Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Sunfish Rudder Conversion

In 1972 the Sunfish had a new rudder blade, tiller and attachment hardware. The old style rudder could pop loose under heavy load, and the new style rudder offered better performance. Many sailors now opt to convert their old style rudder to the new style, another reason being that new style rudder parts are easier to find.

Old style fittings on left, new style on right

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Old style uses gudgeon, hinge pin, deck spring plate, keel plate and carriage bolt. Weak point is the groove on keel plate where gudgeon rests. There is an attachment plate on the deck and on the hull, both have wood backer blocks inside the hull. You also might see a small screw hole on the deck where the keeper chain for the rudder pin was attached. Chain is missing from this pin

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

New style rudder is uses spring tension to hold it up or down, it pops up for easy beaching. It also uses a pintle and gudgeon design, plus the blade has more surface area and a better profile. That rudder is one we had made

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

In this picture we have the new style rudder and tiller on the top, in the middle a few of the parts needed for a conversion and on the bottom the old style rudder and tiller.

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

To change out fittings you either have to split the hull/deck seam and re-epoxy it back together just right, or install an inspection port to remove backer blocks and install metal backer plate. The easiest method is the inspection port, plus if your boat is that old it is a good place to sponge out any water.

APS and Yankee Boating Center sell most of the parts needed, and you can gather other parts from ebay, craigslist or the Sunfish Forum

You will need general DIY skills, be able to use a drill, wrench, jigsaw and screwdriver and not be afraid to cut a hole in your 40+ year old Sunfish

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Old style on top, new style on bottom, on the way to restoration

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Gather new rudder/tiller parts and deck hardware, or just buy a complete set up and add nuts and bolts. There are no parts from the old rudder that are compatible

You'll need rudder blade, wood or fiberglass and tiller. Also spring pin, rudder cheek (black plastic or aluminum) with pintle and spring, 2 rudder tension springs, nylon washers that go between cheek and rudder and tiller straps and rudder. Nuts and bolts to attach cheek and tiller strap to rudder. Nuts and bolts to attach tiller straps to tiller. Stare at these pictures long enough and you'll see how the parts go together, attach cheek, drive in rudder spring pin if not already installed, install springs, attach tiller straps to rudder and tiller.
Tip: Don't attach tiller to tiller strap yet, wait til rudder is hanging on boat and you can get tiller set to proper clearance above deck.

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Here is a picture of some of the parts needed. Note: Cardboard rudder template is not seaworthy

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

You also need a gudgeon, flanged backer plate, #8-32 stainless steel machine screws, washers and stop nuts

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration


And you need an inspection port. I used a port that has a 6 inch opening, so the port and ring measure 8 inches across

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

You can buy a 6 inch inspection port from us through paypal, complete with stainless hardware and step by step instructions.

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

To get started you'll need to unscrew the old deck and keel hardware. They can be unscrewed or drill out the screws

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Don't cut off the plates with a grinder, you'll cut into the hull. In this pic I had to use Marine Tex epoxy putty to fill in slots cut by previous owner with grinder. They were sanded later and the boat was painted. You may hit some internal foam, that's okay, it will not affect the structure.

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

You'll end up with a pile like this. Hang it on the wall or see if someone else needs it on ebay/craigslist/Sunfish Forum

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Once the old hardware is removed, pick the location for tour port, usually 2-3 inches up from the stern. The cap for this port makes a great template to trace the hole. Unscrew the cap, and place it upside down on the deck, centered over where you want your port. This will be the template for the hole. Trace around the outside of the cap with a non-permanent marker. Tip: DO NOT trace around the outside ring, or else your hole will be big enough to drop in the entire port!

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Tip: Measure twice, cut once. Drill a starter hole just inside the edge of the circle with a 3/8” bit

In this picture we drilled more towards the middle of the hole. Afterwards we decided we could have drilled just inside the line and saved more of the disc, which can be held onto for possible use in future repairs

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration


Tip: If your deck is in nice shape, cover it with blue tape to prevent the jigsaw footplate from scratching it. Also protect yourself with safety glasses and a mask. Using the starter hole you just cut, take a jigsaw and cut around the inside of the circle, staying just inside the line.

