Sunday, April the 22th 2018

Rudder removal and repair – part 2

The sailing season 2018 has almost begun and it is time for an update on the ongoing repairs and what has been going on over the past 3 months:

Making a new pin on the lathe

Back in Germany I reworked the parts of the lower bearing and made a new pin. I used “Essmatur” for the Pin as proposed by Hallberg Rassy in their repair instruction. It took me some time to find out what “Essmatur” was. It is an older Swedish designation for a dezincification resistant brass alloy (DZR brass) much easier to obtain if you ask for CW602N which is essentially a leaded arsenical brass (CuZn36Pb2As). The arsenic provides the dezincification resistance and the alloy is supposed to be suited for applications in seawater environments.

Some dimensions:

  • Original bore size: 35mm
  • Original pin diameter: 34.5mm
  • Max wear inside the bore: at the location where the pin ended in the upper part of the bearing with the diameter of the hole being 35.8 mm
  • Max wear of the pin: 33mm diameter in the middle
  • New bore size after rework: 36mm
  • New pin diameter: 35.6mm

Careful alignment of the hinge parts under the drilling machine ensured that the axis of the enlarged opening remained perpendicular to the contact surface.

This is the tool that was used to rework the holes.

My friend and colleague Robert provided some professional help which was highly appreciated!

The result couldn’t be any better.

I also made myself some plates (these were made out of Tin Bronze, CuSn12) which I will need for aligning and fixing the position of the bearing to the skeg (the old alignment plates can be seen on the left side of the picture).

Back in Greece I tried putting everything back together. Hallberg Rassy says in the instruction, that a tube must be used for the alignment of the lower bearing if it was removed, in order to get it in line with the shaft axis. I used the rudder shaft upside down together with an adaptor which fitted onto the rudder shaft on one side (40mm) and the (enlarged) hole of the bearing on the other side (36mm).

After some experimenting and a lot of head scratching, I finally had to accept that I would never get the parts aligned as they should be because when they were put together at Hallber Rassy, the lower bearing axis must not have been in line with the rudder shaft axis, but off set by about 5mm. How can that be???? !!!!….

The misalignment is obvious

Anyway, some comfort can be derived from the fact that the assembly did work flawlessly for 35 years until I took it apart. I am confident though, that I will find the right position for the alignment plates that I made and get everything back in a proper working order, but first I have to apply some layers of epoxy primer for osmosis prevention since the area is perfectly accessible with the rudder removed.

….more on “Rudder removal and repair – Part 3”

Sunday, January the 7th 2018

More repairs – part 1

As it seems, I had not enough by just repairing the rudder this winter and so I opened up a few more jobs. There is the cutlass bearing that I will replace and also the Volvo shaft seal but some other problems showed up too.

The HR 352 has a very classical type of cutlass bearing housing. It can be unscrewed with the help of a large pipe wrench and some effort after removing the two locking screws.

A polyurethane sealant (Sikaflex 291i?) was used most likely for sealing the bearing housing against the hull but it was also applied on the thread.

The Centa-coupling needs to be disassembled if the Volvo shaft seal is to be replaced. When I started I realized that the water that had entered the boat in Gibraltar in 2015 had led to some corrosion at these parts although I had washed everything with fresh water as soon as I could. It took me about 4 hours to remove the 6 screws fixing the rubber parts to the flanges. One of the 6 screws that hold the rubber parts on the connecting tube wouldn’t let go from the rubber element and so I had to destroy it. That is another EUR 120 for a new rubber element on this season’s list :-)

These screws gave me a hard time…

The coupling is out…

…and so is the propeller shaft from the coupling flange as well as the Volvo shaft seal.

When I detached the bearing of the Centa-Coupling from the bulkhead, I found another problem.

In the mounting instruction, the bulkhead A is supposed to be a solid part, either metal or solid GRP but not plywood. When the bearing was installed on Matilda’s plywood bulkhead which was added when the engine was replaced, the installer should have used big washers on both sides of the bulkhead. Since that wasn’t done, the bushes 1.17 were pressed into the plywood resulting in a loose connection (Centa is specifying a tightening torque of 79 Nm for these screws).

