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Old 12-02-2019, 10:49   #1
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Emergency Rudder

Hi All:

I was watching a YouTube video following a monohull crew's plight after their rudder was broken clean off in the middle of the Pacific (they made it to safety). Got me wondering... I know boats have a variety of emergency tiller systems, but for cases of total rudder loss/failure, why wouldn't we provision boats with a totally manual back-up system along these lines:
  1. A permanently-mounted bracket on the transom/sugar scoop, ready to accept a whisker pole
  2. A whisker pole pre-designed for easy attachment to transom bracket (acts as the 'tiller')
  3. Some sort of aluminum plate ready to attach to one end of the whisker pole (acts as the 'rudder')

In the event of total rudder loss (ie, she-gone), the crew clips the plate to the pole, clips the plate/pole to the bracket on the transom, and manually steers the boat. The pole is on a long-enough lever to allow steering with a manageable amount of manual force.

Obviously not comfortable or convenient for long-term use, but seems like it would be more than enough to get back to safety. For the crew I watched on YouTube, a system like that would have made their whole ordeal (almost) a non-issue.

  • The bracket would be a little bit of a nuisance when not in use, but I guess it could be a two-piece element with only the attachment points permanently-mounted on the transom (and the bracket itself stays in the lazarette until needed).
  • The pole could be something already on board for other purposes ie, a whisker pole, but with attachment points.
  • The plate would have to be unique I guess, unless it was designed as a section of dining table!? (as an example).
  • Never good to add weight, although the pole would be the heaviest part and it could be one that's already aboard for another purpose so the whole setup would really just be the added weight of the bracket and plate.

Thoughts? Maybe something like this already exists seems so simple and would really save your bacon when all else fails.

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Old 12-02-2019, 14:10   #2
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Boat: Swanson 42
Posts: 6,346
Re: Emergency Rudder

Well, there are a few commercially available emergency rudder systems that are very light and easily stored.

Or, you can kill two birds with one stone and buy/build an auxiliary rudder wind vane.

Of course you could use a hatch board with a whisker pole too.

Lots of options and I agree with your idea of some kind of pre-prepared bracket at the stern. Beats the heck out of trying to MacGyver something in the heat of a crisis.
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Old 12-02-2019, 14:31   #3
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Join Date: Aug 2013
Location: Oakland, CA
Boat: Freedom 38
Posts: 2,200
Re: Emergency Rudder

I think the resources page on the San Francisco Singlehanded Sailing Society ( has information about emergency rudders, which are a required component of our race to Hawaii. There have been a number of boats in our race and others that have lost their rudders. I used a Monitor windvane with Scanmar's prototype for their new M-Rudd. I didn't have to deploy mine but part of the process should be testing it to find out it will work for your boat. Same if using a cabin hatch on a pole or whatever you decide to use.
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emergency, enc, rudder

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