Catalina 34

General Activities => Main Message Board => Topic started by: Miles Henderson on December 29, 2009, 03:55:57 PM

Title: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Miles Henderson on December 29, 2009, 03:55:57 PM
You should check the underside of your rudder bearing housing (see attached schematic) and make sure a short (3" to 4") tube is fiberglassed to the underside of your rudder bearing housing.

I own a 1992 C34, hull number 1204, and the tube is missing.  I contacted Catalina and they do not recall other C34's missing this component and sent me the tube so I may fiberglass it to the underside of the rudder bearing housing myself.

Last summer we were crossing Lake Michigan, returning from the Queen's Cup.  The trip was roughly 65 miles starting from Muskegon, Michigan to our home port of Sheboygan, Wisconsin.  The wind was blowing 25+ knots and was right on our nose, so we elected to motor directly into the wind and waves.  After two hours of heavy pounding in growing seas (8 footers), we decided to fall off and raise reefed sails and take the long route home in order to avoid the punishing pounding the boat would take each time it descended a wave.  We took a reef on the main and genoa the boat sailed beautifully gliding up and down the waves without the pounding. 

After about four hours of sailing we were literally in the middle of Lake Michigan and the helmsman said "I feel a clicking or tapping under my feet every time boat moves from side-to-side".  We looked at each other, our eyes got big and we knew this was not good news.  We immediately removed the rudder post cover just aft of the pedestal steering, and there we saw the top of the rudder post moving back and forth 3/16's of an inch each time the boat rocked from side to side.  Our concern then focused on the integrity of the rudder post tube that goes through the bottom of the boat.  We grabbed our spot light, opened the rear hatch door and observed the rudder post tube where it attaches to the boat's hull.  This rudder post tube that attaches to the bottom of the boat is roughly 18 inches high.  It encompasses the rudder post as it passes through the bottom of the boat and it is higher than the water line and has packing on the top to keep water from enterring the boat. 

We observed that the rudder post tube was flexing each time the top of the rudder post rocked 3/16's of an inch with each wave.  Our concern was the 50 degree water, that we were 29 miles from land and what would happen if the flexing of the rudder tube would start to crack where it attached to the hull (i.e., water starts to flood the boat).  We called the Coast Guard and requested they escourt us the rest of the way to our home port.  Fortunately the rocking and flexing of the rudder post never created a crack where where the rudder post tube attached to the bottom of the boat.  The Coast Guard arrived in one hour and 45 minutes and escourted us the rest of the way home. 

Check to make sure you have a short rudder post tube (it should be 3 to 4 inches long) and should be attached to the underside of the bearing housing (see schematic).  Our boat never had this tube attached and the pressure from the rocking compromised the bearing housing.  It no longer fit tightly around the top of the rudder post so the top of the post began to move back and forth as the boat rocked with the waves.

Here is to safe sailing.

Miles H
Title: Re: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Stu Jackson on December 29, 2009, 10:03:35 PM

Thanks for that great report.  The sketch you attached is for the Mark II boats, given the flush arrangement of the top of the rudder to the deck.

The Mark I setup is described in the old FAQs, here: (
Title: Re: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Miles Henderson on December 30, 2009, 09:12:59 AM
Thanks for the reply Stu. 

The schematic I attached came from Catalina.  They said they did not have a schematic for the entire rudder post assembly as old as my boat (a 1992 model).  I believe the distinction you are making between and MK I and MK II is the difference in the rudder packing gland assembly. 

The problem on my boat was not the lower rudder tube (where the packing gland attaches), the problem was with the upper rudder tube (it was missing).  The upper rudder tube should have been fiberglassed with three layers of promat to the underside of the rudder bearing housing (as depicted in the attachment I sent with the original posting).  This upper rudder tube was COMPLETELY MISSING.

I think it would be wise for all C34 owners to check to make sure their upper rudder tube was installed at Catalina when it was manufactured.

Regards, Miles H
Title: Re: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Ken Heyman on December 30, 2009, 11:38:16 AM
Interesting account, Mike

I think this belongs in the "critical inspection" section of our forum. Did you make the repair yet? I assume you had to drop the rudder. I'm curious in that i have had periodic wheel shimmy or surge when the rudder is loaded sufficiently --say above 4 knots. I have tightened my steering cables, replaced idler pins and done a lot of staring at the installation. After 8 years of owning the boat I have written the phenomena off to standing the test of time. while on  the hard I have tried to physically create play in the rudder by lifting or leaning against it. I have not been able to recreate the problem. Do you think your rudder would move or jiggle while applying lateral force while out of the water?

BTW I'm amazed that you got the coast guard to escort you. In the "old" days they might have but now they always seem to make decisions based on their assessment of one being in immediate danger. That's great that they recognized how serious this could have been.

Anyway have a happy new Year and only 4 more month or so to re-splash our boats.

