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the dream of dawn

Grease It Up. Or raather Down.

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Recently, I installed a grease fitting for the lower rudder bearing. A quick little project that is at least whole and complete, in contrast to the many not-quite finished things going on around here.

The rudder shaft rides on two bronze bearing/bushings. One in the deck plate at the top and one at the bottom of the rudder tube. There is a zerk to grease the top one, but the grease doesn't seem to work its way to the bottom. There is already some wear and a bit of a "clunk" when I wiggle the rudder. So I installed a grease fitting at the bottom, as others have described before. But maybe with a couple of boat-specific twists.

First I had to gain access to the bottom of the rudder tube. This is something that has bothered me for a while - probably the most vulnerable "this-will-sink-the-boat" item on board and there is no way to reach it. If the rudder tube got cracked, there would be nothing to do but go for a swim. Taking out the floor of the sail locker and wedging myself into the angle at the bottom (getting back out was in some doubt...) I could reach under the fuel tank and touch it, but not see it. Taking out the batteries and peering over the top of the open battery box, I could see it, but not reach it. So I cut a hole in the q-berth deck behind the batteries and installed a deck plate.
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Because it rakes backwards, the tube is still at backwards-arms-reach, but at last, its mysterious habitat is revealed.
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I drilled a hole for a 1/4" - 1/8" reducing bushing near the base of the tube. The layup was thinner than I expected, so the hole went pretty much all the way to the back of the rudder bushing. I cleaned up the wound and sanded the surroundings, then packed a stainless bushing with wax (to protect the inner threads) and epoxied it in place with thickened epoxy. This ended up being messier than I'd hoped, operating sideways with one hand.

After the epoxy set, i drilled a 1/8" hole in the middle, all the way into the vacant rudder tube, and through the rudder bearing. Now that I look at it, I sort of wish I had made the whole mess an inch farther up the tube, but it's permanent now.
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Finally, I melted the wax out of the fitting with a heat gun, doped and screwed-in a stainless zerk fitting. Gave it a few test squirts with a grease gun to make sure everything operates plausibly. Ready to re-install the rudder.

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Someday, I'd like to build a "crash box" around the rudder tube, to some point above the waterline. But not right now. Access would be a bear, for one thing, and i'd have to re-route all those hoses that run through there. The fuel tank might block any other path though.

I will be doing well just to finish up all the currently open projects and still get a bit of sailing in this year.

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Updated 06-22-2019 at 01:44 PM by toddster

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