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Tip: If your cutout might fall into the boat and get lost, tape a string to it to retrieve it. Remove the cutout, take a coffee break and admire your work.

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

You can now access the inside of your boat…although you might decide not to…here is a picture of a rotted wood backer block and part of its fiberglass holder

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

INTERMISSION

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration


Tip: Don't install the port yet, leave it off so you have more room to work inside the hull. Put some blue tape over the raw fiberglass and wear a long sleeve shirt to protect your arm (Remove tape before final port installation).Now you need the backer plate, gudgeon and hardware. A new backer plate usually does not have screw holes drilled yet for machine screws, what you can do at this time is line up the backer plate with the gudgeon and pre drill screw holes

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Place the gudgeon just below the lip of the deck/hull seam, centered on the transom. Drill through the 4 holes into the transom

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Add some silicone to the transom behind the gudgeon. Start a machine screw through one hole, then through the backer plate inside hull. Silicone behind the backer plate also. Put on a washer and stop nut and do not tighten. Put on other three screws and nuts. Tighten all screws. Oops, missed a washer :) The hump at the bottom is the fiberglass holder for the old rudder keel plate's wooden backer block

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Put a bead of silicone around the port hole, install port and twist it 1/4 turn to spread silicone out. You can drill holes first if you like, then line them up after putting on silicone. Drill holes for machine screws. Install screws, washers and stop nuts. Tighten

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Finished installation of gudgeon

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Clip on the rudder

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Dry fit the tiller to the tiller straps. Drill hole for first machine screw, then adjust tiller to proper height off of deck. Keep in mind tiller will sag a bit under pressure and there is a bit of play in rudder system, so put tiller end by cockpit about 3-4 inches above deck. Drill second hole and install machine screws, washer if desired and stop nuts. Note: If tiller is too high or low after a few sails, adjust it a bit. Move it 1/2 inch to drill new holes if needed, or glue dowel into old holes and redrill.

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

You'll also need to fill in the holes on the deck and hull from the old style hardware. Marine Tex epoxy is one good option, or fiberglass.

From Small Boat Restoration

From Small Boat Restoration

Float test

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Go sailing!

From Sunfish Sailboat Restoration

Annapolis Performance Sailing (APS), Sunfish Direct and Yankee Boating Center sell most of the parts needed, and you can gather other parts form ebay, craigslist or the Sunfish Forum. If you have questions, add a comment here.

For More Info on common restoration projects, buy our book The Sunfish Owner's Manual from Amazon!

Fair Winds,
Clark




8 comments:

  1. Found you today as I pondered the fate of a pair of Sunfish hulls. Rigging is gone, so I thought about using a kite to pull instead. Plenty of kiteboarders out here moving gear. Also considered modifying to be a stand up paddle board........We'll see!

    Nice work, well documented. I appreciate your details. Would love to see more photos of the boat in action.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Clark,

    Great post! I'm looking to replace my rudder assembly with the newer style using your guidance here. I'd also love to repaint the hull. Painting is my least favorite chore, though. What paint do you recommend? My hull is white all around, with the blue and red stripe on the bow. Thanks!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Did you keep the old parts?
      Swany
      Dswanwick at mtsports.com

      Delete
  3. You're welcome. I prefer Pettit Easypoxy, but also have had luck with Interlux Brightside and Rustoleum Topside

    ReplyDelete
  4. Trying to post again
    Looking for an old brass pin for the old style rudder
    Swany
    Dswanwick at Mtsports.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Thanks Clark! Great post, with so many helpful details. My 1969 Alcort Sunfish will eventually need a rudder modernization, and I appreciated the run-down.

    ReplyDelete
  6. i have a question, how long would it take for the suspension springs to wear off?

    ReplyDelete