After staying in Sydney for a few months, it was time to head north to Port Stephens to go to Oyster Cove marine. We decided to go after Easter, but had to wait for the next high, high tide to get in. This was on the 12th April.
We had had problems with the steering, mainly severe weather helm in a strong blow - she wants to round up quite savagely. Half a turn of wheel in 1-3/4 is quite a bit. The autopilot used to complain and throw his arms in the air.
Phil Hogg of Bruce Roberts International (Bundaberg) suggested that we move the rudder as far aft as we could. This would mean moving the whole shebang, rudder post, cables, quadrant, autopilot drive, the lot. To make room for the re-positioned quadrant would mean altering the floor as well. This wasn't an appealing thought.
While in Sydney, we discussed this problem with my cousin George who is a coppersmith by trade, but was involved with ship building and large building project management. He looked at the situation and came up with a brilliant idea - leave everything in place, but move the rudder back, and drive it by steering arms from the quadrant. This meant that the aft cabin floor, bunk and drawers could remain undisturbed. More importantly, the emergency tiller would still work on the quadrant. Naturally we were greatly excited by this concept.
The other thing that fell into place was that George was resigning from his job and going into semi-retirement, and he would be available to do our job in April. Another critical piece in the jigsaw was that George has a mate with a workshop in Lemon Tree Passage, 10 minutes from Oyster Cove.
Cove Marine uses a low-loader with hydraulic arms and bogeys to lift boats out of the water. It is a very impressive sight to see the boat rise from the water, then be gently carried to the work site and lowered onto the stands.
The first thing was to remove the rudder and have a 150mm leading edge put on it by George's mate. This was 1/5 to 1/7 of the rudder width as recommended by Phil Hogg.
Next, we had to have a new shaft made to go where the original one was, in the quadrant, and have a new stainless steel socket made for the original shaft, 2 feet back. The original socket had a plate welded over it. George's mate also made up a plate to bolt to the quadrant. This was where the steering arms would be mounted.
George made up a massive 2' square solid steel arm which was drilled for the 45mm steering shaft. He also removed the lower socket and extended the keel with 100 mm square section tube and plate.
All of this will become clear in the photos below.
The whole job went fairly smoothly except when we tried to remove the bronze fitting from the new socket. It had distorted during welding, so it was a long, slow, arduous process to get it out. This roughed it up a bit, so we had to get it machined so that the Deep Sea Seal would keep the water out. We also found that the two arms wouldn't work, but one is quite fine anyway. It is from a Land Rover, and quite solid.
While Meridian was out of the water, we gave her a fresh couple of coats of anti-foul, and moved the boot stripe up about 100mm to keep the growth off the waterline.
We returned to the water two weeks later on Fri 26th. The change in the steering was immediately obvious, so much lighter, and only needing one finger to stay on course. We continued out with George and his wife Mary to the Broughton Islands for the weekend. We motored out there but had a good sail back into a southerly right on the nose. Once again, it was so light and only needed a few inches of movement on the wheel. We are delighted with the result - we have a new boat!