Having recently finished building our 7′ 7″ Nutshell Pram, we moved on to outfitting it for sail. For the rudder we chose a bronze-and-brass split-gudgeon fitting, as specified by the Nutshell’s designer, Joel White. The split-gudgeon hardware is also specified for White’s Shellback and Catspaw dinghies as well as his Pooduck Skiff but would work well on almost any dinghy transom. An Arch Davis Penobscot 17 that we once owned had the same rudder hardware, so we were confident it would work well on the Nutshell.
The gudgeon straps will straddle a rudder-blade thickness of just under 7⁄8″; the upper strap arms are 4″ long, and the lower strap arms are 5 1⁄4″. Both can be trimmed to length as needed, which was the case for the lower strap for the 7′7″ version of the Nutshell. The kit comes with all mounting hardware.
The Nutshell, like the Penobscot, has a raked transom, which poses a challenge whether you’re in the boat or standing in the shallows and peering down into the water to line up standard gudgeons and pintles. The split gudgeon solves this problem by employing a single 11 7⁄8″-long brass pintle and placing both gudgeons on the rudder. The split gudgeon has overlapping top and bottom bronze “hooks,” similar in shape to open fairleads. To hang the rudder, it is turned horizontal so that the split gudgeon hooks go either side of the pintle. This can happen high on the pintle, just below the upper gudgeon so you don’t have to hang over the transom if you are in the boat. The rudder is then swung to vertical, and the hooks grab hold of the pintle. The rudder slides down until the upper gudgeon slides over the top of the pintle.
This rudder hardware makes it a simple matter to row off a beach, sit on the aft thwart, clip the lower gudgeon to the transom, slide it down, engage the upper gudgeon, attach the tiller, and get underway.
The continuous pintle, described as a “hanger” by White, gets secured to the transom by two bronze plates with three screws apiece. The gudgeons fit snugly to the pintle, so the rudder does not come loose while under sail. However, if an underwater obstacle is struck, the rudder may slide up and pop off the top gudgeon, while the lower gudgeon will remain attached to the pintle. A retaining clip, like those used with standard rudder hardware to keep a rudder from going adrift, will ensure the top gudgeon on this system stays put.
We like things that are simple, work well, and look great. This split-gudgeon rudder hardware meets all those criteria.
Audrey and Kent Lewis mess about with boat lumber in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. Their small-boat adventures are logged at their blog, Small Boat Restoration.
The Rudder-Mounting Hardware is available from The WoodenBoat Store for $169.
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