Replacing Rudder Bearing System

2010 July 17
by Chris Brown

Sometimes a full replacement is a better solution than a repair.   This 50′ custom sailing catamaran had rudders that were hard to turn.  The original rudder system used a plastic roller bearing system.  Upper and lower bearings were articulating, self-aligning.  The upper bearings were in good shape.  The lower bearings required service or replacement.  Unfortunately, the lower bearing was glued into a rudder tube with no serviceable access.   Removing the bearing would certainly damage the bearing and require replacement.  It was time to consider alternatives.

Tides Marine offers a very nice replacement rudder tube system.   A fiberglass rudder tube comes complete with upper and lower UHMW bearings and an upper lip seal.  The technical support team at Tides Marine were extremely helpful in working through the engineering details.  The existing rudder stock was tapered which created a few complications for the rudder bearings.  Not a big problem since Tides has a machine shop to handle the odd dimensions and custom specifications.

The replacement process requires the old tubes be removed from the vessel.    A sawzall and some patience allowed the old rudder tube to drop right out of the boat.  The new tubes were inserted, using the  rudders as an alignment jig, and fiberglassed into place.  Our friends at P & S Yacht Services did a clean, professional job fiberglassing and fairing the tubes in place.

After reassembly the rudders were tested – a light touch with one finger moved the rudders effortlessly.

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