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Old 09-12-2021, 11:52 AM   #1
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bluewater steering

i'm curious to know, what type of steering is your bluewater equipped with, and how do you like it?
mine has an older morse rack/cable unit and it takes a lot of effort to turn to port at speeds above 6 knots or so.
it's high on my list of things to upgrade/repair.
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Old 09-12-2021, 01:12 PM   #2
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What size and tonnage is your boat?

My 54' 50 tonner has hydraulic steering and auto pilot. It works well but sometimes less than 7 turns lock to lock would be nice.

I do have an emergency manual tiller but that is not a fun experience to use. It's definitely a 'get you home' option only.
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Old 09-12-2021, 03:01 PM   #3
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What size and tonnage is your boat?

My 54' 50 tonner has hydraulic steering and auto pilot. It works well but sometimes less than 7 turns lock to lock would be nice.

I do have an emergency manual tiller but that is not a fun experience to use. It's definitely a 'get you home' option only.
it's a 40 footer, haven't verified the tonnage, but i was told around 30k pounds.
it's a single screw, fairly large rudder. lots of force on the helm.
i have a comnav autopilot with an octopus drive on it that works very well, but sometimes i like to hand steer through certain things. this one takes both arms to do that. the pilot can turn it quicker than i can actually.
i thought about putting a remote on the comnav with a follow up rudder control, but then i still wouldn't have a helm that i was happy with. i've never had rack steering before, so i'm not sure what to expect from it in regards to feedback.
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Old 09-13-2021, 08:40 AM   #4
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My Bluewater 40 has a Comnav 1001 autopilot. A Hynautic pump moves the ram when the wheel is turned. An octopus pump is used with the auto pilot I have twins and large rudders. Steering is a breeze. I'm not familiar with Morse cable/rack and pinion steering on a boat.

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Old 09-13-2021, 08:43 AM   #5
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My Bluewater 40 has a Comnav 1001 autopilot and octopus pump feeding a hydraulic ram which then moves the quadrants(?) on the rudder shafts. I have twins and large rudders. Steering is a breeze. I'm not familiar with Morse cable/rack and pinion steering on a boat.

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is the hydraulic ram the main steering cylinder? if so, there must be a hydraulic helm as well?
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Old 09-13-2021, 08:47 AM   #6
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See edited version. Hynautic pump on the wheel.
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Old 09-13-2021, 08:56 AM   #7
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See edited version. Hynautic pump on the wheel.
ok, thanks for that. i've been thinking i might go with a hydraulic helm pump as well, but i kind of like the idea of the redundant system of the mechanical helm with the hydraulic auto pilot. i guess i'll have to decide it it's really that important.
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Old 09-13-2021, 08:57 AM   #8
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I also have a hydraulic system in my boat.

In my earlier 1979 GB42 I had the cable-and-pulley system.

They both work well and do not require much effort but the hydraulic one is smoother.

I am not familiar with your "morse rack/cable" system but it could well need some lubrication or adjustment if it requires so much effort, particularly if more effort is required to turn to one side rather than the other.
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Old 09-13-2021, 09:12 AM   #9
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I also have a hydraulic system in my boat.

In my earlier 1979 GB42 I had the cable-and-pulley system.

They both work well and do not require much effort but the hydraulic one is smoother.

I am not familiar with your "morse rack/cable" system but it could well need some lubrication or adjustment if it requires so much effort, particularly if more effort is required to turn to one side rather than the other.
this is my first time with this type of steering too. at first blush it looks like it should work well, with the helm turning a gear that moves a rack that in turn pushes or pulls the cable. there's a lot of grease on the rack assembly, which makes me think the previous owner was having issues with it too. at low speeds it's very easy to turn either direction, but when i get up to cruising speed the effort to turn to port is increased. i'm going to have the diver that services my boats go down and have a look at the rudder just in case, but i don't think there's anything going on there. the rudder is pretty big, and the prop is too, it just might be a too much for the old system. going totally hydraulic seems like a good decision at this point. i was just wondering if other bluewater 40's were equipped with this steering, or if maybe it was buyers request during construction.
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Old 09-13-2021, 10:24 AM   #10
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What does the rudder look like? Is there much area ahead of the rudder post? That can make a very big difference in steering effort.

