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 Rudder question: just ugly or dangerous?

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hlprmnky Posted - 04/24/2022 : 06:48:07
Hello, once again it is your C25 newbie with questions about every part of the boat!

As I alluded to in the other rudder thread, I have concerns about the state of my rudder. I’m sailing in freshwater, but on Lake Michigan so 4+-foot chop is not an unlikely thing for me to encounter even with relatively little wind. What you see in the attached images is not new, the rudder served admirably on several day sails last season looking just like this. My question is: does it look to you like a seam that just …looks this way, or is this a state of disrepair that is going to serve admirably right up to the point it fails surprisingly?

I do have TowboatUS service, but I would prefer to keep this season’s outings (especially the first outings with the Admiral and kiddo aboard) from being “exciting” or “a good story” as much as possible. Any advice welcome! Thanks again for being here for us new folks.

22   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
Stinkpotter Posted - 08/08/2022 : 21:39:23
Great job sorting through the obstacles! You started with the original C-25 rudder, which was not original to some later model year boats reported on here. I experienced the pintle fit issue when I replaced the rudder on my 1985 with the same design as yours, from Catalina Direct, but maybe from a different builder. The simple fact with older boats is upgrades and maintenance require some resourcefulness. One new thing might not fit with other older things (like pintles). If someone will be disturbed about that, they need to buy a new boat where the manufacturer has already made everything fit together.

Some suggestions: Store the rudder indoors in the winter, and especially if you bottom-paint it, don't leave it exposed to sun "on the hard"--if it has a foam core, the heat could make it swell and split the shell as shown by others here.

hlprmnky Posted - 08/08/2022 : 12:25:37
As promised, photos of the final rudder install:

It has been a journey - the rudder from Foss seems like a very solid piece of kit, but it was the nominal 1-1/2 inches at the top pintle location but much closer to 1-3/4 at the lower. After a bunch of research and ordering some 1-3/4 inch pintles from Rig Rite that were just far too shallow for comfort, I ended up taking the Catalina Direct pintles to a machine shop here in town and had one re-bent to be thick enough to fit the lower pintle position while staying parallel. Then measuring, drilling, over-drilling and potting with thickened epoxy, and drilling the fittings for pintles and tiller. Quite the education!

I also took the opportunity to bring the tiller home and sand it down to bare wood, then apply four coats of Minwax marine poly varnish, and replace the tiller “tamer” which has never quite worked right with a tiller clutch. I also got a Sunbrella cover for the tiller from Catalina Direct, so that it might stay looking nice without a full sand-and-varnish every season.

This season has been a lot of refit and yard work and a lot of time in between yard days either waiting for passable weather or getting out from under work obligations, but I remain optimistic that I’ll get a solid month or so of actual, you know, sailing before Halloween. I do also feel that the work I’m putting in now will pay dividends in the coming seasons as I have fewer things I feel must be done to be safe on the water.

Thanks again to all posters with advice and commentary, having this forum to help guide my thinking about this project has been invaluable.
hlprmnky Posted - 06/20/2022 : 08:15:51
I ended up going with a balanced rudder from Foss Foam in Florida. It arrived today and looks great (though I haven’t gotten to uncrate/unwrap it yet).

Sanding, adding bottom paint, and installing the pintle straps and tiller bolt (and also sanding and re-varnishing my existing tiller) feels much better as a “year 1.5 sailor/owner” project than fashioning my own rudder from scratch. I will post photos when it’s done!
Volksaholic Posted - 05/04/2022 : 11:29:00
If someone has the skills, time, and desire to build their own, I found this article yesterday evening:

This is a little more like how I did the Finn rudder, but I used marine plywood. Doing the NACA foil wouldn't be much harder on a Catalina rudder than just doing a straight taper... that's certainly the way I'd go. If one sticks with the relatively straight leading and trailing edges it would be particularly easy. To build a balanced rudder it seems like the max thickness would be about 1.875". Here's a link to someone's balanced rudder design, but I think if you took the 15" line straight up you'd be pretty close to the Catalina Direct version:

EDIT: I forgot I meant to comment on this:
Regarding the shape of the foil, if you'd shape it similarly to the original Catalina rudder, the foil would be adequate.

