Spare Rudder Quadrant

Steering is a very important part of a yacht. Without it, your boat becomes a shelter! In the spirit of having spares aboard, the question comes up about keeping our old quadrant as a spare? 

We had it welded once, and it shattered, so now we are replacing it with a bronze unit from Edson. Should we have it repaired again and keep it as a spare should anything happen to the bronze quadrant? 


The reason we switched materials to bronze is because bronze will bend before it will shatter, so the hit that craked our old quadrant would probably only severely bend the new one. 

The aluminum of the old quadrant is also made of large crystaline structures, which are weaker than a metal made of smaller crystals. So far, the aluminum quadrant has two strikes against it! 


Upon repairing the quadrant, we would have a weak spare, as a backup to our strong primary system. This is fine as its purpose would be to get us to shore to carry out repairs. But carrying this spare becomes an issue! Rudder quadrants are rather large in our situation, and our space is very limited. Having a spare means storing and carrying a spare!

So we could pay money to fix a weakened and corroded unit that will then be a burden to store, to act as a spare for our new and very strong primary system. The logic should be pouring in at this point. 

If we lose our quadrant, we do have an alternative option, which is to install our emergency tiller! This means that if we have a steering issue, we can simply pop the pipe onto the rudder post and steer away! Installing a tiller is much easier than swapping a quadrant, and it is much easier to store as well! 

We decided to save the money for the repair and instead throw out the broken quadrant. The boat has sailed many a mile with no spare rudder quadrant, and the only times the quadrant has ever broken have been while under tow! 

If you have a broken part that you replace with an upgraded version, consider leaving the old one behind instead of carrying it along with you as you cruise. 

Welding Aluminum Quadrants

If your aluminum rudder quadrant shatters, you might be tempted to simply have the pieces welded back together! This will work as a temporary solution, but it will never be as strong as the original. 


Our rudder quadrant shattered, and we did just that! We paid a welder to "glue" it back together so we could keep sailing along. We knew we would need to replace it with a new one, but the further we sailed, the less we thought about replacing the quadrant.

Several months passed by, and securing a replacement went from a top priority to another item on the list should we happen to stumble upon it at a consignment shop. 

Then we had a serious mishap occur and the rudder quadrant shattered again! 

Looking at the cross section of the break, you can see that the welded aluminum has a different crystaline structure when compared to the cast portion. You can also see the depth of penetration of the weld. This means that only the outside of the quadrant was re-welded, and the inside merely sits approximated but not welded. 

I don't weld, so I can't really judge on the quality of this weld, but I can state that this welder also fabricates stainless steel and aluminum towers and railings for boats. The quality of his other jobs gave me the confidence that this repair would be as best as he could do it. 

Rudder Quadrant Replacement

Our old rudder quadrant was made out of aluminum, and has had a tough life.


A few months ago, it was shattered while we were towed off a shocking in North Carolina. The pieces of the quadrant were then welded back together, though this was more of a patch than a fix. 

Cast aluminum doesn't weld well, so this shouldn't be thought of as a permanent fix. That being said, we sailed over 400 miles of blue water with it before it shattered again. Again, it shattered as we were being pulled off a beach on the coast of Florida. 

The patch worked very well, but it shattered on the welds (and one new place) this time, so we knew it was time to replace the entire unit with a stronger material: Bronze. 

Bronze is preferable over aluminum in a boat because it is stronger, corrosion resistant, and less likely to break. The biggest downside is the weight of the unit. The aluminum quadrant was only a few pounds while the bronze unit weighs almost 22 pounds (10kg)! 

Since bronze is so much stronger, it doesn't need the middle spoke that the aluminum quadrant required. If severely punished, the bronze quadrant would wrack or bend, rather than shatter into pieces. This will mean that your steering will be a bit off, but still operational.

The choice to switch to bronze was simple, but the costs were not. A bronze quadrant will set you back hundreds of dollars! Ours cost a wee bit over $700.  

Hopefully, with better watch keeping and deeper cruising waters, we won't have to torture test the new quadrant like we did the old quadrant.