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Steering without a Rudder Messages in this topic - RSS

Dick
Posts: 313


6/7/2015
Dick
Posts: 313
Hi all,
First, it should be distinguished whether we are talking about being without a rudder or a failure in the steering mechanism: the control of the rudder. They present quite different challenges. The initial report was not about a loss of a rudder, but rather a breakdown in controlling the still intact and functional rudder. I would venture to say that the majority of actual rudder losses at sea result in the loss of the vessel. Loss of control of a functional rudder can usually be repaired or jury rigged.
This article is a good argument for those below deck autopilots that are independent of the primary steering apparatus. (Most wind vane designs depend on elements of, if not the whole, steering system.) As long as the rudder shaft is in place and the rudder is attached to the shaft, our autopilot (an Alpha 3000) will steer our boat independent of the quadrant, cables, wheel etc. It should be a primary consideration when purchasing a below decks autopilot. Most may do so as I have only experience with the Alpha.
My best, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy

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Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
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Northstar82
Posts: 9


3/1/2015
Northstar82
Posts: 9
Our Shannon 38 cutter has steering in the pilothouse and the cockpit. The strain on the push pull cables that control the large rudder makes the pilot house steering a little more difficult. To have a cable break would likely not impact the boat at all, since there is an immediate backup in the other separate helm. The rotary drive electric autopilot is connected to the pilothouse steering system and is used typically when we need to maintain a particular course. It can aid the wind vane if it is set at reduced tolerance to catch the boat if it gets out of the tolerated swing.

If the rudder were to jam and no longer be functional from the steering stations, the cockpit deck access enables connecting a separate tiller to the rudder post. When North Star is offshore the AutoHelm wind vane, made by Scanmar, is usually steering using an auxiliary rudder with a trim tab to position the auxiliary rudder and steer the boat, using the main rudder as only as needed to help balance the sails. We have had excellent response from this system in all points of wind.

If the main rudder were to fail completely the AutoHelm would serve as the primary rudder. Because the AutoHelm rudder is so far aft has sufficient to control the boat even with usual sail configurations or rudder offset. For approach to land and channels the vane can be rotated, simulating wind and cause the auxiliary rudder to move appropriately and steer the boat. It takes a little practice, but it seems to work pretty well.

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Ted Rice s/v North Star #82 Shannon Pilothouse 38
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Daria Blackwell
Administrator
Posts: 732


3/1/2015
Daria Blackwell
Administrator
Posts: 732
Michael Keyworth has tested methods for steering without a rudder and has published his results in this white paper. It is well worth reading.

We lost steering when a gear box on our Bowman 57 seized mid-Atlantic. We reduced sail and I stayed on deck adjusting sail trim and essentially steering our ketch with the sails while Alex took apart the complex rod steering system. I also established contact with the vessels in our SSB net and two boats behind us diverted to our position to assist if necessary. Fortunately, Aleria sailed herself beautifully.

Eventually, after many hours of coaxing, the gear loosened to work well enough to reach Barbados. Although we did suffer a second steering failure en route -- and totally different problem which was probably caused by the first problem but was much easier to fix, we had to continue on to Grenada as there was no one who could help us fix it properly in Barbados. We prayed a lot on that trip.

We thought of several alternatives while we were at it and had suggestions from the SSB net as well. Virtually all of the alternatives would have required cutting the steering shaft, which we thought was a rather drastic matter but would have done it if we couldn 't work out a viable alternative. We do have an emergency tiller but it involves standing up through an open hatch in the aft cabin coach roof to steer, which is not a great ocean crossing option. The Monitor self-steering has a backup rudder option so that was another thing we could try. Fortunately, soaking the gear box in Liquid Wrench and a lot of "manual persuasion" did the trick.

Michael Keyworth 's solution seems very elegant and a very good use for a drogue.
Every boat is different so each solution is likely to be different. Has anyone else had the experience of rudder failure? What did you do?

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Daria Blackwell - Rear Commodore, PR Officer, Editor OCC Digital Comms & Port Officer, West of Ireland s/v Aleria http://www.coastalboating.net

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