The Centa coupling was taken apart and cleaned piece by piece and is now ready for reassembly.

There has been a small leakage at the ruder shaft tube (between the tube and the GRP) from the time I bought the boat back in 2014. Nothing serious, but since the rudder is off now, I will address this too.

This is how the area looks around the rudder shaft tube after removing some putty.

The picture shows the rudder shaft tube with the stuffing box housing inside the boat. Hallberg Rassy had used silicone for sealing this end. I had poured a few liters of fresh water around the stuffing box and let them leak through to the outside in order to wash out the salt that may have accumulated along the leakage path.

…to be continued in part 2

Sunday, December the 28th 2017

Rudder removal and repair – part 1

It is done. Matilda’s rudder is removed. I must admit that although I had read almost everything I could find on the web about accomplishing this task, it has not been a straight forward operation.  There is also a description from Hallberg Rassy which gives confidence but some people managed to bend the thread at the rudder shaft end or needed an electric file to remove the locking key step by step as the shaft was coming out of the upper bearing together with the locking key. Since it does not fit into the rudder shaft tube it has to be removed somehow.

Here is Matilda’s rudder removal and repair story:

The task starts with removing the putty all around the bearings in order to free them and get access to the screws and the nut at the shaft end. This has been described many times but it is a different thing reading about it or doing it.  You normally don’t “treat” your boat with a hammer and a chisel and it took me some time to get started. Once started, this task is quite easy. You only have to be careful not to damage too much of the gelcoat (although repairing it later is not an issue).

The nut at the end of the rudder shaft comes free as the polyester putty goes.

Some people reported that there was a washer under the nut. There isn’t any on mine.

Not sure what putty was used here… epoxy?

The area underneath the upper hinge at the port and starboard side of the rudder were also wet and I decided to remove the putty wherever it wasn’t too difficult.

The next thing you have to do is to push the shaft out of the upper bearing. What is needed here is a custom made special gear puller that fits around the upper bearing.  I used a pair of wedges for this as described in Hallberg Rassy’s instructions.  After I had positioned them carefully perpendicular to the rudder shaft axis, the shaft came loose easier than I had expected. Unfortunately, the locking key was stuck to the shaft and was coming out together with it. I have used the locking key from the steering quadrant which I placed between the rudder shaft key and the rudder tube in order to hold it in place whilst the shaft was forced upwards. This was the most painful part of the operation. I used some heavy duty wedges (which were at least 5 times the size of the ones I had prepared for the job and I also used some posts which I had to put into the bearing as its end with the nut was disappearing into it. I was reluctant when I started hammering on the wedges because there is quite some force applied to the rudder shaft tube which pushes it up into the boat’s hull but since I had to repair a little leakage there anyway, I became more courageous with every stroke of the hammer, especially when I saw that the rudder shaft was moving but the locking key was hold back against the tube and the tube itself was steady as a rock. I took a while but finally the rudder shaft, the locking key and the upper bearing were separated and the rudder could be removed.

The smaller wedges were carefully positioned perpendicular to the axis of the shaft.

The rudder quadrant and the autopilot gear had to be removed prior to the operation of course.

The rudder shaft with the stuffing box packing gland at the left side of the picture and the nut on the right side

Good news is that with the exception of some gelcoat scratches here and there, nothing was damaged.

The part of the lower bearing that was mounted to the skeg was not very easy to remove because it was bent around the skeg and needed to be opened to get it out. It won’t be easy to put it back on place again as it will need careful adjustment in order to be in line with the ruder shaft tube axis.

Four 3mm thick bronze plates (approx. 15 mm X 20 mm) were placed under the lower hinge (arrow shows location) on both sides at the skeg most likely for adjustment and fixation.

The lower bearing can now be removed completely.

The parts comprising the lower bearing look better than I expected and would probably have done their job for at least another 35 years.

The play in the lower bearing was about 5 mm (compare two pictures above).

The bores are still round but don’t have the same diameter all the way though anymore.

The pin showing some abrasion especially in the middle section where the hinge parts meet.

I will rework the parts back in Germany where I have the luck to have access to a nice little machine shop and can count on the help of my very experienced colleague and friend Robert who had also joined me on the 3rd leg from Lisbon to Gibraltar on my trip around Europe.