Title: Re: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Ken Heyman on December 30, 2009, 11:39:24 AM
sorry Miles---I meant "Miles" not Mike
Title: Re: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Miles Henderson on December 30, 2009, 12:10:57 PM
Hi Ken,

I haven't repaired it yet; and yes, I have the rudder off so I can do the repair.  I decided to make it an elliptical rudder since I have already gone the nine yards to remove it.

I am not sure if your problem (the wheel shimmy) and mine are related.  You can detect my problem when you are in heavy waves and the boat is rocking side-to-side by observing the top of the rudder post.  The top of my rudder post clearly moved from side to side 3/16's of an inch when the boat rocked in these waves.  As you can imagine, when the boat rocks (say ten degress port list to ten degrees starboard list) in quick succession, there is significant side pressure put on the rudder that will torque it from side to side).  Observing this immediately informed us the top rudder bearing was not holding (in our case there is no "bearing", it is simply a "rudder tube" that is supposed to hold the top of the rudder post in one place when it is torqued from side to side.

The Coast Guard Seaman that took our Channel 16 call did not want to send an escort out 29 miles into the lake.  He informed us to keep him "apprised of our condition" every 15 minutes and to call immediately if we started to take on water.  I infomed the Seaman that his decision did not work for me, that we had very experienced sailors on board the vessel and that we believed the problem could easily turn life threatening if we waited to call only after the water started to come onboard.  He still did not want to change his mind.  Then I said, okay if your decision is not to send an escort immediately, then I demand that you have this decision approved by Chief Evans (who is the Chief of the Sheboygan Coast Guard station).  They called me back in fifteen minutes and said they were sending their 52 foot cutter to escort us back to land (it took 1 hour and 45 minutes to reach us).  Afterwards I spoke with Chief Evans and he said the officer on duty at the station made the decision to send the cutter and he was never contacted.     
Title: Re: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Ken Heyman on December 30, 2009, 02:02:31 PM
re: the CG Miles, ---well played!

I have the elliptical rudder on my 34 and have been very pleased. As you know there is a wealth of discussion on the board re: the elliptical rudder. Briefly, a much lesser tendency to "round up" in a blow and general improved windward performance.

good luck with the repair & happy  healthy 2010.

Title: Re: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Ron Hill on December 30, 2009, 03:50:49 PM
Guys : Don't get confused as Miles has a walk thru transom and Stu is talking about a conventional transom.

Miles : I've looked at your picture and reread the narrative.  I'm surmising that the outer tube that is glassed to the hull - is what's missing?
Title: Re: Missing Rudder Post Tube
Post by: Miles Henderson on December 31, 2009, 08:14:38 AM

I apologize to everyone about the confusion.  There are two tubes.  One tube (about 18 inches long) is attached to the hull and enables the stainless steel rudder post to pass through it and go into the water.  The other tube (3 to 4 inches) is supposed to be at the top of the rudder post and is attached to the bottom of the rudder bearing housing.  The rudder bearing cap sits on top of the rudder bearing housing.  It is the upper tube that is missing on my boat.  The schematic shows the upper tube with an arrow pointing at it (immediately underneath the rudder post cap) and it is supposed to be fiberglassed onto the rudder bearing housing with three layers of promat.

There was NO upper rudder post on my boat.  The guys at Catalina know that newer boats (newer than mine) had this upper tube designed into the boat per the schematic.  They were not able to find a schematic for older boats like mine so they did not explicitly comment on whether this was mistakenly left off my boat or if it was designed that way.  All I can tell you is WITHOUT THE UPPER TUBE, the extreme pressure placed on the bearing housing (at the top of the rudder post) by the stainless steel rudder post started to erode the bearing housing and then allowed the top of the rudder post to rock back-and-forth. 

The bearing housing which the rudder post cap and washer sit upon is very thin (maybe 3/16" thick).  On my boat (a walk through transom) the top of the bearing housing is located below the deck and is accessible by removing a small circular cover on deck immediately behind the pedastal steering.  I personally observed a white powder substance on top of the bearing housing when I remove the circular cover.  When I lowered the rudder, I determined that the white powder substance was caused by the washer (under the rudder post cap) which was literally eating away the top of the bearing housing via friction each time the helm turned the rudder (as the bearing housing was now about 1/16" or 3/64" thinner than the bearing housing immediately adjacent to where the washer was located).  In addition, when the boat rocks from side-to-side by wave action it obviously puts pressure on both the upper and lower tubes which should be holding the rudder post in place and this repeated pressure had widened the opening in the rudder bearing housing at the top of the rudder post and was allowing the top of the rudder post to rock back-and-forth by 3/16" each time the boat took a wave.  If the upper rudder tube had been installed as indicated in the schematic, the rudder bearing housing would not have widened and the top of the rudder post would not move.

Hope this helps. Miles H