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Old 07-04-2014, 08:36   #1
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Steering Failure?!

The sad story about Rebel Heart's misadventures has gotten me thinking about steering failures--what a scary thought! I hope this thread might be a place to gather the community's experiences and ideas about this concern.

I just bought a Cabot 36 and though I am very satisfied with the condition of its rudder, you never really know with an older boat and I am aware there have been some rudder failures (where due to electrolytic corrosion the steering shaft separated from the internal arms of the rudder) among Caper's sisters. If I were planning another circumnavigation I'd probably rebuild the rudder pre-emptively, but for our planned use of the boat (hundred mile jumps, East Coast, Bahamas and Caribbean) that seems like overkill. But I'd like to have a plan in the unlikely event of this kind of failure.

I'm considering the following idea which I think could be implemented on many boats: I will put a hole in the trailing edge of the rudder to which steering lines can be attached in case of the kind of rudder failure described above. The lines would then be controlled, and the boat steered, from the cockpit, using, in my case, the secondary sheet winches. This plan costs almost nothing and can be tested out of the water and then in the water in controlled conditions. It also has no negative effect on the boat in ordinary conditions since the hole (epoxy sealed at its edges) could be filled with a soft paste (toilet ring wax maybe) which could be pushed out with my thumb in case of need.

I hope others will comment on this idea or contribute steering-failure sea stories, contingency plans, or ideas of their own.
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Old 07-04-2014, 08:53   #2
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Re: Steering Failure?!

Rather than a hole which would risk a leak into the rudder, though most are soggy anyway, fit an eye bolt with eyes each side ready to clip a line on and run to the stern quarters then off to the winches. It's a popular modification.

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Old 07-04-2014, 08:59   #3
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Re: Steering Failure?!

That works if you still have a rudder connected to its shaft. You could steer with auto pilot or emergency tiller. But what would you do if you lost the rudder ?

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Old 07-04-2014, 09:01   #4
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Re: Steering Failure?!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vivid View Post
...I will put a hole in the trailing edge of the rudder to which steering lines can be attached in case of the kind of rudder failure described above. The lines would then be controlled, and the boat steered, from the cockpit, using, in my case, the secondary sheet winches...
Good thought process!

My Island Packet came that way, with a factory installed hole in the top of the rudder. It also had rack and pinion steering and a stainless steel emergency tiller. The bottom of the rudder was attached to a "shoe" which projected aft from the keel. Kind of belt and suspenders on the belt, and an extra pair of suspenders.
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Old 07-04-2014, 09:16   #5
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Re: Steering Failure?!

An independent wind vane self steering is what I chose.
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Old 07-04-2014, 10:04   #6
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Re: Steering Failure?!

My rudder is keel hung with bottom support as on the IP. Total rudder loss seems unlikely. but with no rudder, and without the kind of windvane that can serve as an emergency rudder, apparently you can direct your course basically downwind using a towed drag that can be moved with a bridle from quarter to quarter. Might get you to safety if not to where you were headed.

Don't see the advantage to eyebolts though they would do the job; still requires a hole (with possible water intrusion) and adds a tiny bit of drag and money to the solution.
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Old 07-04-2014, 15:25   #7
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Re: Steering Failure?!

The best way to prepare for a complete rudder loss or shaft failure is to........

GET A CATAMARAN!

Not trying to start a cat/mono debate, but it is a nice feature not to have to worry if you lose a rudder. Just a bit of a joke.
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Old 07-04-2014, 15:41   #8
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Re: Steering Failure?!

In the early-1960s the tiller-to-rudder-post fitting of our 28.5-foot sloop broke during a race in San Francisco Bay. We sailed to home port in Oakland using a crescent wrench. We replaced the year-old bronze fitting with a custom-built stainless one having straps over a quarter-inch thick.
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Old 07-04-2014, 17:30   #9
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Re: Steering Failure?!

Quote:
Originally Posted by oceannavigator View Post
The best way to prepare for a complete rudder loss or shaft failure is to........

GET A CATAMARAN!

Not trying to start a cat/mono debate, but it is a nice feature not to have to worry if you lose a rudder. Just a bit of a joke.

