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FAQ: Rudder Rust Streaks


Why do I Have Rust Streaks Going Down My Rudder?
How do I Repair a Water Soaked Rudder?


Original Message:
Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
I have noticed in some of the FAQ that a sign of water in the rudder is rust streaks, and that this could be expensive to repair. My 34 is pulled every year (Toronto Canada) and over the last two years I have noticed, as the months progress, rust streaks running from the rudder post and down the side of the rudder.
Is this a warning of water in the post or above the rudder?
What can I do to prevent or repair before it becomes worse? Any advice would be appreciated.
John Potts, C34, # 1064 Pottsluck,ihscan@idirect.com

Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
I pulled the cap off my rudder and could see water inside. So I took a 5-foot scrap hose and duct taped it to the shop vac and sucked it out. I found 12 oz of water or about 8 inches deep in the column. I measure down 53 3/4 inches before I hit the bottom of this tube. Does anyone know the length of the shaft (post) on the C34 1986 models? I would like to know if the is right where the post goes into the rudder.
I also need to know if this is the cause of rust streaks.
Shaft and rudder are in perfect shape but I wish I had done this before the winter. I guess this will be another job at each haul out.
Capt Al ~~~~_/)~~~~~~~~~~~~(\_~~~~ #55 C34 _/)
"Kindred Spirit" http://kindred-spirit.net

Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
Capt Al, Sorry you just missed me being able to take this measurement. I have #840 1989 winged keel and I just capped off the rudder after filling post with epoxy due to same water condition. Can't give exact depth of post now but recall it was also around 53 inches.
Catalina drawings have the post going much further down into the rudder and from my experience drilling holes in rudder to drain out any water, the bottom of post is about a foot from the bottom of the rudder which is where the rusty water exited after drilling the hole. My rudder symptoms were rust running down side of rudder originating from the spot where the rudder meets the post. There was no evidence of any rust coming from spots anywhere else until I drilled holes to relieve the water content in the rudder itself. Once drilled the rust was coming most from holes close to bottom of rudder.
This is an important job, April 2000, Cruising World p96 talks about water in rudders and C34 Tech notes talk about filling the post and sealing the post/rudder joint. Good luck!
Skip, "Virtual Reality", #840, 1989, Scipione@att.net

This excellent note from Ron would be the "CURE"

Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
John, I wrote a number of articles in past Mainsheets on this topic, but let's start again.
I saw an article in Practical Sailor in the early 1990's on the Pearson 34 weeping rudder. This caused me to start to investigate a similar weep on my rudder.
I found that in the earlier years Catalina had welded on an iron/steel grid to the stainless steel rudderpost. So, this is where the weeping rust was coming from as water had migrated into this area. I understand in later years that this grid was changed to stainless steel to alleviate any corrosion problems. Guess they thought that with the iron grid the rudder was encapsulated enough so water would never migrate in. However, water did get in and corroded the ferrous grid.
There are a number of steps to take to repair this rudder situation. First, let me talk about fixing it with the boat out of the water. Remove the emergency tiller cap and suck out all of the water that may be in the stainless steel rudder column. You'll probably find shavings and remnants of cutting oil that was used to drill holes to mount the steering quadrant. All this junk needs to be cleaned out. I used 409 to spray in there and flushed with water. Then I used alcohol as a desiccant and dried the entire mess out with a hair dryer. I elected to fill the void with a slow drying viscous epoxy called Gluvit. Be sure when you are pouring the Gluvit epoxy in you do not get any of it on the steering quadrant bolt. I thought this would be more appropriate than foam to seep down into all the nooks and crannies and ultimately harden and give me a better seal -- it did. So much for the inside of the rudder column. On the outside of the rudder column (again with the boat out of the water) let the rudder column slightly drop an inch or two by just turning the wheel with the emergency tiller cap off. Take the nylon bushing that is between the hull and the rudder and tape it to the top of the hull to get it out of the way. Then take a beer can type opener and cut a deep V around the rudder column as it enters into the rudder itself. Clean that area completely out and after it's completely dry, fill it with 3M 5200. Raise the rudder back up and reinstall the emergency tiller cap. Don't move anything for about 7 days -- the drying time of 5200. After 7 days, trim any excess 5200 caulk off the outside of that bushing.
With the boat out of the water in the fall, as Gary said, drill a number of holes fore and aft of the rudder column into the rudder core. If there is any water in the core, you'll probably immediately see it start to seep out. Hopefully, your boat will be oriented so that the sunlight strikes the rudder. This will help drive the moisture out of the core. Depending on how severe you think the rudder is saturated; you might even try drilling a couple of holes in the bottom of the rudder. Holes are easily filled with epoxy so ensure that you drill 6 to 12 holes either side of the rudder column. Over the winter, watch to see if there is or is not weeping out of these holes. That's how you tell when the rudder is dry. Refill the holes with epoxy in the spring and paint when you do the bottom.
If you are going to examine the rudder column with the boat in the water, make sure that you put a "C" clamp around the rudder column just above the rudder packing gland to keep the rudder from slipping down. You won't lose the rudder, but it could slip down far enough that you could never reinstall the cap for the emergency tiller! Again, you can suck out all the water and try to clean out the inside of that column, but without doing it on dry land, I'm not too sure more water isn't going to seep in. I would not recommend trying to repair it while you are in the water as you couldn’t get anything dried out.
Ron, APACHE #788, ronphylhill@erols.com

Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
Hi John, I'm in Ottawa and had the same problem 5 years ago. My fix, which was pretty painless, was to first drill holes in the lower section of the rudder to drain all water. I did this in the fall and left them open all winter. About 10 holes both sides and generally, in my case, where the weeping showed low down. I also found the bottom of the rudderstock with the drill and made a good opening there. Drained about one cup of water.
Next, in the spring, I supported the rudder bottom and took off the cap in the cockpit. I bought a large can of "Great Stuff" foam and a longer plastic application tube (about 3 feet) all from Canadian Tire. Dropped the tube down the Rudder shaft and started the foam going. It expands significantly so don't fill it up. (I over filled a bit but no disaster.) I put the cap back on immediately and this forced the expanding foam out the lower part of the rudder and filled all the voids.
Foam set in a day, ground out the holes in the rudder and completed a normal fiberglass repair. Five years later; no problem and no staining. Coat $20 and 10 hours.
Just as an aside I took a good hit on the rudder late last year from a submerged deadhead. (Oh the joys of a wing keel and rudder of the same depth) It stopped us dead in the water from about 6 knots and bent the rudder shaft enough to jam it up into the small skeg. Luckily the wheel was midships at the time so the bend was straight aft. No damage internally as the boat is very heavily build in that area. The options were to replace or try a repair. With the cooperation of the insurance company, I have straightened the rudder "in place" by using chain around the keel and a chain block to the rudder (protected by a heavy wooden brace.) Seems to have worked fine. Savings of about $4,000 CAD including $1000 deductible. From an engineering perspective this could likely only be done once or twice but it worked this time with very little work.
Gary Wiseman, Up Spirits, #894, gwiseman@ftn.net

Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
I have some experience with this problem on my Grampain 26, and would like to add a few comments to the previous postings.
1. The rust probably represents what everyone else has said so far, i.e., corrosion from water getting into the rudder. HOWEVER, in drying out my rudder I learned that it leaked a brown fluid that was sticky and the same color as rust. I did some investigation and found out that the foam that is used in marine applications sometimes liquifies when it gets saturated with water, and it turns brown too.
2. I found it useful to drain my rudder by hanging it upside down. As the brown liquid seeped out, I could tell where the leak was around the rudderstock (post, column, whatever you prefer to call it).
3. A heat lamp accelerates the drying process, but don't let the fiberglass get so hot that it feels anything other than warm to the touch.
4. I grinded out the area surrounding where the rudderstock enters the top of the rudder, to a depth of about 1/2-inch. Then I nearly filled the well this had created with a very low viscosity epoxy called penetrating epoxy, and let it seep into whatever cracks there might be. Next, I filled the remaining area of the well with 3M 4200, which has excellent holding properties, but is also very flexible. After this dried, I used fairing epoxy putty to cover the caulk.
From the remarks posted on this topic, it sounds as if the c30 rudderstock is hollow. Is this true? I need to find out since my 1985 c30 also has some rust streaking!
Bob Moretti, s/v ISIS, Chicago, r-moretti@nwu.edu

Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
What has happened is that there has been a break in the rudder skin and your rudder is water logged. In the winter it will freeze and will pop the skin so you can see the rust stains running out of your rudder.
What happens it that the metal structure of the rudder will rust and can fail over time. As you are in fresh water your problem may not be as bad as with us Salt-water types. Corrosion can be rapid if there is electrolysis, as the rudderpost is usually not bonded to the boats bonding system.
What you have to do is: 1. Dry it out. 2. Inspect the structure and 3. repair or replace.
A dock mate of mine was told to remove the rudder. Cut some inspection holes into the rudder with a 3-inch hole saw. Keeping the plugs to be replaced later. And take the rudder home and put it next to your furnace for the winter to dry it out. Once dry you must fiber glass it completely so water can not reenter. Don't use Putty patch as water can migrate right through it. The waterlogged rudder probably adds a couple hundred extra pounds to your boat. Bottom line. Get some professional advice. You don't need to have your rudder let go in 6-foot seas out on the lake.
Bill Miller, Magic, Westerly, RI, C-30, bill_miller23@hotmail.com

Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
We had this exact problem on a C30 and removed it and took it home to dry out after cutting some fairly good size holes in it. Since you probably don't have time to do that now with launching time approaching, contact Gerry Douglas at the factory and also SailPlace, they may have ideas for a quicker fix for this year and then take it off in the fall. The factory does do rebuilds and can also give you a price on a new one. I have heard that they will repair and ship inside a new boat coming this way. Either way, you shouldn't leave it too long before doing something about it.
John Luther, C320, Ventura, SAILCAT30@aol.com

Subj: [C34] Rudder Rust Streaks
I suspect (truly hope) my experience with this problem was unique, but I'll share it with you since the rust stains alerted me to a problem which if left unresolved would have certainly resulted in a real catastrophe. I bought # 52, a 1987 model in 1991. About 2 years later I noticed a few streaks of rust as I prepped for spring launch - but I didn't really take them seriously. The following year, during spring fit out, I noticed the streaks were far more pronounced so out of curiosity I decided to lower the rudder to inspect the stock better. When I did, I noticed a ring of erosion around the stock right where the nylon washer was and to my horror, observed that the rusty water was weeping through tiny cracks in that erosion. In essence, the stock was eroding through, right where it entered the rudder. Being in Annapolis, Md. at the time I had access to some experienced people in these things and the determination was that electrolysis, over time, had caused the problem. (I originally thought this was crevice corrosion, but my expert - retired from the Navy's nuclear sub program - assured me it was electrolysis as he'd seen plenty of it in his career). The only solution was a new rudder. When I got the rudder out, and hack sawed through the stock at the point of erosion, I found the thickness had been reduced to as little 1/64" in a few places (I have pictures if anyone is interested). I still have bad dreams about what would (not might!) have happened had I just drilled holes to let the water out as is the normal fix for this problem. I subsequently found some bad wiring in several places in the boat (but that's a whole different saga), replaced the rudder and things have been fine ever since. The moral to this, from my point of view, is to periodically drop the rudder and give it the real once over - with a magnifying glass if need be.
BTW, Catalina was most helpful in this process. Gerry Douglas was sincerely concerned and involved, but once it was determined to be electrolysis, it was really not their problem. Also - the new rudders from Catalina come filled with foam.Bob Mack, Upon A Star, #52, Bob.Mack@Compaq.com

Important: The opinions expressed here are those of the individual contributors to this page, and not those of the Catalina 34 National Association or Catalina Yachts, Inc. Additionally, this material has not been reviewed by Catalina Yachts, Inc. for technical accuracy. This page's maintainer cannot guarantee the accuracy of this information or the desirability of suggested modifications or upgrades. Please obtain assistance from a competent marine mechanic or boatyard prior to making any significant modifications to your vessel.   

Last modified by Phil Imhof, Wednesday, August 11, 2004 . Copyright © 2001 by Catalina 34 International Association.  All rights reserved.