1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Hydraulic Steering

It’s been a while since I posted an article. The theft in May 2014 knocked the wind out of my sails…no…that’s just plain wrong…the theft seriously restricted the air intake to my 450hp Cummins turbodiesels, and getting back up to speed has been difficult. The project didn’t stop entirely, but it’s been difficult to get things done. Every job needs a particular tool, and it’s the tools I rarely used that went missing that have proven to be the biggest hangups this summer.

Anyway, like many of the late 1960’s Chris Craft cruisers, our Roamer 46 came with mechanical steering.  When we first got the boat, the rudders were locked up solid and somebody had tried to use the big ship’s wheel to break them loose. All they ended up doing, though, was breaking the steering gear. I planned to install hydraulic steering since the refit began, and I finally started putting it together in the summer of 2014.

First, I made support tabs out of aluminum angle and attached them to the frames under the aft stateroom floor.

First, I made support tabs out of aluminum angle and attached them to the frames under the aft stateroom floor.

I made platforms for the hydraulic and fuel lines, and installed them on the tabs.

I made platforms for the hydraulic and fuel lines, and installed them on the tabs.

Next, the fuel tank had to come out. I'd forgotten how heavy that thing was!

Next, the fuel tank had to come out. I’d forgotten how heavy that thing was!

After installing the platforms, the hydraulic lines went in easily enough.

After installing the platforms, the hydraulic lines went in easily enough.

I left the tubing long, as shown in the pic above, because the aft end of the tubing cannot move. It’s at the perfect angle, so when the hydraulic hose is attached to the tubing and the steering ram, the tubing is in its natural, at-rest position. If it moves, resistance to bending from the hose will induce stress into the tubing and could eventually lead to cracking. I need to permanently attach the other end of the tubing under the aft stateroom floor to the engine room bulkhead, then splice the fore and aft tubes together using Swageloks. The fit is very precise, which is why both ends need to be fixed before making the joints in the middle.

Complex bends at the end of the hydraulic lines.

Complex bends at the end of the hydraulic lines.

Swagelok fittings: first, tighten the nut by hand and mark them 450 degrees apart.

Swagelok fittings: first, tighten the nut by hand and mark them 450 degrees apart.

Next, tighten the nut until the marks line up. Done!

Next, tighten the nut until the marks line up. Done!

Finally installing the hydraulic ram!

Finally fitting up the hydraulic ram!

Next, a Swagelok bender is essential for bending annealed stainless tubing.

Next, a Swagelok bender is essential for bending annealed stainless tubing. This is the engine room-side hydraulic steering tubing (3/8″), with a Swagelok bulkhead fitting attached.

By the way, I went with stainless tubing to avoid corrosion on this aluminum boat. When we sandblasted the hull inside, there was corrosion under all of the copper fuel and water supply lines from copper oxide that had dripped or otherwise fallen off of the tubes. It only takes a bit of copper to do serious damage to aluminum, but I felt that metal lines were preferable to nylon or hose. So…stainless it is!

1/2" stainless tubing is for the fuel supply.

1/2″ stainless tubing is for the fuel supply.

ER bulkhead with hydraulic and fuel supply and return lines fitted.

ER bulkhead with hydraulic and fuel supply and return lines fitted.

The big round hole was from the central AC/heater ducting that was installed when we got the boat back in late 2007. I plan to close that hole up when I’m done with the major mechanical & electrical work.

Next up on our 1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Hydraulic Steering II

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14 comments on “1969 Chris Craft Roamer 46 Refit: Hydraulic Steering

  1. Ryan G says:

    I have not commented yet but man do I love following your progress. Glad to see you are back! Thanks and good luck!

  2. Bill Tozer says:

    And Q remains to be my hero…

  3. Mark Balcaen (1989 Hatteras 40 DC) says:

    Q, happy to see you back on deck. First class work!

  4. Doug says:

    Hooray! I’ve been waiting for you to get back in gear. Simply beautiful work on the stainless lines.
    Doug

    • 1969roamer46 says:

      Thanks, Doug! That stainless is a lot harder to work than copper, but it does look nice. Of course, I didn’t show the practice pieces of stainless tubing that I mangled! There’s definitely a learning curve. lol
      Cheers
      Q

  5. John says:

    Q
    Great to hear from you!!!

  6. William B. Kelleher says:

    Glad to see you are over coming the restriction to your air intake. :))

  7. Kenny King says:

    Q., Glad to see that “The Master” is back at it!!

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