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Old 04-03-2012, 12:12   #1
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Need Offshore Insight

Need some insight to what might have happened out there just minutes before we got hit by a gale & 40 ft. seas; something happened with the helm. It was dusk; gentle seas, little wind & we were under sail & motor.

My son (17) & inexperienced was at the helm. I suggested he might want to get back on course. He said that something was wrong with the helm. I laughed & said Iíll take the helm. He was right. There was way too much play & no control & then seconds later we got hit by a gale. Once the gale hit, the helm was back doing its job.

Insight ? Thoughts ? I really do not understand what caused that & would appreciate some feedback.
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Old 04-03-2012, 12:18   #2
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What kind of helm? Hydraulic might have been low fluid level or a bubble in the system. But that's just a wild guess.
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Old 04-03-2012, 12:51   #3
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

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Originally Posted by Yachtmops View Post
Need some insight to what might have happened out there just minutes before we got hit by a gale & 40 ft. seas; something happened with the helm. It was dusk; gentle seas, little wind & we were under sail & motor.

My son (17) & inexperienced was at the helm. I suggested he might want to get back on course. He said that something was wrong with the helm. I laughed & said Iíll take the helm. He was right. There was way too much play & no control & then seconds later we got hit by a gale. Once the gale hit, the helm was back doing its job.

Insight ? Thoughts ? I really do not understand what caused that & would appreciate some feedback.
Bermuda triangle??
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Old 04-03-2012, 13:02   #4
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

If you have a wheel helm, it could be your quadrant is loose. The quadrant is attached to the rudder post on a four sided machined area of the rudder post. It might be loose enough that when the weather was fair, it was able to grab onto the corners of the post, but when the weather kicked up and more load was put on the rudder, the quadrant was not gripping and it would spin on the rudder post. It happened to a friends boat once too, and the winds were blowing 30 when we discovered the problem with the helm. Tightening up the bolts cured the problem.
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Old 04-03-2012, 13:19   #5
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

[QUOTE=Geoduck;901413]Bermudatriangle??[/QUOTE ]

He does sail a Bermuda 40
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Old 04-03-2012, 13:20   #6
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

A big tangle of sargasso weed on a spade rudder?
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Old 04-03-2012, 14:00   #7
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

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Originally Posted by cptnsteve View Post
If you have a wheel helm, it could be your quadrant is loose. The quadrant is attached to the rudder post on a four sided machined area of the rudder post. It might be loose enough that when the weather was fair, it was able to grab onto the corners of the post, but when the weather kicked up and more load was put on the rudder, the quadrant was not gripping and it would spin on the rudder post. It happened to a friends boat once too, and the winds were blowing 30 when we discovered the problem with the helm. Tightening up the bolts cured the problem.
Cptnsteve

It is a wheel helm, but it happened only for about five minutes while still in light winds & then when the strong winds hit, the helm was fine. Just before the gale struck, we had no idea we were about to get into some really bad weather.
So, it seems that its weather related, but has anyone experienced it & if so, what exactly, caused that ?

Yes, we were in the Bermuda triangle.
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Old 04-03-2012, 14:10   #8
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

You can guess and guess, but until you go down below and start checking cables, sheaves, and the quadrant that is all you will get.
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Old 04-03-2012, 14:38   #9
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

Seriously, consider a clump of sargasso. Or a plastic garbage bag. Or a 10-15 foot chunk of black polyethylene. All have been responsible for such symptoms on my boat offshore in the past year.
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Old 04-03-2012, 15:02   #10
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Best thing I can suggest is to check the entire steering system from wheel to rudder as soon as possible. It might have started getting loose, the increase in weather may have "fixed" it temporarily, but just imagine if it happens in fine weather coming in to a crowded mooring. Jut follow the whole system, checking everything you can think of and tightening up all the bolts. Can't hurt, and you might be able to come back and teach some of us something new about steering systems.
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Old 04-03-2012, 15:20   #11
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

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Seriously, consider a clump of sargasso. Or a plastic garbage bag. Or a 10-15 foot chunk of black polyethylene. All have been responsible for such symptoms on my boat offshore in the past year.
Tia Bu,

I believe you, but its the timing of it, just before the storm. That is why I was looking at weather related possibilities.

I got a pm from an experienced offshore sailor & he asked some real good questions. The post would be far too long if i tried to write the whole story but, yes, it was a life threatening situation. True, 40 ft. seas are some serious weather. We did not know it was coming & just getting ready to reduce sail. Therefore, our harnesses & PFD's were down below, except for one PFD that was siting in the cockpit.

The sequence of no helm for a few minutes in ( light winds) to a full tilt gale with & a knockdown ( helm returned) left me thinking it was weather related.

You may be quite right & the weather had nothing to do with it.
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Old 04-03-2012, 15:27   #12
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

From the recollection you've given, surely what you've said is the weather solved, rather than caused, the problem.
I'm with the others, specifically check it all out, but if you find nothing assume it was something you picked up below water level, which came free when you were knocked down.
Cheers
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Old 04-03-2012, 15:32   #13
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

If you turn your observation on its head, the problem resloved with the onset of heavier weather. If there was a mechanical problem with your steering, it is unlikely that it would have improved when the stresses on your rudder increased. This supports the theory that there was some debris around your rudder. Did the problem return when the weather improved?
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Old 04-03-2012, 16:00   #14
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

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Originally Posted by boden36 View Post
If you turn your observation on its head, the problem resloved with the onset of heavier weather. If there was a mechanical problem with your steering, it is unlikely that it would have improved when the stresses on your rudder increased. This supports the theory that there was some debris around your rudder. Did the problem return when the weather improved?
Regards,
Richard.
Quite the contrary!
I would get below and check the whole system. If it's cables, a loose cable may have come off a pulley for a bit then back on again after a good weather helm.
Also, some quadrants have a cross bolt that passes thru the rudder shaft and quadrant. That may have sheared and now the quadrant has galled and seized on the rudder shaft. In this situation the rudder may have dropped a bit so check for that.
And check the gears in the pedestal to see if they have been slipping. Mechanical things can fix themselves but it's only temporary.
If all good then I'd say the weeds. But do check out the system.
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Old 04-03-2012, 16:20   #15
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Re: Need Offshore Insight

My question is what was your boat speed when you lost steering - if the wind had died just before you would not have steerage. When the Gail hit you would them be moving forward so you would again have control.
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