PS Advisor: Water-logged Rudder

Quick-fix prescriptions won’t cure the problem.


Each year, the rudder on my 1986 C&C 35-3 has to have water drained from it. It is my belief that water gets in from the shaft/stock entrance to the rudder, but with the rudder in place, access is restricted.

From speaking with other boaters, I’ve found it to be a common problem. The initial concern is of water freezing inside and splitting the rudder, but I also have the longer-term implication of possible internal, and unseen, corrosion.

For now, I drill a couple of holes in the fall, and epoxy them before launch. Is there a fitting that could be implanted in the rudder, with a screw to be easily removed for drainage?


Harold Higginbottom
Blue Mist, C&C 25
Celtic Spirit, C&C 35-3,
Hamilton, Ontario














You definitely are not alone in having this problem.



Practical Sailor

Technical Editor Ralph Naranjo describes his own soggy rudder woes in “Keep a Close Watch on

Photo by Ralph Naranjo


Marine Metals” in the February 2007 issue. In his case, a subcontractor’s use of dissimilar metals in the rudder stock led to total rudder failure on his Ericson 41.




work in the short term, alleviating the symptom, but it is not a long-term fix for the actual problem.






Another quick fix is drying out the cavity and injecting epoxy, if the metal armature is still in good shape. Putting a drain plug on the rudder can be done, but due to the thin fiberglass skin, it will sit above the surface.

Drilling the same spot each fall and epoxy patching it in the spring makes sense. There are some who leave the drain hole open year-round, knowing that the water gets in anyway. But here’s the gamble: How corrosion-resistant is the hidden structure welded to the stock?




C&C 35 rudders have a history of corrosion issues linked to water intrusion. All rudders are designed to keep the welded internal web structure protected from water contact, but most fail to do so.

In this case, having welded gussets on the stock in a wet, corrosive environment will eventually lead to problems. In fresh water, the deterioration is slowed but not eliminated.

One step would be to research the history of your C&C 35’s sister ships with such rudder problems. Also monitor any rust stains, and if possible, acquire a construction detail plan that shows how the web was added to the rudder stock.

Because you live in an area where below-freezing temperatures are common, not draining the water will lead to further deterioration. However, draining the water is like bailing faster: It may




Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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