Boat maintenance can spring upon you at any time, but I can always try to put it off… until it’s warmer, cooler, dryer or any other excuse I can think of! Sometimes, however, it can’t wait very long.
It was like this, we had just decided to take a little trip down to Alvecote and just as we set off there was a tinkling noise, just like somebody dropping a load of ball bearings. Well I should have expected something of the kind because the top tiller bearing had been creaking and groaning for a while which I temporarily alleviated by pouring a little oil into it.
Of course that’s exactly what it was, the bearing had finally collapsed, but nothing daunted we still continued our trip, albeit with not a little play and stiffness in the steering. On our return the next day I identified the bearing as a UCF208-24 obtainable on the ‘net for about £15 … but then there was delivery and waiting for it to arrive, so after a couple of phone calls to local companies with responses of “Nah mate, never kept them” but then I found URB Bearings Distribution (UK) Ltd in Hinckley who had a vague recollection of having some in stock. Did I need the whole thing or just the bearing? The bearing would do nicely as it simply sits in a spherical recess in the flange.
Off he went to check and indeed he did have the bearing in stock and better still I could have one for a fiver! So I hot-footed it to Hinckley to buy it and also learnt that nomenclature UCF208-24 meant the external diameter was 80mm and the inner diameter was 24/16 of an inch or more conventionally 1 1/2 inches, a bizarre metric/imperial cross breed.
Next came the fitting of the beast, the swan-neck was removed from its taper with the help of a sledge hammer and a wooden lever, fortunately the securing bolts came undone easily and the outer bearing was easily tapped out, the centre was a different matter though, it was well rusted onto the shaft and I had to cut in in half with a thin disk in an angle grinder whilst supporting the rudder with a ratchet strap from the taff-rail.
The refitting was straightforward enough and now I’m pleased to report the steering is much easier.
Later the engine service was carried out without much drama, the heat-exchanger O rings were replaced too and the yucky bilges cleaned out with our wet-vac, so we’re almost good to go off on our travels, just a few rust patches to clean up, particularly where a fairlead had come adrift last season. Well quite a few more rust spots actually, but I can always think of excuses to postpone doing them, just look what I said last May.