HIGH COTTON - Little Harbor Sailboat

Patrick McLoughlinProject Manager: Patrick McLoughlin
Location: Bristol, RI

High Cotton has been coming to Bristol Marine for service since Fall, 2015.  With the guidance of local yacht manager Jim Wetherald, its owners have addressed a number of needs on this beautiful Little Harbor 52′ sailboat.  After a number of mechanical and plumbing upgrades in 2016, Awlgrip deck paint in 2017 and spar paint in 2018, the ownership team decided to service its steering system over the winter of 2019.  High Cotton’s rudder is made with a stainless steel shaft and composite rudder blade with a retractable center board.  It is built robustly, but as with most sailboats it requires regular inspection due to potential exposure to saltwater and oxidation of critical components.  The truth is that most boat builders recommend regular monitoring of rudder shafts, but it is often ignored or deferred due to the time and costs associated with doing so.

When High Cotton’s rudder was removed from the boat in early-winter, the shaft was fully visible for the first time in years (the date of the last inspection was not known as the boat has previous owners).  It was immediately apparent that the rudder shaft had surface corrosion, and further testing with x-ray showed that the same corrosion existed inside the 1″ walls of the 4″ stainless steel shaft.  Strength calculations determined that the shaft was extremely compromised around the lower bearing area where the shaft penetrates the hull, and it would eventually fail.  There was no choice but to replace the shaft, and Bristol Marine’s skilled metal fabrication and composite technicians got right to work.  Using years of experience, the old shaft was skillfully removed from the rudder and replaced with a new 316 stainless steel  tube.  Careful planning was followed by skilled machining and welding, until the new shaft was securely in place.  At this point, it was given back to the composite shop which used precise patterns and templates to rebuild the rudder back to its original shape.  The rudder repair was complete, and it was installed in mid-April, about 4 months after it was removed for inspection.  Though this ended up being a more complicated job than the owners expected, it was clearly the right choice to inspect and repair this important component.  They now have peace of mind before they head out for some offshore sailing this summer.

Though this ended up being a more complicated job than expected, it was clearly the right choice to inspect and repair this critically important vessel component.  This type of job, though sometimes costly, can provide great value as it reflects good overall care and responsible maintenance that can pay dividends when and if High Cotton’s owners ever decide to sell.  In the short term, there will be peace of mind that the structural integrity of the rudder has been addressed before heading out for some offshore sailing this summer.