I agree with this, but I think the Catalina rudder would have been at least sort-of hydrofoil/airfoil shaped even if it wasn't a true NACA calculated foil. My issue about the shape of the slab in the video is that IIRC he just crudely rounded the leading and trailing edges, which really doesn't so much of anything to improve its performance in the water. Essentially, I think what you end up with (and again this is more gut/intuition based on dorking around in boats) is that as soon as you turn the rudder you've got the same effect as when you stall a sail or wing; no laminar flow, just drag and disturbance. That works but I think it creates a lot more stress on the rudder blade. I'd expect a shallow turn with even a bad foil to provide a bit of lift to assist in the turn. That said, my first boat was a plywood Sailfish my dad built in the late '50s, and it had a slab with rounded edges for a rudder and only slightly better shape to the centerboard. It wasn't much of a boat, but it got me hooked.
Steve Milby Posted - 05/04/2022 : 07:34:38
The original Catalina-built rudder was cored with plywood and sheathed with fiberglass.

Regarding the video, I agree that screwing and gluing planks together was the wrong approach. Coring the rudder with plywood and sheathing it with fiberglass would have been consistent with the way Catalina built theirs, and it would have made a much stronger rudder.

Regarding the shape of the foil, if you'd shape it similarly to the original Catalina rudder, the foil would be adequate. Functional rudders were made for hundreds of years before anyone knew anything about foils. Historically, Alexander Graham Bell experimented with hydrofoils in 1906. To the best of my knowledge, the first serious scientific study of foils generally was done by the Wright brothers. Perhaps Bell theorized that, if the Wright brothers can use foils to fly through the air, then perhaps he could use foils to "fly" through or over water.

If I needed a rudder and needed my $1000 for other purposes, I'd probably build one.

Here's a photo of Bell's Hydrodome #4, which set a world marine speed record of 70.86 miles per hour in 1919.
hlprmnky Posted - 05/04/2022 : 05:26:37
That’s really interesting stuff, thanks for sharing. One anecdotal point in favor of your intuition about rudder shape is that Ruddercraft (who as I understand it make the rudders CD sells) make sure to tell you that the balanced rudder is a true NACA 0012 airfoil.
Now if only that airfoil could make the rudder outrun their current *nine week* lead time, I would happily apply a BOAT buck to this issue.
Volksaholic Posted - 05/03/2022 : 14:37:08
Here's a link to a short video, with a dimensional plan, describing how he built his own C25 rudder. I would recommend coring it with plywood, rather than screwing and gluing planks together, but his overall process looks like something many of us could do as an off-season project.

If you watch the linked video above my suggestion is that you consider it an example of what you don't want to do. At best, that rudder is going to warp as it takes on moisture. Worst case is it's going to fold up on him, and that will probably happen when conditions are such that you're going to want control of the boat. I'm not an expert at boat building or rudder building, but I have done enough woodwork to shudder at his material selection and the construction. I've built a crude plywood rudder for my Finn, which after several years folded up at a bad time, and subsequently built a nice, properly shaped and faired, marine ply and fiberglass rudder. I've also sailed enough to know that the forces on the rudder can be significant, especially if you're fighting weather helm, and I think that creating a round edged slab like he's done will increase the force on the rudder. The reason I say that is because I think a proper hydrofoil will generate lift to help turn the boat rather than just creating an obstruction that pushes the boat around... but I'll admit that's just a gut feel rather than something I can defend. The real point is that I think this video illustrates an attempt to save money that I think could end up dangerous and more expensive if he ends up on the rocks.

This is way overkill for the depth that I think most folks want to get into this subject, and he's a little slow (run YouTube at 1.25 speed or faster if you want to skim over it) but it gives a good idea of what I think our rudders look like inside. I'm a nerd that likes understanding these processes. This is the first of several parts he video'd on this repair.
Stinkpotter Posted - 04/30/2022 : 10:46:00
Originally posted by hlprmnky

