Here's an alternative method for repairing the bad rudder bushings on the P26 that I thought up. It may seem a bit radical but if done well should be superior to the repair I made to my rudder shaft. The method is pretty simple, fill the entire void area around the rudder shaft inside the rudder tube with an epoxy/graphite mix. I have see mid 70's C&C rudder shafts that are built like this. The entire rudder tube is the bearing surface, not just the ends. On the P26 the bearing surface would be increased by about 8 times. Read on for details.
Check the Shaft
For this method to work the shaft need to be straight. you can check it with a straight edge or have a machine shop look at it. If it's not straight maybe the shop can fix it. Otherwise this method will not work.
Another very important consideration is the shaft diameter. If you want to get the shaft out it can not get thicker as you go up. This is another reason to apply the lower bearing surface repair as outlined on my other page (Click here...).
Prepare the Shaft
The shaft needs to be clean and smooth. You could polish it but I would be careful not to remove the anodizing. At the top and bottom where the OEM bushings have worn the shaft I would at the very least coat it with epoxy to protect the shaft from corrosion. Use a proper etching kit to get adhesion of the epoxy to the aluminum. Before setting the smooth and straight shaft in the rudder tube it needs to be coated with wax. Any wax should work, I have used Fleet paste wax and Turtle wax for this before with fine results. I like the paste wax best because it is thick and stays in place.
If you needed to repair wear on the shaft with an epoxy coller (as described above) you need to let it cure completely before proceeding. Otherwise it could bond to the new epoxy. Consult the West System manuals for cure times. It will also need to be waxed like the rest of the shaft.
Prepare the Rudder Tube
We need a way to get the epoxy into the void area inside the rudder tube and around the rudder shaft. I have 2 ideas on this. First is to cut some holes to stick West System syringes into. Maybe 3 holes around the shaft every 4 inches or so. The epoxy mix will need to be a bit runny. As the epoxy is injected you can put tape over the holes and move up to the next set. The second idea is to mount zirk type grease fittings in the tube and pump the epoxy in with a grease gun. This might provide better filling and result in less void areas but I think some experimenting is in order. The grease gun will likely be a throw-away. For either method the inside of the shaft will need to be prepared for the epoxy. Sanding with 100 grit should do. A cylinder honing tool and drill extension will make this pretty efficient.
Setting the Shaft in the Tube
The shaft needs to be centered in the tube. I would do this with the OEM bushings. If the lower bushing were worn as mine was I would consider the surface job I did to mine. Besides being centered the shaft needs to be sealed at the bottom so the epoxy won't leak out. This could also be accomplished with some putty. I don't think the centering of the shaft is critical. Wherever it is the new epoxy tube wall will be aligned with it. If it's off a degree it will still function. I would think the side-to-side alignment is the more important. Tilted for or aft a degree wont matter.
It should be pretty easy to break the shaft free from the epoxy filled rudder tube so long as the shaft was straight and properly coated with wax. Just grab the tiller or rudder and turn. After it's free you need to drop it to grease it. I would probably use a lithium grease and apply it to the entire shaft. You wont be able to drop the shaft if you forgot to check the shaft diameter to be sure it doesn't get thicker anywhere as you go up (see above).
After the shaft is greased and ready to go I would remove the zirk fittings (if used) and glass over the holes left in the rudder tube. They are filled with epoxy but I like the extra protection of glassing over them.
If this is done right you should never need rudder bushings again. And the rudder shaft will be supported along it's entire length. That's a big improvement. If I tackle the rudder bushing repair again this is what I'll do.