An Easier Weighted Rudder
By Bill Paxton - Apple Valley, Minnesota - USA

I’ve enjoyed the benefits of a weighted rudder on my boat for a few years now. Since my Weekender plans did not include this feature, I based my modification on Jim Michalak’s instructions.

Melting and pouring the lead was a time-consuming and potentially dangerous operation. But a bigger problem was that over time the rudder’s wood receded from the lead leaving a gap that allowed water to infiltrate and form rot. Even after treating the rot with antifreeze and filling the gaps with epoxy, the gaps reappeared.

My sailing buddy and all-round mechanical guru, Dave Richards, found a better way to add lead to his rudder, and eliminated both problems mentioned above.

The secret is to use flat strips of lead that you don’t have to melt, and epoxy them into a cavity in the rudder.

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Six duck decoy anchors totaling two pounds

Duck decoy anchors are perfect. At a big-box sportsman’s store I purchased two packets of decoy anchors, each packet containing 6 anchors. Each anchor weighs 4 ounces, so each packet has 2 pounds of lead. Two packets give me the four pounds of rudder weight JM calls for in his Frolic2 design. (This is, of course, what we euphemistically call The Next Boat.)

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Three pieces of 1/4" plywood are laminated to form the rudder. Note that holes have been cut in only two pieces.

The next step is to create the cavity in the rudder. The Frolic2 rudder is made by laminating three sheets of ¼” ply. (Here’s where it REALLY gets good!) If you stack the decoy anchors three high, they are just shy of ½”. That means you can create the cavity by cutting holes in just two of the three plywood sheets. Once the holes are cut, and the lamination is complete, all that’s left to do is epoxy the decoy weights into the cavity. Use thickened epoxy for the final pour, and when it hardens, sand it level with the face of the rudder. Prime it, paint it, and go sailing.

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The plys have been laminated together, and the twelve decoy weights all fit neatly into the cavity created by the holes cut in two of the three plys.

Dave’s rudder was made from solid stock, so he used his router to create the needed cavity. After two seasons of using his weighted rudder, Dave hasn’t seen any water-seeping, rot-cultivating gaps. In fact, if you have to look very closely to see where the lead was added.

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Close-up of the lead in the cavity.

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