Monthly Archives: January 2018

Replacing Ram Seals on a Lecombe and Schmidt Steering Ram

This document describes my method of rebuilding a steering ram.  The boat is a Catana 471 and actually has two rams.  If you have ever rebuilt a car master cylinder,  you will find this to be an easy task.

Remove the Cylinders

Open the bypass valve to allow you to adjust the cylinder position to conveniently remove the bolt through the steering Quadrant.

Close the shutoff valves to allow you to drain just the cylinder, while keeping fluid in the rest of the system.

Bleed the cylinders into a pan, by pushing the ram in and out several times.  Note that the socket used to hold the tubing ends in the pan.  This will keep the tubing in the pan and mess at a minimum.

Disconnect the ram hydraulic connections and finally remove the ball joint cover at the other end of the ram cylinder.

Replace the Seals

You will not be able to remove the end cap without removing the ball joint.  Before removing the ball joint, it’s a good idea to take a measurement so that you can create the same pushrod length when you reassemble the RAM.


Remove the four nuts and washers at one end of the ram.  Pull the end cap off.   Push a clean rag through the cylinder.  The walls should be shiny and smooth.

Remove and replace the o-rings and seals being careful not to damage the adjacent machining.  On the ram rod is the Bypass seal.  This seal has two parts, a flat tough ring that is much less stretchy than a typical O-ring.  Underneath that is a standard O-ring that lies in the same groove.  I was able to stretch the new seal into position with a little hydraulic oil for lubrication, but without the use of tools.  A tool might damage the sealing surface.

Note that the shaft seals in each endcap are installed with the concave surface facing in towards the cylinder.

Reassemble the Cylinders

 The key here is to keep it clean.  Lubricate all the rubber bits with fresh hydraulic oil and gently reassemble the ram into the cylinder.  You may have to compress the bypass seal to get it into the cylinder without jamming it into the edge of the cylinder. Finally, replace the endcaps.  Before tightening the nuts, be certain that the cylinder is rotated such that you can read its label when the ram is installed.

Reinstall the pushrod ball joint at the appropriate length.

Bleed the System

Close the bypass valve and open one of the disconnect valves and its bleed screw. Turn the wheel in the appropriate direction until no bubbles are seen coming from the bleed screw. Close the bleed screw and repeat for the other half of the ram.  I repeated this a couple of times to be sure.  While bleeding it’s a good idea to have another person keep an eye on the fluid reservoir to be certain that you do not introduce new air to the system by letting the reservoir run dry.

Be certain that your cylinder operates properly from stop to stop, and for catamarans that your rudders are synchronized per manufacturer’s specification.

Other Thoughts

 The seal kits are available through PYI in the United States. The kits are pretty expensive If memory serves $109 each.  If you were dissecting your system in a large city, I might find a shop that repairs forklifts and see if they can match up the seals.

My kits included an additional pair of seals that are replacements for a different vintage of Ram.

Unused Seals

Unused Seals

Finally, of course this document is meant to help you decide if this project is within your abilities.  If you are in doubt, you should seek professional assistance.


Kings Day

KingsdaySM (5 of 11)

In Mexico, El Dia de Reyes’ (Three Kings Day) day marks the end of the Christmas Season. This is the 12th night of Christmas when the three wisemen or Magi arrive at the manger. Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar, traveled a great distance to pay homage to the Christ child. They brought with them gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. In Mexico, this is the night that people exchange gifts…. Santa Claus, not so much.
Another tradition is the Rosca del Reyes (Kings cake) which is full of significance. The cake is  is round with a hollow center and decorated with fruits and nuts to decorate the cake which represents the king’s crown. Baked into the cake is a small figure that is an effigy of Jesus. It is hidden in the cake because the birthplace of Jesus was hidden so that Herrod’s men could not find him. The person who gets the figurine in their piece of cake is obligated to throw a party on Dia de la Candelaria’ (Candlemas Day) which occurs each year on February 2nd….. Another reason to stick to your New Year’s Resolution and avoid sweets.
At La Cruz, the cruisers draw the names of children from the local orphanage and do their best to fulfill the children’s gift wishes. It’s a great event sponsored by the La Cruz yacht club and organized by Katrina Liana from Marina Riviera Nayarit.  A sweet moment for every one involved.

A Funky Mexican Town – Chacala


Before our arrival at La Cruz, we spent two days anchored off the little town of Chacala.  This is a very cute town and we would have stayed longer except the anchorage was pretty lumpy and a lee shore, meaning that the boat would drift onto the beach if the anchor lost its grip…  One of the differences being in “Pacific” Mexico, is that the pacific swell comes into many of the anchorages.  Many boats use a bow and stern anchor here to keep the boat more comfortable.

We had a great day walking around the town and enjoyed a meal in one of the Palapa’s on the beach.



Lisa bough a cute necklace in this shop where the woman is busily creating these beadwork masterpieces.  I couldn’t believe how fine the work was.  I kept wondering if she was highly nearsighted.



If we were planning a land trip to Chacala, we would stay here at Casa Pacifica. We haven’t seen any of the rooms, but suspect they are somewhat funky.  The owner is an American woman who has lived there for 19 years.  She is clearly a bird aficionado and told us that the best time to see birds was before 9 am, and that almost 300 species visit her piece of paradise at various times of the year.

The hotel operates as a B&B and Breakfast is served on the roof top in the Mauna Kea Café with a view of the ocean.   Hector the cook has been in the US and worked for Whole foods for nine years.  As an exemplary worker, he was promoted many times within the organization and finally Whole Foods sent him to the Culinary Academy in SF.  A few years later he was deported……

If I wanted a week or two of peace and quiet in a funky off the beaten path place in Mexico with a beautiful beach, I would really consider Chacala as an interesting and safe place to visit…..