Thursday, October 24, 2013

Things That Once Seemed Difficult

I am trying to wrap up the new rudder tube and cockpit construction before the cold prevents any new epoxying and needed to pull the rudder so I can have a new post fabricated.  It remains to be seen whether I need to replace the rudder as well, but I won't know until the old post is off.  So, as much as I despised the thought; I found that I would need to pull the propeller shaft prior to removing the rudder (nothing really surprises me anymore).

The last time I did this was right after I purchased the boat and found that the cutlass bearing was pretty tired and had worn a nice groove in the propeller shaft.  This kept my stuffing box from keeping the water out very well and I needed to pull the shaft to replace the bearing and have a new shaft made.   Although I did this more than 11 years ago, I still remember that the project did not rate as 'fun'.  In fact, I remember it being firmly in the 'no fun' category, mainly because of really difficult access and the fact that the shaft coupling was extremely rusted and just didn't want to let go of the shaft.

So I approached this project with trepidation, thinking that I'd be subjected to the same knuckle tearing fun as the last time.  As it turned out, it was not too bad.  Sure I sliced my knuckles open, shot it up with PB Blaster over the course of a week, and had to explain to my wife and kids why I was yelling at a rusty metal thing on the bottom of the boat, but it never seemed so bad.  In retrospect, it seemed like a breeze compared to what I have had to do over this restoration and now realize that things that used to be difficult just seem easier now.

Anyway, with the prop and shaft out of the way I went right into attempting to drop the rudder.  I knew that I would be applying for a Darwin Award on this one because in order to remove the rudder and shaft I have to dig a hole under the boat about 2 - 3 feet deep and extending forward under the keel right under one of the large wood blocks supporting the boat.  Seems like a recipe for disaster, but I planned out my escape routes should the boat tumble and made sure I had my cell phone on me in case I was pinned.

As it turns out I never got far enough to apply for my award because about 1.5 feet down, I hit ledge.  Not a rock, but solid ledge and I can go no further.  It's funny because when I built the boat shed, I was able to sink all my knee wall posts 4 feet deep without issue, it was nice and sandy.  I've probed all around the ledge for any signs of weakness and have found none, so now it looks like I am going to have to cut the post.  I wish there was another way (jack the boat up), but I don't think it's an option even I'm comfortable with.

I'm Free! Yipee!
So, it's about 4 hours later (from when I wrote the post above) and after consulting with some members on the Woodenboat Forum, I decided to cut the shaft.  Using my Bosch reciprocating saw and 4 metal cutting blades I spent about 20 minutes cutting through the 1.5" shaft.  It took me three to realize that running the saw at a fast speed destroyed the blades in short order and did very little cutting.  On the fourth blade I slowed it down and at that point the cutting went much faster.  I lubricated the cut with WD-40 periodically, but it just seemed to burn off.

Now that the rudder is off I see how heavy that beast is.  I could barely get it to my truck; I'm sure it is over 100 pounds with the shaft.  I'll figure out whether the rudder is re-buildable over the weekend.  If it's a waterlogged mess, then probably not, and given how heavy it is, I suspect there's some water trapped under the flimsy glass skin.  

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