Wednesday, August the 30th 2017

Matilda did not have enough for this summer, so I untied the lines and took her out for a little single-handed adventure to the island of Milos about a week ago. I started on Tuesday the 22nd at 6 pm and sailed through the night. A constant F5 was responsible for a fast passage to the island of Milos. 112 NM in 19 hours. I spent the next day exploring the island on a scooter. Since I wanted to be back on Monday next week, I left again on Friday in the morning ignoring the other sailor’s warnings because of the bad weather (the forecast was N F7). It was a relatively rough close hauled passage to Poros which I reached about 12 hours later. Average wave height was about 2m but some waves were double that height. The next day on the way to Cap Sounion the conditions were similar. I anchored in the bay underneeth Poseidon’s temple at Cap Sounion. The wind increased during the night and it was blowing at min F7 in the morning. After lifting the anchor, I rounded the cape and headed north into Makronisos channel which I believe was a mistake. Course and wind were both N and it was now blowing at F8. Because of the very steep waves, I was just making under 3 knots whilst running under engine at 2400 rpm. At the north exit of Makronisos channel, the conditions worsened and the waves became bigger, steeper and very confused. It was almost impossible to keep the boat on course and I was seriously considering turning back and going into Lavrion harbour for shelter. Conditions became better after a while and I finally decided to proceed. I arrived in Almyropotamos in the evening. It is amazing how you get used to the situation but I learned that it does not really make sense to fight against the weather in such conditions. If something goes wrong you may have a serious problem, especially if you are sailing solo. Anyway, the last day was perfect sailing at F5 and a moderate sea state and compensated for the “punishment” of the previous day.

I compiled a little video for those interrested:

Friday, August the 11th 2017

There were quite some minutes of video material left from the Kafireas Strait and after I had finished the video of the whole voyage some days ago, I thought it would make sense to compile an additional little video just showing the crossing since most sailors are interested in seeing how a boat behaves in rough weather.

Matilda was very easy on the helm and our crossing was very relaxed by the way. Enjoy:

Saturday, July the 29th 2017

The Aegean sailing trip is completed now. 16 days onboard Matilda with a lovely and highly motivated and skilled crew made this voyage more than just great fun. Day passages of more than 60 miles where not a problem and although we stayed in harbours for sightseeing and because of bad weather for three days, we finally logged 480 miles on the whole trip.

We started in Matilda’s homeport Khalkoutsi where we left early afternoon together with my friend Franz and we sailed with two boats to the sliding bridge of Khalkis which we passed at about 11:00 pm. On the way north the next day, many dolphins came across and stayed for a long time playing at Matilda’s bow. We anchored overnight just around the northwest tip of Euboea Island where the tidal current was reaching about 4kt and the water was freezing cold.

After a stop at Oreoi we sailed to the islands Skiathos, Alonissos and Peristera, which is one of the islands of the Marine National Park of Alonissos ( The Anchorage at Vassiliko/Peristera was quite exciting because of the shipwreck of the freighter Alonissos. The freighter was wrecked some 10 years ago in a violent storm that drove it onto the rocks, despite having two metal chains secured to the rocks and two anchors on the sea bed.

Moored in Skiathos

We sailed further north to Kasandra/Khalkidiki where we met some old friends and finally into Porto Karras on Sithonia for shelter because of the bad weather that was on the way. The phenomenon was extended and unusual for the time of the year with heavy thunderstorms and massive rainfalls (the Sporades further south got half of the average annual rainfall in just two days!). The temperature dropped to 17C and it rained for 24 hours but we were well protected in Porto Karras.

Rain, rain, rain…

Patrick joined the crew the next day and we sailed south to Kyra Panagia and Skyros where we also met our Friends Franz and Rolf again. The harbour staff in Linaria/Skyros was very friendly and professional. They helped us mooring stern to in a relatively narrow space by holding Matilda’s bow with the help of a dinghy. Because of the Aegean Rally stopping here next day we had to move to the permanent mooring field a bit further NW of the harbour Linaria for the following night which was a good choice and a very well protected spot from the still strong going wind.

