Friday, September 20, 2013

Leak repair day two

Yesterday was a tough day. Today looked to be more of the same but when a fight can’t be avoided it is best to step in angry and swinging and looking to make something happen. Right off two things seemed obvious. The first was that, once again, Kintala was suffering the after effects of another seriously defective repair. The second was that the rudder would need to come down to be sure of fixing it for good and for true. The Senior Boat Guru in these parts agreed so I waded into the fray with grinder locked and loaded.

It turns out pulling the rudder isn’t that big of a deal; so long as one has a 40 ton travel lift nearby that can pick the keel about six feet off the ground. All of the assorted lines and cables and pulleys associated with the primary and wind vane steering system were removed as part of dropping the rudder which also allowed pretty good access to the area needing repaired. Well, pretty good for a place buried under the cockpit and about as deep in the boat as one can go.

Several hours of work later it became clear that having this happen may have averted a serious, perhaps fatal, problem.
The repair at the base of the rudder tube was so badly done that, eventually, it simply had to fail. Instead of fiberglass tape and resin some fool had spooged epoxy paste around the base of the rudder tube. Not thickened epoxy resin, just run-of-the-mill epoxy past; brittle and prone to cracks when flexed. Flexing is inevitable given two months of picking the boat, putting it on stands, putting it on a truck, driving 800 plus miles, and picking it two more times, and is something which would assuredly happen even worse pounding into building weather. Not only was the wrong material applied, it was applied in an appallingly bad manor. I ground a flat washer out from the middle of the spooge. It was like finding a cockroach baked into your pancake.

In addition, the rudder is held on by an impressive bronze fitting that bolts through the skeg and clamps around the rudder shaft (called a “shoe”). Six bolts hold this thing together. On Kintala, one bolt was simply too short; shoved in the hole and held in place by bottom paint it wasn’t actually holding anything. Three of the other bolt holes had the threads stripped from them. I didn't strip them getting them out. Someone stripped them putting them in. All that was holding them is place was friction. There were just two bolts holding this unit together; two bolts holding the rudder on the boat. This was a failure destined to happen. If the leak didn’t doom the boat first, the mount would fail in a way that would jam the rudder IF it didn’t just fall out of the boat altogether.

The fix is going to take several days. Since the steering is apart anyway it seems best to replace the cables as well. They are 30 years old and damaged by yet another bit of appallingly poor maintenance. I’m still a bit discouraged and more than a bit angry. Some of what I am finding on this boat is not just lazy and stupid and low rent, it borders on criminal negligence. The good news there are few places left on the boat where such work can hide. So all it not lost just yet.

Boats sometimes just disappear and fade into mystery. From what I have seen of this industry some of those disasters must be the result of truly horrid maintenance finally catching someone out at the worst possible time. (Which has me thinking delivery Captains are about the boldest people I've run across lately. Take an old boat whose service history is unknown off to some distant shore? I'd rather repo airplanes.)

As bad, and as lingering, as yesterday's disappointment was, it is still better than having the rudder fall out of the boat 100 miles out to sea in building weather. But this should not have happened at all.


Latitude 43 said...

Holy Crap! OK, you deserve to be angry. I would be too. The good thing is, you have just about repaired everything on that boat. So, you can float in comfort. The rest of us will just have to keep our life jackets handy.

Capt. Mike said...

I would just like to say I am amazed at your never say die attitude. I think if I had been through all the major repairs that you have found since buying your boat I might have been tempted to turn off the bilge pump. Hang in there we are all rooting for you.

Deb said...

@Mike - can't say as the thought hasn't occurred...I don't think the insurance company would take too well to the idea though.

@Paul - when we showed the rudder shoe screws to the guy next to us getting his Bristol 39 ready to cruise, he looked a little worried about his boat.

SV Pelagia said...

Much better to find this where you are now! (Try having your steering nearly fail while 100 nm off the Oregon coast!)

Our steering seems to good now. Went for a sail yesterday in SF Bay.

SV Pelagia