Dropping a Rudder While in the Water

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Soggy Paws

Feb 20, 2019, 6:08:20 AM2/20/19
to Saint Francis Owners Group
Hi all, we hit a log while motorsailing along the coast of New Guinea. Miraculously, it missed the saildrive, but took a chunk out of the leading edge of the rudder. We need to drop the rudder, pull it aboard and make repairs.

Has anyone done this? Any tips on the process of dropping the rudder? Any problems to anticipate if we are a little below the design waterline?


Don Wilson

Feb 20, 2019, 7:52:12 AM2/20/19
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Dave: Sorry to hear of the most recent cruising problem, but glad to hear it was not more serious (saildrive).
Have not dropped ours yet, but former owner has had both of ours out at one time or the other. I believe both times in the water. Sounds pretty straight forward, from disconnect steering and it drops down. One trick he used was a small bottle jack with a piece of lumber against the step above post to push the post down (rudder). We also need to drop our starboard rudder as it is slightly bent and almost touching the hull. New one is $1400 and can be built here in Florida. Not an option for you at this point.
Good luck and of course, we will get the details from you later.

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Feb 20, 2019, 9:50:44 AM2/20/19
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I have done this twice while I owned Obelix. I can give you a few pointers.

Here is the process:
First anchor securely in shallow water, probably not less than 10 feet, since the rudder and post must
come down to clear the boat, but also not too deep, as you may drop the rudder and will need to retrieve
it. You can measure the rudder length from the bottom of the boat, then inside from the hull to the
top of the rudder post, plus a couple of inches for the hull thickness. This is how deep you need to be
to get the rudder and post to clear the bottom of the boat.

Then carefully tie a line to the rudder, it is heavy and will sink when free, it does not float. Note that
the rudder shape is not easy to tie to, be careful.

Next, disconnect the steering yoke bar that runs between the rudders. If you have an autopilot position
sensor on the rudder, disconnect it. Disconnect and remove the yoke arm from the top of the rudder post. 
The rudder should now be free of connections to the boat, and if you are lucky, will want to slide down
and free. Prevent this with ropes until you can dive into the water to retrieve it.

If the rudder does not want to slide down and out of the boat, you may have a bent rudder post. In this case,
you can push down on the post from inside the boat, levering against the bottom of the step immediately
above it. I used a small hydraulic jack, but you can probably get by with a 2x4 as a lever. Be sure to protect
the bottom of the step with a board so you do not damage it. If the helm turns freely, your post is probably
not bent. You can also dive on the rudder and check the clearance between the top of the rudder and the
bottom of the boat. My clearance was about the diameter of my little finger.

Retrieve the rudder and post from beneath the boat and effect your repairs.

Re-insert the rudder and post from beneath the boat, which can be tricky since you will be free-diving beneath
the boat and the rudder will want to sink. Some ropes will help force the rudder back up into the boat.

Remake the connections that you undid above.

The rudder post is hollow and will fill with salt water during this process. Though it is stainless steel, this is not
really good. Use your dingy pump to empty the post of water as best you can. If you are anal about this, fill
the post again with fresh water and re-drain it.

St. Francis designed the rudders to be sacrificial. Rather than break up the fiberglass around the steering post,
the rudder post is designed to bend. Not bend easily, but more so than break up the boat's fiberglass. I have
repaired a bent post, but it is not an easy process, and hopefully you will not need to do this.

It is possible to control the boat with a single rudder if you need to. Disconnect the steering yoke bar from the
damaged rudder and leave the end free. Hopefully the damaged rudder is frozen in a straight forward-aft

I hope this helps,

From: saintf...@googlegroups.com <saintf...@googlegroups.com> on behalf of Soggy Paws <she...@svsoggypaws.com>
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2019 5:08 AM

To: Saint Francis Owners Group
Subject: [Saint Francis OG] Dropping a Rudder While in the Water


Feb 20, 2019, 10:48:58 AM2/20/19
to saintf...@googlegroups.com

A P.S. to my previous email. The heaviest part of the rudder is the stainless steel rudder post.
The rudder won't float, but gravity will orient it in the water so the post is down, below the
rudder proper. This is not the orientation of the rudder when installed in your boat.

This makes removing and re-inserting the rudder, shall we say "interesting". Be prepared.

The only problem I had when overloading my SF44 was that under speed, the aft end of the
boat tends to sink down in the water. It can sink low enough for water to run up the rudder
post and over the top of the bearing hole. The proper solution would have been to lighten
what the boat was carrying, but I put a small bilge pump in the back of each hull. Problem
solved. BTW, when I bought the boat, the bilge pumps were the auto-cycle style, the kind
that periodically turn on looking for water to pump. I never had much luck getting these to
last more than a season or so, and switched to the float switch activated style. These lasted
much longer and were a lot more quiet. You would still get audible warning of a problem if
you noticed excessive bilge pump activity, but I never had a problem like this. The auto-cycle
style pumps were prone to fail without warning. Their warning signal was silence, not noise.

Good Luck,

From: saintf...@googlegroups.com <saintf...@googlegroups.com> on behalf of Soggy Paws <she...@svsoggypaws.com>
Sent: Wednesday, February 20, 2019 5:08 AM
To: Saint Francis Owners Group
Subject: [Saint Francis OG] Dropping a Rudder While in the Water

Randy Abernethy

Feb 20, 2019, 2:06:14 PM2/20/19
to saintf...@googlegroups.com
I bent my port rudder shaft while out and about. This is on a 50 so I just shorted the hydraulic loop on the port side (50s have shutoffs for both rudders). The rudder was jammed against the hull yet slipped out pretty easy. Had to destroy the glass and foam to put the shaft on a hydraulic press. Once straight rebuilt the rudder and reinstalled with no noticeable issues after many years. This kind of thing may trash your bearing though. My rudder rattled a bit in disturbed water or under heavy load until I replaced the bearing.

Soggy Paws

Feb 22, 2019, 2:34:12 AM2/22/19
to saintf...@googlegroups.com
Hi all, thanks for the tips, they were very helpful. We dropped the rudder today without too much drama, and it's on shore drying out. Quite a big chunk out of the rudder, but no bent shaft. (pic posted on the SF Owners Facebook Group). We have 6" of rudder tube above the water, so no worries about sinking the boat.

Thanks again, Pete, for your advice!

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Mar 1, 2019, 9:25:30 AM3/1/19
to Saint Francis Owners Group
Hi There

I worked for St Francis Marine for over 24 years and worked through all the systems and departments. If you have any technical questions that needs answering or any other info I will be more than happy to try and help.... Most of your boats were built while I was there... From Hull #16 Mustard Seed of the 44's up to Hull #23 of the St Francis 50's... I was Factory Manager for the past 7 years up untill December 2018. I am now sittuated in the Caribbean in GRENADA at GRENADA MARINE... You can contact me via. Email ja...@grenadamarine.com or on my cell +1 473 459 4123.
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