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Monday, June 14, 2010

Replacing a Steering Splash Well Plate on a Gemini 3200 Sailboat

The Gemini 3200 has 2 outboard rudders. These rudders have a steering arm that pushes them from side to side. The plates in the splash well area that serve as the conduit for the steering arm from inside the boat to the outside comes from the factory made out of metal. On the starboard side of our sailboat, the splash well plate was horrendously rusty. Given the plates function, keeping outside water outside, this is a dangerous condition. So, this weekend I went for it and replaced it.

Val had done some research on the issue and found another Gemini owner whom made these fancy plates out of fiberglass. Val reached out and the guy was willing to make us 2 plates (I wanted one for each side of the boat) plus send us 2 new aluminum tubes that the steering rods run through. Awesome.

After reading, re-reading, and re-reading again all the instructions from Mr. Fiberglass Plate Maker, I sat with all the parts and mentally walked through how to do this. After thinking, "oh crap, I could really screw something up here" I decided to try one of the oldest tricks in the trade, I asked Val to produce each of the supporting items needed (the various sealants, grease tubes, nuts, bolts, washers). Alas, she produced everything. Oh well, time to do the job.

Getting out the old rusty plate wasn't easy. The sealant holding it on was pretty good. Getting the bolts out did end up requiring a good whack of a hammer. When the bolts were out, I still had to go back with a razor blade and cut away the old rubber sealant to break free the old plate.

Once the old assembly was freed, I opened up the new stuff.

The aluminum tube was packed with grease. Not just any grease, but that unbelievably sticky get all over the place, even ones underwear, black stuff. With black grease all over, I was able to secure the new assembly into place, and put the new backing plate on. I had to re-drill the plate holes (drilling holes in the boat is uncomfortable), and dry fit the system. The unit was nice and snug!

Taking everything apart, I then loaded up all the surfaces with sealant. Every nut, bolt, washer, connecting surface .... everything. I then had 5 minutes before the stuff would start to cure so it was then a race to put it all back in. Within about 7 minutes, it was all back together.

With everything in place, and the curing having started, I decided to go back over all the surfaces exposed with more sealant. I recovered every exposed nut and bolt. One can't have too much sealant!

The entire effort took about 2 hours. Not bad for a rookie! But it got h-o-t. I started at 9:00am and by 11am it was already 93 degrees out.

Now it is time to wash off that old rust stain!

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