A failure of the steering cable was reported by Ken Danko on hull 802 on 12 October 2008. Conditions at the time were choppy seas and 25 kt winds. Ken’s assessment and photos are captured below, along with responses by Gerry Douglas (Catalina Yachts) and Ed Siess (Edson).
At the end is additional thoughts and learnings from Ken and a reaction to the information provided by Edson. My suggestion would be an immediate inspection of your steering cable and rudder stops, looking especially for wear in the same area as Ken’s failure (recognize that cable wear has also been reported at the chain link end inside the pedestal). Follow up with annual cable and stop inspections.
Here are 2 photos of my steering cable which failed. The rigger who looked at it said that it had been installed improperly. His advice was that the two cables should cross on the inside of the steering quadrant. That is, the cable running on the port side of the quadrant should connect on the starboard side of the quadrant. If it is connected to the same side it rubs against a sharp edge which will cause it to eventually fail. – Ken Danko
When I forwarded the report of this failure to Gerry Douglas, he provided the following feedback (Karl Mielenhausen)-
I forwarded your email and photos to Ed Steiss at Edson and asked for his comments. I also discussed the installation with Will Keene the president of Edson during a recent visit to our Largo facility. They recommend the cables do not cross and that the cause of the cable failure was not due to the radial wheel radius as this is not a working point in the system. Other areas to investigate would be excessive slack in the system or improperly adjusted stops that let the rudder turn through more than the recommended total of 70 degrees travel.
When was the last time the steering system was inspected? Were the cables adjusted ? Was the stop set correctly? Steering systems are easy to neglect an through inspection is important at least once a year, this includes a test of the emergency tiller system. Ed of Edson Corp. will respond to the 320 group directly with his recommendations.
Cordially, Gerry Douglas
Here are Ed Stiess’ comments –
Gerry Douglas called me as soon as he was aware of the posting on your website.
I gathered a couple of the most experienced people here at Edson to view the photos and description and to examine the components.
We were all surprised at the location of the failure. This radial and similar configurations has been used for years on Catalina 27’s, 28’s, 30’s and some of the 34’s. At the point where the wire failed, the wire is static in relation to the radial and chafe would not be a consideration. This would indicate that the cause was likely to have been a shock loading. The most severe loads that a steering system sees is the shock loads from losing control of the wheel while backing down and allowing the system to slam against the stop or an unsecured wheel while a boat is on a mooring during a storm. Sometimes a component is damaged or weakened by an event but it goes unnoticed until later. The failure sometimes takes place at a much later date when the circumstances and weather are good making the connection between the event and the cause very difficult.
We often say “Steering is the difference between a vehicle and a shelter”. It is one of the most important systems and critical systems on a vessel. Routine and complete inspection is important to the safe operation to any boat. It is prudent to inspect the complete system carefully after any event that may stress or strain a system.
Attached is a schematic showing the correct cable routing. Please feel free to contact me whenever you have a question or inquiry on steering.
Vice President Marine Division
Visit our website <www.edsonintl.com>
Here are follow-up comments from Ken:
I think that the article posted on the C320 web site should include information from me, not just knee jerk excuses from Ed. Stiess at Edson. I very much disagree with his speculation as to the cause of the failure. I’m the one with first hand information on my own steering failure.
I have owned Grace for 4 years. The steering system was inspected by a surveyor when she was purchased. At the time he noted: “No faults noted with the steering cables, sheaves, round ‘quadrant’, stops, 2 3/8″ ID aluminum pipe shaft, upper bearing support, and packing gland — no corrosion noted — fine. The starboard cable clamps were on backwards — the saddle should be on the standing part and the U-bolt on the tail end.”
Two years ago I had a rigger check the steering system; he found no faults. This summer, I installed a rudder position sensor and took the time to inspect the cables, which showed no wear and had the proper tension. What I did not do was take the cables off the steering quadrant, which is what I would have had to do to find the problem. After the broken cable and its twin on the other side were removed, I stuck my little finger in the hole on the quadrant where the wire makes its way from the outside of the quadrant to the inside. There is a very sharp edge on both sides. The cable makes a slight turn over this sharp edge if it is connected to the same side (i.e., the cable doesn’t cross on the quadrant). The cable which didn’t break had broken strands in the same location. It is very clear to me that this sharp edge cut my cable.
The rigger I hired to repair the steering said that it is common knowledge that the cables should cross on the quadrant to avoid the failure I experienced. The manager of the boat yard told me the same thing. I called Edson and talked to a tech person who was not the least bit sympathetic. His position was that the cables should be replaced every 7 years. He gave different advice than that of Ed Stiess and said that the cables could cross on the quadrant to avoid this happening in the future.
Ed Stiess states that he was surprised because their steering systems have been installed on so many Catalinas. My response: I’m surprised too. He suggests a “shock” as the problem. In the 4 years I have owned Grace, she has only been in reverse at engine idle speed to slowly back out of her slip. In that time, the rudder has never slammed against the stop. To state that “…the cable failure was not due to the radial wheel radius as this is not a working point in the system.” ignores the fact that on my boat the steering cable was routed over a sharp edge on the inside of the radial wheel and that that place was the site of the cable failure and the broken strands on the companion cable.