I think that “rope damage” might be caused by winter storage shrinkwrap...
If somebody taped the shrinkwrap to the rudder, that could definitely happen. Shrinkwrap tape is incredibly tenacious--it should never touch anything but the shrinkwrap itself. It can pull gelcoat off, and did pull some paint off my outboard.
hlprmnky Posted - 04/29/2022 : 09:15:14
I think that “rope damage” might be caused by winter storage shrinkwrap - it definitely wasn’t there last fall. Another reason to take the rudder off and store it at home, I guess! Thank you all for the suggestions and observations, this is exactly what I was hoping I would learn by posting. I do think I will replace the rudder at some point, though lead times from the various places I might get a rudder are a strong control on when “some point” can possibly be.
As for weather helm, she didn’t exhibit extreme weather helm last year, though I did only have her out in fairly light winds. I was able to get in touch with the rigger at the marina where the boat is stored and, in addition to his giving the standing rigging an examination while the mast is down (his conclusion: no corrosion anywhere, no fishhooks, he would sail the rig with confidence), I intend to ask him if he’d be willing to come out and help me tune the rig the first time. I have read and understand your excellent posts on the subject, Steve, but I still feel like it would be smart to have someone who has done it before along for my first time. I’m a big proponent of “watch one, do one, teach one” as a method for learning new skills. I’m not sure who I will “teach one” to, maybe someday my kid?
In any event, I think a new rudder is eventually in the works, whether it’s a new-to-me one from another C25, or a new one several weeks from now. I will update you all when that happens. Cheers!
Voyager Posted - 04/28/2022 : 08:50:16
If it were my rudder, I’d start by probing the gap to see whether the interior is separating, either right in the middle, or if one of the fiberglass shells is separating from the core. If that were the case, then I’d check on a replacement (parted out boat). If I felt up to the task, I’d try to separate the two halves (sawzall or pry them apart) and rebuild the core and put the two halves back together. I would definitely try to seal the seam at that point.
If the shells and the core were solid, I’d check the areas around the pintles to see whether they were solid. Top pintle should have solid wood core. If it were soft, I’d try coring out a section with a 1” hole saw, and refilling it with chopped fiberglass and thickened epoxy. Same with the bottom pintle, which is a known trouble spot. I would look to explore the area and reinforce it as much as possible.
If, however, there was no weakening or damage, inside, I might do a little cosmetic repair (fill cracks, rope damage, gaps with MarineTex) and go sailing!
islander Posted - 04/28/2022 : 04:10:48
Looking at your second photo it looks like there is damage to the rudder just under the lower pintle. Looks like maybe a line or rope got caught there and through boat movement sawed into the rudder in two spots.
Steve Milby Posted - 04/27/2022 : 05:36:31
Excess weather helm is caused by a defect in a boat, similar to when the front wheels are out of alignment in your car. Replacing the rudder with a balanced rudder doesn't fix the problem. It only masks it. The defect that causes excess weather helm is still there. Excess weather helm is caused by a poorly tuned rig. The correct remedy is to tune the rig. All you really need to do to correct excess weather helm is to reduce the rake of the mast, i.e. adjust it so that it doesn't lean aft quite so much. You do that by easing the backstay turnbuckle a little, tightening the forestay turnbuckle a little, easing the aft lowers accordingly and tightening the forward lowers accordingly. It's a simple fix and should be done regardless of whether you have the original rudder or a balanced rudder.

If your rig is tuned correctly, an original rudder will have just as light a helm as a balanced rudder, and the original rudder will be slightly more efficient.

A badly tuned rig can be dangerous. When I bought my Cal 25, the rig was so out of adjustment that it heeled excessively in a breeze until water poured over the gunwale into the cockpit, and the boat became uncontrollable. After I tuned the rig, the boat stood up better in a breeze, had a light helm, it responded to the helm and no boat in the Cal 25 racing fleet was faster, and the Cal's rudder was not balanced.

There's nothing terribly wrong with a balanced rudder, but it deludes you into thinking you have fixed the problem with a heavy helm when you have not, and it represents a substantial cost that can be avoided simply by turning a wrench for an hour or less.
Stinkpotter Posted - 04/26/2022 : 20:41:40
As Steve mentioned, that's apparently the original 1985 rudder (like I had) that has wood core in the "head" where the pintles are attached. The thinner section below the waterline is essentially solid fiberglass with no core. The wood core is famous for (1) absorbing water from various sources including the bolt holes when it hasn't split yet, (2) the core swelling from the moisture (as wood always does), (3) swelling more when the moisture freezes, eventually causing the split between the two shells, (4) rotting in the area that supports the lower pintle, which takes most of the lateral forces from heeling and pitching in choppy seas, and (5) breaking completely off at the lower pintle in those conditions--exactly the "excitement" you're concerned about. You can "Search" for many posts in our archives on this happening with that rudder.

