Tiller Steering And A Stiff Rudder

Liberta’s steering had been stiff since the boat was bought. Heavier winds in the Baltic Sea tested the strengths of the steersmen. At times too much effort was required to keep the boat on course. Last year there was no time to address the issue, but now it had to be tackled.

Liberta sailing in the Gulf of Finland.jpg
Good biceps were needed as the steering was way too stiff. And good nerves!

Googling and talking with the other sailors gave the swollen bearing as the most probable cause for the problem. So, from thoughts to action. Truck lashing belt under and off with the rudder blade.


Luckily there was sand below the boat, so extra space under the rudder blade could be dug. And only one bigger stone came by… I guess this was the first time using a shovel in the springtime boat activities!

For once I had bought the right size tools beforehand. 🙂

The rudder blade stood really stiff. Even if I did the job for the first time and I had never even seen anyone do it, it took a lot longer than expected.

Blade to the hole.

Blade to the ground and off with the bearings. We tried to figure out their material with a bigger crowd, but no one knew what the material was. Nylon bearings tend to swell in water. Delrin would be the best material. (To be exact, Delrin is a brand, not a material.) But, something needs to be done regardless of the material.

We tried to figure out different solutions for the problem. As there were 157 other jobs at hand, the natural starting point was the quickest and the easiest solution.

Artificial cleanator at work.

Starting out with a light grinding.

Cleaning and a light grinding was the first procedure. It soon turned out to be too easy solution and the rudder was still too stiff.

A guy from the neighbor boat had had the same issue. On his boat the problem turned out to be the metallic washer that was too thick. He had solved the problem by making a new one from Teflon. He still had a bit of the material left and he promised to bring it from his warehouse.

Greetings from my neighbour. Thank you!!

Following night a roll of Teflon was found on the cockpit floor. Thanks again! I crafted new washers from it, but this time it didn’t produce the wanted result.

From metal to plastic.

It didn’t help but to take the blade down again and widen up the bearings. As there was a lot to do and a short time to launching the boat, there wasn’t time to make new ones or take them to the pros. Instead I bought some tools for 10 euros and did it myself.

Widening the hole.

Sanding sleeve was used for grinding the both bearings. And afterwards I evened out the surfaces with two grades of sandpapers. Again up with the blade. Too stiff. Off with the rudder blade… A bit more grinding, blade up and finally light enough steering! 🙂

The summer will tell whether the joy was premature. The swelling can be seen later on water. But at least the starting point is way better than before! And again, I know my boat a bit better and I’ve learned a lot of new things that may come in handy later on.


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