Planning a Refit—The Problem With Rudders

So what's lurking under here? Nothing good, I'll bet. And a quick coat of paint over this almost certainly half-baked repair, and we might never know.

Colin has shone the bright light of reality on fibreglass boat rudders, but here's a quick summary:


  • It is near impossible for the joint between a metal rudder shaft and a fibreglass shell to remain waterproof for 20 to 40 years, the typical age of the boats we are looking at refitting.
  • Therefore, pretty much every rudder on every fiberglass boat we are dealing with in this series has, or has had, water in it.
  • If the boat has been stored in a winter climate, it's likely water will have frozen inside the rudder and done further damage.

Worse Than We Thought

That was all bad enough, but then I had a chat with Al Walker at Foss Foam Products in Florida. Al and his team have probably looked inside more old production boat rudders than anyone on the planet. Here's what I learned:

John was born and brought up in Bermuda and started sailing as a child, racing locally and offshore before turning to cruising. He has sailed over 100,000 miles, most of it on his McCurdy & Rhodes 56, Morgan's Cloud, including eight ocean races to Bermuda, culminating in winning his class twice in the Newport Bermuda Race. He has skippered a series of voyages in the North Atlantic, the majority of which have been to the high latitudes. John has been helping others go voyaging by sharing his experience for 25 years, first in yachting magazines and, for the last 20 years, as co-editor/publisher of AAC.

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