I have experienced steering
failure a few times, including a cable break on a 68 foot race
yacht at night in a severe gale (caused a sudden round up which blew off our Yankee at the stay, literally popping open every single
bronze plunger hank by bending them outwards… quite something and I still have a few as souveniers). One thing I would like to suggest from this experience is that it is rare that an "emergency" tiller is manageable by hand, in a seaway with sail pressure, especially not by one person. It is vital that you take yours out and test how hard it is to use etc. But many are too short for decent leverage, and therefore must
be used with some kind of handy billy system (I carry two dedicated for this purpose in my safety/emergency locker, all set up) to be clipped to either side of the tiller so that the boat can be steered with the purchase
Further, you of course know that you need rig cutting equipment
aboard. Perhaps you do or do not know that "bolt cutters" are almost useless on 12mm steel
wire. The individual wires slide against each other and absorb the energy. Hacksaws are slow and exhausting. There are only three cutting tools that are effective in a severe emergency
1. Angle grinder.
2. Blank fired explosive cutter
3. Hydraulic cutter
The latter is very expensive, number 2 relies on too many "bits". So the best is an angle grinder. For the most part an electric
angle grinder is fine for this purpose, though for extreme situations I have rigged up an airtool arrangement which runs off an adjustable pressure regulator
and dive tank.
Re reeving steering cables
can be hard at the best of times, but it can be done at sea. I know as I have done it in bad conditions. Of course we had a strong crew at that point and YMMV.
As to going up the mast
at anchor… it may be nerve wracking, but IMHO it is de rigeur
, as a rig should be checked after each long passage
and every few months in any case. A deck
based rig inspection
daily. Always use a safety line and never use powered winches to assist a person up the mast.