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Fixing a Broken Rudder Cage on a Gemini 3200 Sailboat

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How do you fix a rudder cage?

Our Gemini 3200 is a 32 foot sailing catamaran named Ariel. A Gemini 3200's rudders are external to the vessel. One of ours cracked, and we needed to fit it.

Step 1 - Problem Identified

SUNDAY, AUGUST 16, 2009

Recently, we went to take Ariel out for an afternoon cruise. While placing the rudder boards into the rudder cages we noticed that one of the board was kicking out. After further inspection we discovered that the bungee that holds the board in place had slipped down the rudder cage. This was just a symptom. The real problem was that a weld on the rudder cage had broken.

Our first thought was that we were going to have to have Ariel hauled out of the water so that the weld could be fix. Thankfully, there is a very active, yahoo users group for Gemini catamarans. I was able to post the problem and within 30 minutes I had an answer/solution. Paul from s/v Double Exposure hull #238 told me that all we had to do is to remove the hinge and steering strut bolts and then we could remove the cage without taking Ariel out of the water. It was as Paul had described. Thank you Paul!!

Step 2 - Removing Cage from Boat

TUESDAY, AUGUST 18, 2009

After finding the broken weld and researching the best way to proceed, we took the plung (literally). Bill used a socket wrench to loosen the bolts and nuts on the hinges. This took some effort since one hinge under water.

First Bill tackled the 1/2"-5" stainless steel hex bolt, 2 nuts, and end nut that were underneath the water. Once he had handed the bolt and nuts to me, he disconnected the steering strut from the rudder cage. Finally, he took off the top hinge bolt and nuts and the shock cord.

Voila! The rudder cage is off and now it can be carried to a local machine shop to be fixed.

Step 3 - Getting Rudder Cage Welded

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 19, 2009

If my Dad lived in town, getting the rudder cage welded would have been easy. I would have simply ask Daddy to weld it, but he lives in Northwest Alabama. So I decided to let my fingers do the walking in the yellow pages, metaphorically speaking. I googled machine shop for northern Atlanta. After calling the first 5 machine shops in my area and find out that they were no longer in business, I decided to call the local West Marine store to see if they had any recommendation. They had two, but neither of them answered their phones. I called our marina to see if they did stainless steel welding. The lady at the service shop stated that they had someone who came by once a week and who charged $90/hr with a one hour minimum, but she was not sure when he would be by. I was beginning to think that I needed to take a road trip to go see my Dad. I decided to try one more machine shop off of Buford Highway in Doraville, GA. I was in luck, Capital City Machine Shop was able and willing to fix my rudder cage. Capital City Machine Shop (www.capitalcitymachine.com 770.447.9545) is full service machine shop. They do everything from repairs to cnc milling and turning to fabrication.

I took the rudder cage over to Capital City Machine Shop where I handed off to Mr. Willis Pratt, the lead welder. Mr. Pratt took time out of his busy day to inspect the rudder cage, ask questions regarding it use, and when I needed it. We exchanged cards and he told me that he would call me once the repair was finished., this was about 1:30pm. Before 3pm, I had received a call from Mr. Pratt stating that the repair was finish and that I could pick-up the rudder cage whenever I like. So the next morning I went to pick-up the cage. Mr. Pratt did a fantastic job. Not only had he fixed the weld that I had pointed out, but he had also fixed another broken weld that I had not noticed and checked all of the remaining welds. All of this for $65.

I highly recommend Capital City Machine Shop to anyone. The staff is very nice, professional, and meticulous.

I would like to say a special Thank You to Mr. Pratt and Ms. Charlotte!

Step 4 - Scavenger Hunt

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2009

When we discovered the broken weld on the rudder cage, I thought that I might have a tough time finding someone who could weld stainless steel, but a scavenger hunt never crossed my mind.

During the removal of the rudder cage, Bill dropped one of the 1/2 inch by 5 inches long stainless steel hex bolt into the lake. Most boat owners can tell you that no magnet rivals a lake for attracting metal ;).

So, I need to replace a bolt. Big deal. Just go the your local Home Depot or Lowe's, right? Wrong! The Home Depots and Lowe's in my area didn't carry stainless steel hex bolt and the local Ace Hardware carried the bolts, but not that long. So the hunt was on. I gain decided to let my fingers do the walking in the Real Yellow Page (metaphorically speaking). After several phone call, I came across a company called Star Stainless Screw company, in Norcross, GA. With the help of Ann, I was able to acquire 3 stainless steel hex bolts, 1/2 inch by 5 inches long, coarse thread. Thank You Ann!!!

I also needed to find 3/8 inch to 1/2 inch marine grade bungee to replace the bungee that looped through the rudder cage. Here again, I tried the local name brand hardware and marine stores. No luck. I was finally able to find the bungee at a place called General Hardware off Peachtree Road NE in Atlanta. This hardware store specializes in hard to find items and was like stepping back in time. The store was small, compared to Home Depot, and stuff was everywhere. When I walked in I thought, how does anyone find anything here. Answer, the staff. The staff seem to know every item in stock and it's location. My Dad would love this place.

Now that we have all of the components, it's time to install!

Step 5 - Install Rudder Cage - First Try

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2009

Yeah! We're finally ready to install the fixed rudder cage.

We took everything to the boat. We replaced the old, worn bungee with the new 3/8 inch marine grade bungee. Bill was ready to get into the water, when we noticed it. A piece of stainless was missing from the rudder cage. How could we have missed it? A U-shaped piece of stainless on top of the rudder cage was missing. It is the point where we secure the steering lines from the outboard engine to the rudder cage. Now we could have tied the steering line to the rudder cage itself, but that would just look tacky.

So, off to the welder I go. It's a good thing that we noticed it before Bill got into the water and before we bolted it back onto the boat.

Step 6 - Install Rudder Cage

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2009

Let's try this again. Yeah! We finally have completed our first major fix!! After the last time, I made doubly sure that nothing was missing.

I purchased a U-bolt from our local West Marine store and carried it and the rudder cage over to Capital City Machine Shop to have it welded. They had to cut the U-bolt down before welding it to the rudder cage (another $60). My mistake, I should have noticed that it was missing the first time around.

Again, we took everything to the boat. It took Bill a total of 30 minute to bolt the rudder cage onto the boat and then we took her out for a spin.

It's nice having her operational again!