft–perhaps causing it to bind. While the same thing could happen in the original configuration, if you drive the boat and turn the rudders, the Al2O3 ought to turn to paste and be flushed out when you go through the water. If the Al2O3 is stuck behind the delrin, which doesn’t rotate, then I don’t see how it will be flushed out.
In any case, it’s too late now to change things based on theory alone. Maybe the delrin will work flawlessly. Time will tell.
Next up for our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer Refit: Fairing the Topsides.