On sailboats, where hydraulic steering is not desirable, spade rudders have some percentage of the area ahead of the pivot point to balance the load when deflected. This can be about 10 - 18% of the total area. 25% is the theoretical neutral balance point which would give no self-centering. Depending on how your rudder it made it may be easy to add some area to the front.
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Old 09-13-2021, 10:37 AM   #11
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this is my first time with this type of steering too. at first blush it looks like it should work well, with the helm turning a gear that moves a rack that in turn pushes or pulls the cable. there's a lot of grease on the rack assembly, which makes me think the previous owner was having issues with it too. at low speeds it's very easy to turn either direction, but when i get up to cruising speed the effort to turn to port is increased. i'm going to have the diver that services my boats go down and have a look at the rudder just in case, but i don't think there's anything going on there. the rudder is pretty big, and the prop is too, it just might be a too much for the old system. going totally hydraulic seems like a good decision at this point. i was just wondering if other bluewater 40's were equipped with this steering, or if maybe it was buyers request during construction.
When you say cable I assume you mean a telescopic cable as in the Teleflex cables used for steering outboards. In my experience these cables have a limited life and may need to be replaced after 10 or 20 years when the lubrication inside the cable fails. You may want to disconnect the cable and see if there undue friction at some point, for example at the steering rack-and-pinion, in the cable itself or at the stern steering assembly. It could be you need to replace the cable.

The above does not explain, though, why the steering issues arise at higher boat speeds and only when turning to port. This could possibly indicate a loose fit between the rudder post and the stuffing box/bearing or failed lubrication.
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Old 09-13-2021, 10:57 AM   #12
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What does the rudder look like? Is there much area ahead of the rudder post? That can make a very big difference in steering effort.

On sailboats, where hydraulic steering is not desirable, spade rudders have some percentage of the area ahead of the pivot point to balance the load when deflected. This can be about 10 - 18% of the total area. 25% is the theoretical neutral balance point which would give no self-centering. Depending on how your rudder it made it may be easy to add some area to the front.
the majority of the rudder is aft of the rudder post. i'm familiar with balanced spade rudders as my cruising sailboat was that setup. on this boat there would be room to add forward of the rudder post, but it would cut down on the room to pull the prop and i believe it causes other issues if the prop gets too close to the rudder. i'm certainly no expert in that field though.
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Old 09-13-2021, 11:17 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Xlantic View Post
When you say cable I assume you mean a telescopic cable as in the Teleflex cables used for steering outboards. In my experience these cables have a limited life and may need to be replaced after 10 or 20 years when the lubrication inside the cable fails. You may want to disconnect the cable and see if there undue friction at some point, for example at the steering rack-and-pinion, in the cable itself or at the stern steering assembly. It could be you need to replace the cable.

The above does not explain, though, why the steering issues arise at higher boat speeds and only when turning to port. This could possibly indicate a loose fit between the rudder post and the stuffing box/bearing or failed lubrication.
telescopic cable, yes. the cable is certainly older, as is the helm station. it is possible that simply replacing the cable will help, and maybe there's some wear on the helm gear as well. to be honest, i was surprised to see this sort of mechanical steering on this size of boat, most this size are hydraulic i think. but everything else on this boat is robust, overkill in many ways, so i thought it must have been well thought out when installed.
i have inspected the rudder post and stuffing box in the lazarette and everything seems proper, and well lubricated.
it's only about four turns lock to lock, and the steering wheel is a pretty large diameter. i would expect steering effort to be higher than a hydraulic helm pump, and i took note during sea trials. but during the long delivery home i really started to be aware that it shouldn't be this tough to steer.
maybe it's the combination of the high load on the rudder on one side from prop rotation and the old cable?
can the cable sheath be expanding (stretching) due to old age? seems possible.
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Old 09-13-2021, 11:30 AM   #14
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telescopic cable, yes. the cable is certainly older, as is the helm station. it is possible that simply replacing the cable will help, and maybe there's some wear on the helm gear as well. to be honest, i was surprised to see this sort of mechanical steering on this size of boat, most this size are hydraulic i think. but everything else on this boat is robust, overkill in many ways, so i thought it must have been well thought out when installed.
My boat's original steering was cable-and-pulley and a PO replaced it with hydraulic. While i would think hydraulic is more robust and reliable, I would think a well-designed and correctly-sized telescopic-cable steering system would work well.

I don't know how much a hydraulic replacement would cost but with some many opportunities to spend money on a boat I would certainly try to salvage your current set-up, if possible.
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Old 09-13-2021, 11:49 AM   #15
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My boat's original steering was cable-and-pulley and a PO replaced it with hydraulic. While i would think hydraulic is more robust and reliable, I would think a well-designed and correctly-sized telescopic-cable steering system would work well.

