Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Rudder Leak Fixed

I returned to Intermezzo after the Thanksgiving holidays and made a permanent fix to the port rudder leak that I discovered and temporarily repaired just before I left. I discovered the temporary repair worked great, as the engine compartment was bone dry when I returned.

I figured I should do the repair for both rudders, which turned out to be a good move because, on close inspection, the starboard rudder penetration was seeping moisture, too. I wouldn't call it a leak, but I definitely didn't want it to get worse.

The first step was to lift the port stern out of the water a bit to relieve water pressure on the leaking area. Given the effectiveness of the temporary repair, this was probably not required, but I was interested in seeing what I could do by ballasting the starboard bow. I put all the anchor chain, extra anchor rodes, tools and spares out of the storage area beneath the port stern berth, inflatable kayaks, and the Code 0 sail on the bow, emptied the port water tank and filled the starboard water tank.  I'd estimate about 1,500 pounds of ballast in total, which lifted the port stern up about five inches. That was enough to just about eliminate any water pressure at the leak location. If I wanted to raise it more, I would have pumped diesel from the port fuel tank into jerry cans and put them on the bow. I'll bet if I did that the rudder hull penetration would be completely out of the water.

Next I cleaned the aluminum rudder tubes, first with sandpaper then wiped down with solvent. I decided to keep the fillet I built up using SplashZone epoxy for the temporary repair rather than remove it, so I just sanded it smooth and cleaned it up. For the starboard rudder, I built up a new fillet using SpashZone, but I'd wished I'd used an epoxy putty like, JB WaterWeld as the SplashZone is really messy to work with.

Then I fiberglassed the joint between the two tubes, using woven fiberglass tape and  G/Flex epoxy, which works in damp locations (even underwater) and for bonding to metal surfaces. I used four overlapping layers of tape, starting at 1-inch wide and stepping up to 4-inches in one inch increments. I trimmed the bottom and top of each piece of tape to different lengths to accommodate  the two different diameter tubes, tapering in the middle. It was a little tricky working in the cramped engine compartment, but I managed to do an acceptable job without getting epoxy all over the place or all over me.

The rudder leak is now fixed. For good, I figure.

Ballast on the starboard bow- 300 ft of 3/8" anchor chain is buried under there, too!

Port stern lifted about 5 inches by ballast on starboard bow.

The leaking rudder penetration- before repair
SplashZone epoxy fillet - retained from temporary repair

Four layers of fiberglass tape, cut to overlap and fit different diameter rudder tubes.

The finished permanent repair.