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Old 21-10-2007, 18:41   #1
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emergency steering on a catamaran

Does anyone have anything for their catamaran for emergency steering other than the emergency tiller? A friend has lost their rudders north of papa new guinea and this has happened to a lot of boats we know. An emergency tiller is nice to have, but doesn't protect against loss of the rudder itself in heavy seas by having the shaft break.

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Old 21-10-2007, 19:31   #2
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It's interesting to hear about rudder loss on catamarans. I personally know a sailor on a 48 foot South African Cat who lost one rudder without knowing that it was gone until he went snorkeling. The boat handled normally with a single rudder.

In this instance, the manufacturer told them that the rudders were farmed out for production because they were behind on building the yacht and they didn't have time to do it themselves. The rudder had bad welds that allowed it to break off.

I know of a 42 foot french catamaran that had two rudders with severe electrolysis of the rudder posts, and they were replaced before the rudders broke off.

In this instance, it was galvanic corrosion that destroyed the rudder posts.

Both of these rudder problems should never have happened. There's no excuse for shoddy workmanship, and no excuse for letting galvanic corrosion get that far out of control.

I think if both rudders disappear simultaneously, there's manufacturing or maintenance issues. Losing one rudder I can understand. But two rudders disappearing into the depths should never happen in a well maintained yacht.

If I lost both rudders, I would set up sheet to tiller steering while sailing, and I would use the engines to change tacks and to steer the yacht when coming into harbor. Steering the yacht with throttles is a bit awkward, but it does work.

Catamarans have a lot of directional stability, and you should be able to balance your sails in a manner that you can move your cat to location where you can fix the rudders. Then you steer with the engines or use your dingy as a tugboat to move the catamaran around in harbor.

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Old 21-10-2007, 20:27   #3
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I have composite ruddershafts, and kick-up rudders. I think it's extremely unlikely I could lose both rudders. If it did happen I would resort to drogue steering, just like any boat that has completely lost it's steering. If I was close to shore there would also be the option of steering by using the engines.
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Old 22-10-2007, 04:40   #4

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I agree with Dave in that the engines will be used to change course and sheets steer the boat.

Heck, when I come into a marina, I never touch my steering. It's all about my diesels.
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Old 22-10-2007, 05:56   #5
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I hit some reef once and bent a rudder shaft and punched a (small ) hole in the outer glass layer.

I couldnt move the rudder at all as it was very stiff, but straightened it fore and aft, disconnected that one and steered back on the Starboard one with no problems at all.

On the new build the rudders are mostly protected, but being a Powercat, i'll just use the motors if any probs.

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Old 22-10-2007, 08:40   #6
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Originally Posted by schoonerdog View Post
Does anyone have anything for their catamaran for emergency steering other than the emergency tiller? A friend has lost their rudders north of papa new guinea and this has happened to a lot of boats we know. An emergency tiller is nice to have, but doesn't protect against loss of the rudder itself in heavy seas by having the shaft break.
As a thought, with two rudders already in the water, you have a backup rudder built into the design. What were the events that caused the boat to lose both rudders?

It's perfectly reasonable to carry a complete backup rudder, in addition to a backup tiller - the decision to carry one depends upon how much redundancy you want to build into the boat's spares. Two Pacific Ocean races require a backup steering mechanism as part of the race entry equipment: Pacific Cup and SSS TransPac. There's some information there as regards how to construct an emergency rudder.

Having built 5 rudders to date, 3 of them emergency rudders for those two races, I'll point out it takes a fair bit of time to figure out how to design a backup rudder such that it stows reasonaly on board, can be installed safely mid-ocean, and is still large enough to steer the boat effectively. The construction you can farm out or do yourself depending upon materials selected and your ability to work with those materials. Then go try out your new rudder!

You should also consider how to jettison the existing bent/damaged primary rudder and how to plug the hole the (now missing) rudder shaft leaves in the boat.

- beetle
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Old 22-10-2007, 10:09   #7
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You could also use the wind steering mechanism as a rudder. Think Hydrovane, Cape Horn or Aries.
I agree differential throttle works well.
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Old 06-11-2007, 18:07   #8
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Unhappy Rudder Post Failures

This thread seems like an ideal place to ask some questions relating to rudder post failures that have been nagging me for nearly a year. The precipitating event for these questions was another Fountaine Pajot catamaran losing one of its rudders during the 2006 Baja Ha-Ha and a casual mention by someone else of a catamaran having lost both its rudders (possibly the same incident Schoonerdog referred to in his post starting this thread).

