AN OFF-CENTER TILLER
Q: I recently had some work done on a 1988 Ericson 26. During the repairs, there was work done on the tiller in the cockpit. The rudder was dropped to the ground but not completely removed; approximately 6-8in of the rudder tube was showing as it sat on the ground. After the work was completed and I went to pick up the boat I noticed that the tiller was no longer in the center of the cockpit, but instead was roughly 1in to the right (from the stern). Of course, I brought this to the attention of the gentleman who did the work. He said it was impossible for it to be in the wrong position. He had fiberglassed over where the tiller had been positioned, and when he got ready to drill the holes to replace the tiller he went below the cockpit and drilled through the holes that held the tiller tube to the bottom of the cockpit so they had to be in the right position. I am also sure that the tiller was in the middle of the cockpit, side to side.
I am not pointing blame, just trying to determine if both of us could be right and still have the problem. Due to unusual circumstances, the boat sat in the yard with the rudder resting on the ground while still in the rudder tube for a period of over two months. With the rudder tube disconnected from the bottom of the deck, is it possible that the weight of the rudder or the movement of the rudder to place a ladder, for instance, put enough weight or pressure on the tube to cause it to move ever so slightly to one side or the other? I am thinking the prolonged weight on the rudder tube with no support resulted in a slight shift of the tube at the top, and when the holes were re-drilled the result was the holes were out of center. Is it possible that this happened? I now have an offset tiller in the cockpit, and the rudder hangs slightly out of center from the bottom of the boat. I know he thinks that he is correct but, I know my boat well enough to know the tiller is now in the wrong position. Leonard Mobley, email@example.com
DON CASEY REPLIES
You may be right. Stress on the detached tube as the rudder and hull moved independently could certainly displace the top of the tube. Or the stress could have already been there from 30 years of the molecular rearranging that a plastic boat is subject to, so that when the tube is freed at the top, it springs to a different attitude. In either case, using the mounting holes in the upper flange as a drill guide without first checking alignment was a bad idea. The shaft needs to be in perfect alignment with the keel, and if it is not, corrective measures are essential. This likely means a complete do-over, this time checking the tube/rudder alignment before drilling more than pilot holes.
DON CASEY HAS WRITTEN MANY BOOKS AND ARTICLES ON MARINE MAINTENANCE AND REPAIRS