Day 4: Tiller Repair, painting, fairing, and splashing

Today my best sailing buddy Jerry Barrilleaux showed up to fix the loose tiller and rudder head. Jerry can fix just about anything... he's a mechanical genius and a precision machinist. And he knows sailboats.

Here's the background story: At the seatrial, the tiller was really sloppy. It wiggled 4 inches from side to side without turning the rudder. There was absolutely no "feel" to the helm like that, and it was hard to sail her.

Right after the sea trial, I took a close look at it, and figured out what was wrong: the holes in the tiller bracket and the rudder head were enlarged and oval shaped, from the bolt. So I called Jerry to ask if he could drop by and take a look the day of the survey.

So on Day 1, right after the survey was completed, Jerry came and brought his fancy calipers and took some measurements. We removed the bolt and took a look. The original bolt was a cast 1/4" diameter bolt, and the smooth, non-threaded section was too short. The threads had been wearing against the rudder head and tiller bracket for 25 years -- and had done considerable damage. The 1/4" hole was worn to an oval of 1/4" by 3/8".

Jery went back to the shop and whipped up a custom bolt for the tiller.

Today, Day 4 of the haulout, Jerry brought his tools to the boatyard -- a special 3/8" drill bit of his own design, a 3/8" precision reamer, and a special low speed 2 hp drill. He also brought along a custom machined stainless bolt exactly 3/8ths of an inchs in diameter, with a tolerance of 1/10,000 of an inch, with exactly the right length thread so there will be no thread rubbing against the tiller bracket to "egg-out" the hole again.

Jerry used the drill bit to enlarge the hole in the tiller bracket to 3/8" , then followed with the reamer to get a precision fit. He did the same with the rudderhead. Then he slipped the new bolt thru -- and WOW! it's as perfect as it could be. There isn't ANY slop in the tiller any more!

According to Jerry, the fit is now perfect to within 1/1000 of an inch. There will be no more point loading (from having a bolt that's a slightly different diameter than the hole. And no more wear from having thread rubbing against the hole. It should last another 25 years without getting sloppy again! Thanks Jerry!

Afterwards, Jerry offered to stick around and help me finish the bottom fairing and painting. What a guy!

I asked the yardman to hoist the boat up off the cradle with the travel lift so we could paint under the stands and finish the bottom of the keel.

I washed the epoxy on the keel with water to remove any amine blush that might have formed during curing, sanded it down, washed it again and then applied some polyester fairing putty for the final fairing. The polyester cured in about 20 minutes and I sanded it smooth.

Jerry and I sanded the spots where the stands had been, and then painted them with bottom paint. We put one final extra coat of bottom paint on the leading edges of the keel, rudder, and bow. We let the paint dry for 45 minutes and then went over the bottom with Scotch scrubby pads to knock off any little nubs of paint. The bottom was done. It looked really smooth.

While we were waiting for the paint to dry, we cleaned up the prop and shaft with emery paper and installed new zinc anodes. Jerry pointed out that the old zincs were mounted too close to the cutlass bearing to permit good water flow thru it, so we installed the new one as far up the shaft as practical.

I checked all the work, and couldn't find anything that still needed to be done. I asked the yard owner to come over to the boat check my work, and the work the men had done on the new seacocks, and to make sure everything was ok. Cree checked everything over, and jumped up on the travel lift.

I went to the office to pay the yard bill. It was almost $1100. It was about $500 for materials, $190 for the haul, pressure wash and launch, $27 for environmental disposal fees, and about $300 in labor to remove the old thru hulls and install the new seacocks.

Here's the breakdown on the material cost: The Petite Trinidad SR bottom paint was about $200/gallon, the brass seacocks, sealant and backing plates were about $120, new zincs cost about $20. We spent about $160 on miscellaneous comsumables: paint rollers, papersuits for painting, sandpaper, gloves, grill bricks, sand paper, masking tape, a new can of fast epoxy hardener, mixing cups, stirrers, towels, acetone, On&Off acid wash, and 3M Boat Cleaner & Wax.

Having paid my yard bill, it was time to splash her! I said thanks and goodbye to everybody at the boat yard and headed down to the travel lift dock to watch.

By the way, Cree (the owner of Berkeley Marine Center), the manager Terry, the ladies in the office and the yard crew all treated me very kindly during the haulout. They were always ready to answer my questions with expert advice. Cree stopped by periodically to check on my work, and advise me so it was done to a high standard. Berkeley Marine Center 's the best DIY yard I've worked in to date, in that respect. With Cree's and Terry's occassional supervision, I knew I was doing things so they would be done right; I didn't have to rely upon "dockside experts" who weren't professionals. I want to say thanks to everyone at Berkeley Marine Center for all their help. I learned a lot from you!. Berkeley Marine Center 510-843-8195 1 Spinnaker Way, Berkeley, CA 94710.


At first, the A4 wouldn't start. Jerry quickly found the problem -- a loose battery cable connection. The engine had been installed just the week before I bought the boat, and there are a lot of "loose ends" to be fixed - all the wiring needs to be checked and the engine aligned (the prop shaft is binding slightly on the tube at the top and th cutlass bearing at the bottom). Until I get that straightened out, we're not going very far.

We started up the A4, and headed out under power to return to our slip in Berkeley Marina. My hubby, Dave, met us over there, bringing sandwiches and beer for a celebration. We sat on the boat in the slip for about an hour, enjoying our new boat and each others' company.












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