Except a cat was recently abandoned because drum rollll....... The steering failed.

What if you pre drilled a hole put a ring in and then glassed carbon fiber the whole piece. The Chinese junks had this fir arguably different reasons. You may even put in a PVC knock out so you keep a similar flow across the plane. Dangerously thinking out loud.
Better to just cut the panel open and have a few new struts added. Won't help if the shaft breaks clean off though.


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Old 07-04-2014, 17:54   #10
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Re: Steering Failure?!

having 2 centreboards, steering can be effected by the position of the aft board, it isn't perfect, but definitely a get home method.
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Old 07-04-2014, 18:44   #11
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Re: Steering Failure?!

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Originally Posted by sabray View Post
Except a cat was recently abandoned because drum rollll....... The steering failed.

What if you pre drilled a hole put a ring in and then glassed carbon fiber the whole piece. The Chinese junks had this fir arguably different reasons. You may even put in a PVC knock out so you keep a similar flow across the plane. Dangerously thinking out loud.
Better to just cut the panel open and have a few new struts added. Won't help if the shaft breaks clean off though.


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Didn't realize we were adding in situations beyod the rudder failure the OP was discussing. Steering linkage failure is the same scenario for all boats. Rudder failure is nothing on a catamaran.
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Old 07-04-2014, 18:47   #12
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Re: Steering Failure?!

I am not trying to add in something or cause undue stress. That cat had both a linkage failure and bent shaft as I understood the situation. Trying to fix any of this stuff while underway is challenging. As I said thinking out loud.


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Old 07-04-2014, 19:08   #13
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Re: Steering Failure?!

Folk generally check the prop shaft with reasonable regularity ( once a year?), but often forget to inspect the rudder shaft, it sort of isn't out there, so no one expects it to be a problem.
Not just small boats either, the NZ Cook Strait Ferry Awatere had to go to Singapore after loosing one of its propellors and the outboard portion of the prop shaft while crossing the strait.
Both prop shafts have been replaced, just prior to relaunching someone saw a crack in one of the rudder shafts, Now on further inspection they find both shafts have cracks and will have to be replaced. It could have so easily have been launched and been 1/2 way back to NZ or even back in service and lost steerage.
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Old 07-04-2014, 19:21   #14
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Re: Steering Failure?!

Anyone going offshore should (it seems to me) give some thought to how they might jury-rig a transom hung rudder using materials carried on board, if they came across a workshop in mid ocean. Then simply do the workshop bits ahead of time, when you have the added luxury of being able to acquire a certain amount of extra material from off the boat, provided it's small.

It's not difficult to add a couple of gudgeons on most transoms, and make up some pintles which can kept with the engine spares, to be fitted if needed to a predrilled item of interior joinery, like a bunk base or a head door. Big boats might need to fasten several doors together.

I did quite a bit of sailing on a 23 footer (home-build) which, before it was ever launched, had a spare rudder plade built-in to the joinery, gudgeons and pintles in the spares locker with the appropriate bolts and nuts already attached, along with a modest but serviceable jury tiller all ready to go.
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Old 07-04-2014, 20:21   #15
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Re: Steering Failure?!

Having the ability to rig a backup, emergency rudder I think is the way to go. I thought like Andrew, just bolt a couple of gudgeons on the transom, toss a couple of pintles in the emergency spares bin and be ready to sacrifice some of the interior to rig a rudder.

But when I started looking for some really large gudgeons and pintles for a 42' boat I ran into a lot of comments on the problems with this idea. From those that have tried to do this they found it impossible to drop the pintles into the gudgeons with a rudder attached. Just think about it. If you have a rudder large enough to control your boat trying to hold it steady while rolling around at sea, the water will knock the rudder around so it will be impossible to line up the fittings.

The "experts" recommend a cassette style emergency rudder. Essentially the same concept but the pintles instead of attaching directly to a rudder are attached to large metal straps that are welded together to form a large rectangular box shape. You install the pintles into the gudgeons and the rudder slides down into the metal straps. So before the rudder is in the water and knocking back and forth you have passed through both boxes or cassettes and the wet part of the rudder then drops into the water already secured to the transom. Put a tiller on the top end and you're ready to go.
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