Hmmmm… not sure if this guy knows the COLREGs

Passing through Kafireas Strait

The following passage through the Kafireas Strait was one of the highlights of the voyage. A steady F7 gusting to F8 was pushing Matilda and she was surfing the waves reaching sometimes more than 8 knots through the water. Being a more traditional long keel design she is quite happy with such conditions and felt safe all the time. When we reached Batsi/Andros, the wind was still blowing at F7 even into the harbour. There were only 4 other yachts there and we were happy to go alongside at the inner side of the peer. After an Island exploring and sightseeing day on scooters the next day, we left for Ormos Fikiadha on Kythnos, just about 1NM NNW of the main harbour Merikhas. We were surprised to see about 50 other yachts in the two bays which are separated by a longish sandy beach when we arrived late in the afternoon. There was still space though and anchoring was not a problem.

Although I had the feeling that I had lived for more than a month onboard now, days were passing quickly and there was only one night left which we spent at Petalioi Nisoi after a nice passage northwards.

The last day finally was sailing home and it didn’t feel right… I could go on like this for months and years …but time has not come yet.

Many thanks to my crew who helped making this voyage such a nice experience!

Saturday, July the 8th 2017

After replacing the accumulators and rewiring the echo sounder transducer to the old depth instrument (which I wisely had kept in place), Matilda is ready to go and will be on an Aegean Sea circle for the next 2 weeks.

She will head north first and pass the sliding bridge of Khalkis on Sunday about 2 hours before midnight. She will visit the Sporades and sail to the Khalkidhiki. Depending on the weather, Limnos, Chios and some of the Cyclades are on the schedule but nothing is fixed.

Location can as always be tracked via “Marine Traffic” on the “location” page of this blog.

There won’t be any posts during the voyage but a little report after completion of the voyage.

Wednesday, May the 03rd 2017

Barbarossa Backstay Adjuster Repair

The wheel has not been repaired yet and Matilda is still hanging in the travel lift. This is not only very disappointing but I am dangerously running out of time now.

Anyway, whist waiting I decided that I should do something to turn the bad experience into a good one. The back stay tensioner had probably never been opened before and was not providing that feeling of a reliably working device anymore. Operation was a bit tight and it was on my to-do list for a longer time.

The device is made by the Italian company Barbarossa and there was no information at all on the web as the company does not exist anymore.  When I opened it I found a seized axial bearing and a bearing washer which was dissolved in pieces. I searched the internet and found that I could replace it by SKF’s AXK2542. I decided not to remove it before I have the new one in hand. Next day, with the replacement needle roller bearing in hand, I tried to remove the old one carefully. It wouldn’t come off easily but after applying some heat and force the job was finally accomplished. Underneath the axial bearing, there was another radial bearing which wasn’t looking much better. The point of no return was reached. I had to find replacement bearings in order to get Matilda in the water when the wheel for the travel lift would finally arrive.

Amazing that the backstay tensioner was still working

With some effort, the old bearings were finally removed

To keep a long story short, these are the parts that I used to replace the old bearings and they fit quite well:

Radial bearing: SKF RNA4904 (inner ring removed)
Axial bearing: SKF AXK2542, GS81105 and AS2542 (two times).
The axial bearing needs to have a total thickness of 7mm.

The new parts are available from SKF

I heated up the housing for the radial bearing to 200°C and put the RNA4904 into the deep fridge for an hour. When I put it in, it slid down to the bottom without any force applied.

I generously applied high pressure grease and closed everything. It works again like new.

Friday, April the 28th 2017

Today is the day; Matilda is going back into the water. I had detached the struts from the radar pole and had tilted it in a horizontal position. I also had to remove the back stay in order to allow for the small travel lift to move above Matilda and lift her into the belts. Although quite old, the travel lift has been doing what it should for the last years and therefore, I was not expecting any adventures. Matilda was lifted out of the cradle and the areas where the pads had been were sanded and painted with antifouling. After some time in order to allow the antifouling to dry, the travel lift started moving and Matilda was coming closer to the water. Just 50 meters away from the shore, a big bang stopped the journey abruptly. One of the front wheels of the travel lift had burst.

Waiting for the wheel to be repaired