I don't know how much a hydraulic replacement would cost but with some many opportunities to spend money on a boat I would certainly try to salvage your current set-up, if possible.
agreed, there are many places that i need to put money into this vessel, like the 16 trojan batteries that the previous owner let dry up.
if this steering setup can be repaired, and gives satisfactory performance, i will most likely go that way. i guess i need to figure out exactly how long the cable is so i can see about replacement.

i was hoping for a little more input from other bluewater 40 owners before making any decisions though, that why i posted this thread in the bluewater section.
if the mods think it belongs in another section of the forum please feel free to move it.
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Old 09-13-2021, 06:24 PM   #16
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The Morse rack and pinion steering was preferred on many boats as it provides "no feedback" to the helm, that is you can take your hands off the wheel and the helm stays on course and doesn't veer from torque. For larger boats where you may not have hands on the wheel all the time like you would on smaller boats, this was the feature that sold these units...in the previous century.

The length may be heat stamped into the jacket at one or both ends, typically at the tiller end. The rack is part of the cable, and replacement will include the rack and cable. The cable length will be the jacket length + 18" then rounded up to the next full ft.

Rather than have a diver take a look, try disconnecting the tiller arm from the cable end and see how free the rudder is.

Your top choice in hydraulic will be Sea Star formerly Teleflex. Very reliable, my last boat was 20 yrs old when I got it, 30 when I sold it, still had fully functional original Sea Star hydraulic.

If you want the really good stuff Sea Star Capilano is the "commercial" grade steering that includes variable ratio steering

Morse was purchased by Teleflex now Sea Star (Dometic) long ago, you will find the replacement Morse Rack and Cable listed as a Sea Star part, for example:

SeaStar Solutions

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Old 09-14-2021, 07:43 AM   #17
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The Morse rack and pinion steering was preferred on many boats as it provides "no feedback" to the helm, that is you can take your hands off the wheel and the helm stays on course and doesn't veer from torque. For larger boats where you may not have hands on the wheel all the time like you would on smaller boats, this was the feature that sold these units...in the previous century.

The length may be heat stamped into the jacket at one or both ends, typically at the tiller end. The rack is part of the cable, and replacement will include the rack and cable. The cable length will be the jacket length + 18" then rounded up to the next full ft.

Rather than have a diver take a look, try disconnecting the tiller arm from the cable end and see how free the rudder is.

Your top choice in hydraulic will be Sea Star formerly Teleflex. Very reliable, my last boat was 20 yrs old when I got it, 30 when I sold it, still had fully functional original Sea Star hydraulic.

If you want the really good stuff Sea Star Capilano is the "commercial" grade steering that includes variable ratio steering

Morse was purchased by Teleflex now Sea Star (Dometic) long ago, you will find the replacement Morse Rack and Cable listed as a Sea Star part, for example:

SeaStar Solutions

good information, thanks
i am pretty sure this isn't a no feedback helm though, as the autopilot cylinder and pump can turn the rudder and when it does, the steering wheel turns with it. i looked the the cable systems and it looks like there are no feedback units as well as non no feedback. this must be the latter.
i also looked at the cable and see the cable jacket is split open in several areas. this must be the majority of the problem. now i need to see how the cable is routed, and decide if i want to just replace the cable or upgrade to all hydraulic.
thanks to all who responded.
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Old 09-14-2021, 09:10 AM   #18
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i also looked at the cable and see the cable jacket is split open in several areas.
The reinforcing inside the plastic jacket is steel, and when it rusts it not only expands to burst the jacket but constricts on the core causing increased friction on the steering cable core.
When this happens failure is a question of how soon, not if. The increased friction on the core accelerates failure

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Old 09-14-2021, 09:43 AM   #19
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The reinforcing inside the plastic jacket is steel, and when it rusts it not only expands to burst the jacket but constricts on the core causing increased friction on the steering cable core.
When this happens failure is a question of how soon, not if. The increased friction on the core accelerates failure

got it. it will be replaced with something very soon. i don't see any rust on the steel reinforcing, but there must certainly be damage to the core. i'm only planning on using the boat a couple more times this season, and i do have the redundant hydraulic system if there's a total failure of the cable. not ideal, but workable. i will monitor it carefully.
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Old 09-14-2021, 09:53 AM   #20
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I would guess that the cable will always struggle with the rudder loading at cruise speed regardless of condition, they just aren't made for that. They are commonly used for inboard outboards and have power steering assist as well for all V6 and V8 engines and even some of the 4 cylinders. Your configuration would work fine with a new cable assuming that you are on autopilot most of the time, which is pretty common for trawlers anyway and when you are docking or maneuvering with the wheel, the cable system would be plenty adequate.

If you go full hydraulic and want a backup, the most straightforward approach is making an emergency tiller to attach to the rudder post when needed, assuming that you can provide access to it from above.
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