How we replaced our seized rudder bearing assembly (part 1)
2 months have flown by and at the same time it feels days dragged by. When I look back I get a mixed feeling, it seems it was just yesterday I was freaking out with the idea of Ella flying but at the same time also feels that it has been ages that we arrived Portugal and the boat works started.
It was day after day of 10-11 hours working in all sorts of different jobs, from much-needed ones to purely cosmetic ones, done for the sole reason of killing time while waiting for parts.
There were also some surprises (not such happy ones) being the most annoying one detected just days before the planned splash date.
As we were preparing to do the anti-foul re-paint we noticed a small drop in our rudder and after closer inspection, it was concluded that the entire assembly had seized, but luckily the housing detached from the hull avoiding further grievances. After trying to get a replacement and getting has answer from the Dufour local representative that it would take at least 4 weeks or longer to get a new part and who knows the cost (and now more than 6 weeks after that initial contact we still don't have a cost or delivery date for the original part - gotta love Europe during summer), we decided to try to salvage the crappy metal bearings while we waited for more info from the local Dufour representative, but when we attempted to install them we realised how bad is the whole design of that system since the metal bearing gets immediately damaged during the installation itself.
Not being happy with that conclusion and given the lack of interest from the local Dufour guy on getting the requested parts we went back to research mode... and since the original design/choice of materials didn't seem promising as a long-term solution we decided to replace them with an alternative material, Vesconite.
(At that moment we were only considering replacing the metal cylindrical bearing for a bushing)
But of course because nothing is simple in boat works and after long wait for DHL delivery of the Vesconite parts, we learned that the bearing mechanical work was actually done by the metal housing and the big ball bearing and that the small metal bearings (that we replaced with Vesconite) are just assisting with any additional friction between the rudder shaft and the actual bearing.
Of course that the reason it took us so long to figure this out is of how seized the assembly was.
So... we ended up having to put a lot of elbow grease into getting the ball bearing completely loose from the housing and moving almost freely. That was achieved resorting first to lots of love with marine grease and a rubber mallet and secondly to wet & dry sandpaper (grit 180, 360 and 500), it took us one day to separate the two parts and two solid days just of sanding.
It is not a permanent fix but hopefully will work for the necessary time for us to do a full replacement with a non-metallic assembly.