My questions: Does anyone periodically disassemble their rudders to inspect the posts for corrosion?
Does FP recommend such an inspection on the Belize model?
If either answer is "yes", at what periodicity?
Are any models more susceptible than others?

Our Belize is now on the hard but we are eagerly looking forward to getting back into the water to continue cruising Mexico, Central America, then the Caribbean. While dropping the rudder to do this inspection doesn't appear to be technically too difficult, it would be a fair amount of heavy work so I don't want to do it unnecessarily.

The other question I had was how to steer a catamaran that had lost both rudders but that question seems to have been more or less answered by Maxingout and 44'cruisingcat. The logical follow on question, though, is: Has anyone actually used the techniques discussed?
Schoonerdog, how did your friends near Papau New Guinea do it?
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Old 06-11-2007, 18:25   #9
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I've also seen descriptions of using drogues for emergency steering. Achieving directionality by loosening/tightening the respective sides of the bridle around the sheet winches.

I actually think it may be the Seabrake website that illustrates this. While I imagine this would be useful where you've got some sea-room, when coming into tighter places, it sounds like using the engines would be the way to go.

Good luck to your friends.

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Old 07-11-2007, 11:00   #10
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On two seperat occasions we have lost the ability to steer the boat, the first instance was when we were in the middle of the gulf and ran on top of a submerged container. TO make a long story short we had bungy cords and line available to get the boat back underway after getting off the container. The second time we were anchored and were hit by wind and a pretty bad squal. The anchors started to drag, when we attempted to steer, the transmission that controls the cables broke. We dragged by another boat and were lucky. Later it turned out that a fishing net was intertwined with our rudders and the force we put on the wheel broke the transmission.

Since then we have changed over the steering mechanisms and warn every cruiser we meet in a cat to be sure to have back up cables on board.
On our rudderes we have attached a steel line that will hold the rudders if they are ever kicked out and now where the rudders attach to the rudder cables we have put in break away pins, we hope these pins will break instead of the cables stripping the trans out or breaking.
I am still not happy with the set up using teflex cables and a transmission, we are looking into a hydraulic system when we get into an area where we can do this conversion.
As per our rudders we had them made out of Mahogany laid over with carbon fiber. They have taken a few blows when we were gunkholing in the Belize area. The rudders kick back as they are designed to do without damage. The cost was not as high as one might think.
We are looking forward to following this thread.
Gemini Owner currently in Belize until the weather settles down.
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Old 07-11-2007, 11:08   #11
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A good solution as well is to use a door (if you have) one and attach it to your spi pole.
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Old 07-11-2007, 21:34   #12
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Like ID I'd also read of someone steering a long distance by trailing a warp or bucket from the appropriate hull.

I think this was a trade wind situation too far from shore to use the engines all the way. The diesel was saved to get the boat safely into harbour.
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Old 17-11-2007, 03:31   #13
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i lost a pin from one of my rudders whilst running downtide in the chenal du four / brest and the boat was extremely difficult to steer on one remaining rudder , we pulled in to camaret and solved it ok but thanks to 2 motors it was easy .but sailing her was not possible could be the rudders are on the small side ?
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Old 17-11-2007, 04:54   #14
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We at african cats recommend a once a year inspection of the rudder shafts
the shafts we use made by Jefa are 64 mm solid Aluminium 6082 a type that is seawater resistant, we have the stocks anodized and glassed in completely , The only exposed part to seawater is a space of 25 mm where the rudder blade stops and where it enters the hull area . make sure that there is no electrical connection with the rudder stock in any location because that will speed up the process.
In case you lose a rudder or even 2 the engines are the way to manuever in confined areas like a harbor and if out sailing tune the sails to the course you want to follow
on a well balanced boat it is an easy task by setting the sails in the right position and reefing the main or jib until you have a balance in the course
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Old 17-11-2007, 05:55   #15

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I was curious about African Cats. When I visited the website I couldn't help noticing that the company is very proud that the small sailing Cat is sold out through 2011?????

Forgive me for suggesting that higher production may be in order.

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