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Project Log:  Saturday, January 28, 2012

A month or two ago, I purchased the components for the new hydraulic steering system.  After various research and correspondence, I selected a Teleflex Seastar system, upgraded with a brass cylinder (vs. the stock aluminum) and Kevlar hoses (vs. the stock nylon tubing).  At that time, I'd performed measurements in the after steering room (the cockpit lazarette), and knew from the onset that providing adequate room for the hydraulic cylinder would probably require certain modifications.  All of this would also eventually tie in with my Simrad AP24 autopilot and RPU80 hydraulic autopilot pump.

Photo from October 2011 showing the lazarette opening

The basic components from which the new system would grow consisted of a two-piece bronze rudder post; bronze rudder tube and stuffing box; bronze coupler; and stainless steel steering arm.  The original cable-driven push/pull steering system had connected to the steering arm, which was oriented in a transverse direction facing the port side of the boat.


Earlier, I'd determined that there was not going to be room for the hydraulic cylinder with the steering arm in this position:  the fore and aft clearance in the steering room was simply too short.  With more room available across the space's width, my first test would be to move the steering arm's position on the rudderpost to a different position.  At this point, however, I didn't know if the rudderpost (and therefore steering arm connection) was round, or squared off.

To begin the process, and to ensure that the rudderpost and all related components would be in their correct and intended positions, I temporarily reinstalled the rudder.  I love this rudder system, where the rudder is attached with mating flanges and four bolts:  easy and effective.  With the rudder back in place, I knew the rudderpost components above would be at the correct height and position, and could also ensure the rudder's position easily by eye when it became necessary.

Next, I loosened the setscrews (a series of hex-head bolts) and pulled the upper section of the rudderpost (which extended through the coaming for tiller attachment) up and out of the way for now, holding it in place with some locking pliers. I didn't pull it all the way out because there was a groove with bronze key set in plate above the coupling, and though this didn't seem to serve a current purpose I saw no reason to remove the key either.  The key prevented the rudderpost from sliding through the round hole in the coaming.


Then, I could remove the coupler, and finally the steering arm.  The rudderpost was indeed squared off, as was the hole in the steering arm, so whether or not I could use this arm in the new system would depend on whether I could simply rotate it 90° and have the cylinder fit.  However, the cylinder, which required 28" of clearance for full operation, was clearly too long to fit in this way.  This was not unexpected, though I'd hoped for the easy solution.

I thought rotating the steering arm 45° would work.  So using the old one as a rough guide, but changing the length and shape slightly, I made a plywood mockup of a new arm, with the square hole rotated 45°.  According to the instructions, the steering arm should be 6" between the centers of the rudderpost and bolt securing the cylinder to the arm, so I made the mockup in accordance with these instructions.


The cylinder needed to be installed parallel to and in line with a line drawn through two points defined by the maximum angle of the steering arm, or about 30° to each side.  The instructions called for a 6" rudder arm (6" from the center of the rudderpost to the center of the pin securing the cylinder to the arm), with the maximum angles defined by a 3-1/2" offset to each side of the center position of the arm.  Using the plywood mockup as a guide, I made various marks and laid out these key points.

Eventually, the steering cylinder would align with these marks, perpendicular to the steering arm and running forward towards the bulkhead.  Even now, the length of the cylinder and its maximum travel would require some modification to the bulkhead, but the opening would end up inside the starboard cockpit locker (which I'd yet to build).  These modifications and final installation would come sometime later.  For now, I'd determined what I needed and how to proceed, and my first task from here would be to have a machine shop make up the new steering arm based on the plywood mockup, after which I could proceed with final layout and installation.

There was an old ring terminal left over from a now-defunct bonding system secured to one of the bolts holding the rudder stuffing box to its plywood support platform.  To remove this, I needed to remove an extra nut that was securing it, but this simple task turned into something larger when I found that I couldn't get the nut off the top of the stud; even holding the fixing nut beneath didn't prevent the screw from turning, since the action was pulling the screw head (a panhead, slotted screw that was inaccessible beneath the platform and visible only thanks to my camera) into the plywood.

Eventually, with some needle-nose locking pliers that just fit into the space between the two nuts, I got the nut and old ring terminal off, but I couldn't leave this fastener as is.  I removed the fixing nut and old bolt (using the locking pliers to hold the stud) and installed a new bronze hex bolt with a large fender washer to protect the bearing surface.

The after two (of four) bolt heads were completely inaccessible for all practical purposes, given the confines of the space and the impedance of the rudder tube; I was able to tighten the nuts slightly and felt they were secure as is, so I decided against any heroic efforts to do anything with them.  However, I thought I might also replace the other forward bolt with a new one and washers like its counterpart.  I made this decision after reviewing the photos on my computer vs. the small camera screen, so as of this writing I'd not yet done the chore.

Earlier in the week, I'd painted a small section of the new engine foundations to test the paint's curing ability over the relatively new epoxy:  Bilgekote, my paint of choice, will not cure properly if applied too quickly over new epoxy.  Allowing the epoxy to reach its full state of cure, which can take anywhere from a couple days to a couple weeks, allows the paint to work properly when applied.  I hoped it'd been long enough, as I was anxious to paint the engine room and get ready to install the engine soon.

The test patches seemed to have cured completely, so I went ahead and painted the forward part of the engine room, as far aft as the ends of the foundations; I left a section unpainted as I still needed to install some new through hulls there (cockpit scuppers and engine intake).  The unpainted area wouldn't stand in the way of other important progress, and in any event I planned to do the through hulls as soon as I could get the parts needed.


I spent the last part of the day making up some orders for things I'd need for through hull and engine installation and some other tasks in the coming week or two.

Total Time Today:  5 hours

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