The only trustworthy solution IMHO is what I did--replace it. I picked an earlier version of the fiberglass balanced rudder from CD--the same one Catalina started using in about 1987, which at that time was fully foam-cored. The construction has changed since then--I don't know where it stands now. It wouldn't hurt to call them and ask.

I will add, as many here have commented, that the balanced design, compared to the original, is like "power steering." It doesn't eliminate weather or lee helm--it just reduces its force, and makes turning and holding a course a one-finger operation. Over a few hours in a stiff breeze, it is a real upgrade.
hlprmnky Posted - 04/26/2022 : 19:37:41
I definitely concur that there’s some amount of material turned up at that spot, but I can’t say if it’s a split seam or just bottom paint. I will look into it when I am back at the boat this week. I did speak to Ruddercraft and the current lead time for a new HDPE balanced rudder is 9 weeks so I guess I will be doing at least delivery from the yard where my cradle is to the marina where my slip is on the existing rudder. Thank you again to everyone for the advice so far; I’ll let you know what I end up doing, whether that’s repairing the existing rudder, buying new, or building.
Steve Milby Posted - 04/25/2022 : 05:04:36
It's always hard to tell from photos, but it looks to me like the seam is split in the painted area below the waterline. Look closely at the seam below the waterline. You shouldn't be able to probe inside the seam with a toothpick. Be gentle in probing.

Your rudder is the older, unbalanced type. It might be original to your 1985 boat. I don't know if or when Catalina started putting balanced rudders on new C25s. I preferred the unbalanced rudder. It's more efficient than a balanced rudder and, if you tune your rig, it will provide a light helm.

Here's a link to a short video, with a dimensional plan, describing how he built his own C25 rudder. I would recommend coring it with plywood, rather than screwing and gluing planks together, but his overall process looks like something many of us could do as an off-season project.
OLarryR Posted - 04/24/2022 : 21:49:43
My rudder/seam looks the same as Scott's photos. My rudder is generally on the transom and in the water, year-round. I have not noticed any visible changes to the rudder/seam since I purchased the boat in 2005. If concerned about internal degradation, the rudder surface would have to be tested with a humidity meter to determine any internal degradation due to water/moisture. At some point, if for no reason than curiosity, I may have it tested.
hlprmnky Posted - 04/24/2022 : 20:54:29
That’s a great question, islander, and my answer is “I don’t know” because I did not take the rudder off and store it for the winter. It was out of the water a long time before it got cold enough to freeze, so if there was any water it would not have frozen inside the rudder. She also sat on the hard for at least three years before last May, so the rudder is definitely not accustomed to climate-controlled storage. Now that I know I should, I will bring it home for storage in my heated garage.
Thank you also for the photos - despite walking around the marina and looking at other Catalina rudders, I had not before seen another one with the seam uncovered and assumed that was some sort of repair of unknown provenance. I am still considering updating the rudder and tiller, but it feels like maybe less of an emergency with this additional information. There are many things I want to improve or replace onboard to support my eventual cruising plans, but I am trying very hard to not let the perfect be the enemy of the good, nor the enemy of getting out and actually sailing.
islander Posted - 04/24/2022 : 16:01:32
Just so you know these rudders are two fiberglass shells with a foam filler. There might be some wood up by the head but Im not sure about that. Catalina sometimes finished the seam and sometimes not. This is my balanced rudder with the exposed unfinished seam. Ive had my boat for 13yrs and used this rudder for all of that time. You could fiberglass over the seam if you want but I never did. My sugestion is to just use it and keep an eye on it for any changes. Question, Do you have any water coming out of the rudder when you take it off and store it for the winter?

blanik Posted - 04/24/2022 : 15:47:04
I bought the compensated one... best thing ever!
bigelowp Posted - 04/24/2022 : 08:20:23
Actually, he too is in Michigan
bigelowp Posted - 04/24/2022 : 08:17:14
You might want to check with the guy who has posted in Swap Meet that he is parting out his C-25 -- if he is selling his rudder, even with freight it might be a cheap way out!
Steve Milby Posted - 04/24/2022 : 07:35:12
There's no way of knowing how much damage is hidden inside the rudder. I'd repair it and start looking for a replacement. I wouldn't sail it in a severe storm, but I think it's safe to sail it in normal sailing conditions. If it breaks, you can use the motor to steer it and get home and, worst case scenario, you can call tow boat us. After you get another one, you can keep this one as a spare.

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