Rudder restoration

Discussion in 'Sailboats' started by Scooter2, Nov 8, 2022.

  1. Scooter2
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: San Diego

    Scooter2 New Member

    Hi all, I'm the new owner of a '85 West Wight Potter 19 that's been sitting in a field for at least 15 years. Most of the 'bits' are in pretty bad shape, but there's no damage and the hull seems sound. I'd like to restore the whole thing at some point, but my near term goal is to get it back on the water as quickly and cheaply as possible (once the family is hooked that may change...). My mantra is 'live with what you can, fix what you can't live with and replace what you cant fix'. With that in mind I'm hoping for advice from some of the experts here on how to restore the rudder.

    The rudder is two solid pieces of (probably) mahogany with a metal brace and a single bolt for it to flip up. The hardware seems solid but the wood has been out in the elements for a long time. It's really dry, but there doesn't seem to be any rot and just a couple of small splits (maybe 2" at most) on the bottom edge.

    'Some guy on YouTube' suggested sanding off the dis-colorization, wiping with thinned boiled linseed oil (to restore some of the oils to the wood?), priming with oil based primer (after a few days drying) then painting with latex. This sounds like a good plan.

    Lots of places (including here) suggest sanding, several coats of epoxy and some 4oz then varnish or paint. Also good, more work and expense though.

    Replacement rudders are available, but they're more than I paid for the whole boat. Including the outboard! Building one is a possibility, and there are lots of threads here covering that.

    The plan is to sail on Mission Bay or local coastal day trips to get started so it's not going to sit in the water and won't see rough weather at least at first.

    So with all that in mind any thoughts on how to proceed?
     
  2. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    Post a photo. Linseed oil is obsolete. It used to be the thing about a century ago. If the wood is really dry, you can fill the cracks with thickened epoxy and then seal it with epoxy.
     
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  3. Blueknarr
    Joined: Aug 2017
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    Location: Colorado

    Blueknarr Senior Member

    Linseed oil will prevent any future paint from bonding to the wood.

    Latex paint doesn't bond well to oil. And blisters if left submerged for a few days.

    Rustoliem would be my choice of paint.
     
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  4. Scooter2
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: San Diego

    Scooter2 New Member

    Here's how they look now.
    IMG_5708.JPG IMG_5709.JPG
     
  5. wet feet
    Joined: Nov 2004
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    Location: East Anglia,England

    wet feet Senior Member

    I'd like to be mistaken but that looks like a pretty poor example of rudder design.If I.m seeing it correctly,the tiller has a single bolt that secures it to the head of the upper piece of the image.Then lower down the rather crude blade is attached by one bolt to the pivot hole near the edge.The square corner a little distance away looks lie an invitation to begin splitting. and it looks like the rudder blade is simply bolted onto the side.It may have served adequately with the boat in a field going nowhere but it is a long way from perfection.Which makes me less concerned about the quality and durability of the surface finish.Since there is no finish to speak of at the moment it might be a good time to make an effort to take away the less streamlined aspects-unless class racing rules are a consideration.Then I wouldn't be tempted to do more than give it a few coats of varnish,perhaps over a mahogany stain,so that an eye can be kept on the condition of the wood.Given how utterly dry the wood has become,I suspect that an epoxy filler will be inflexible enough to propagate splits as the moisture returns in a marine environment.
     
  6. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    It is not that complicated. Use some thickened epoxy on the cracks. About honey viscosity so it goes in. Tape the bottom and ends of the cracks to prevent the epoxy from spilling. The edges should get a layer of fiberglass, maybe 10 oz cloth to prevent too much abrasion. You can do the job in a morning, including coffee breaks.
     
  7. Scooter2
    Joined: Nov 2022
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    Location: San Diego

    Scooter2 New Member

    Keep in mind it's from 1985 . I'm sure rudder design has progressed a lot since then and the Potters aren't known as speed machines. It's an 18 foot boat that can sleep 4 though. Tradeoffs, you know? I saw one thread about restoring old dry wood that said to wet down and let dry the pieces once a week for a month or so before finishing so they wouldn't swell so much when used. I'm looking at at least next Summer before she will be back in the water so there's time for that. Good idea? Kind of why I was asking about the linseed oil too. The idea being that it would be absorbed and then using a oil based primer so it would stick well.

    gonzo - I'm not sure I could force thickened epoxy into those cracks, they're pretty small. Wouldn't a thin coat work better first? Just let it get absorbed then go back with the thickened once it gets tacky?

    Also I don't think there's any class rules for Potters, and even if there are it's not something I'm worried about.
     
  8. wet feet
    Joined: Nov 2004
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    Location: East Anglia,England

    wet feet Senior Member

    I think you would do well to try to store the rudder in a slightly drier environment than the California desert for a while,to give the wood a chance to achieve a more normal moisture content.You may well be down to 6%-8% moisture content after that length of time in an ultra dry environment and a period of adjustment could be useful.Once in a stable condition you could fill the cracks but they may well be much smaller by then.Oiling the bare wood will have a slight effect and will mean you have to go with oil based paint,which will take longer to dry over an oil impregnated surface.I know nothing of latex paints as I don't believe we have such things.Have you considered Deks-Olje 1 followed by the No2 coating?
     
  9. Blueknarr
    Joined: Aug 2017
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    Location: Colorado

    Blueknarr Senior Member

    You are correct in that the checking is inconsequential and will fill with whatever you coat it with. No need for fillers.

    Dry wood is OK.
    Rinsing once a week will only destroy the surface fibers.

    Linseed oil will only penetrate a few thousandths of an inch. Super thinned epoxy maybe another thousandth. But the film from either will have little cohesion. This weakens the potential bond between the wood and final top coat system.

    Some minor tweaks to the shape of the lower half will pay great dividends.
    I would round over the leading edge and feather the trailing to 1/4 inch width. Much thinner and the trailing edge could break. I would also round the leading toe to a six inch radius.

    Three neet coats of epoxy is all the priming needed. Over coat the epoxy with spare varnish or oil paint. Keeping it clear will allow you to see any rot before the rudder breaks at a most inopportune time. Add another coat of varnish/ paint every time it is scratched.
     
  10. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    gonzo Senior Member

    If you thicken it to about honey viscosity it should penetrate OK.
     
  11. Tops
    Joined: Aug 2021
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    Location: Minnesota

    Tops Senior Member

    I've sailed worse... :)

    Agree with advice given to improve shape and foil of the blade portion, although that rectangular contraption allowing the pivot function seems less than desirable in terms of drag. It wight be worth looking into some Potter user groups and find out what the state of the art solution for that boat is today.

    My fiberglass supplier, who dabbles in wooden boats, told me on my plywood rudder to do repairs, sand, coat with one layer epoxy (brand/type not significant, did not hard sell me on his brands) and then paint with 'tractor' paint (alkyd enamel) like Rustoleum. This solution seems to work well for trailer-kept boats.

    Rudder repair on my 21' foot boat here, fixing rot and prop damage, starts about page 21 and goes from there:
    Interior refit 1970's kit sailboat questions - Page 20 - Cruisers & Sailing Forums https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f55/interior-refit-1970s-kit-sailboat-questions-236747-20.html#post3451394
     

  12. Blueknarr
    Joined: Aug 2017
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    Blueknarr Senior Member


    That rectangular contraption is above the waterline. Only the horizontal pivoting portion is in the water. It allows the rudder to be mounted while still on the trailer and then backed down the launch ramp.
     
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