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Old 02-24-2006, 04:03 PM   #1
Join Date: Apr 2005
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hi all

emergency rudders - what do y'all use? for stock? for blade? for attachment points?

any help would be appreciated

if you would like to send pictures please do so at chetan.fernandes@gmail.com



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Old 02-24-2006, 10:20 PM   #2
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I'm certainly no an expert, but:

If your life depends on it - you'll work it out.

And if you feel the need to discuss this in a forum, your steering system is overdue for attention.

I've always thought that if I were thrust into having to make an emergency rudder... I'd try to fashion something with our whisker pole and a section of floor board, or something like that. I'd anchor it at the backstay... with some line, I suppose.

Our boat has wheel steering and we carry an emergency tiller.

I reckon the prudent sailor would spend a weekend at the marina making an emergency rudder with materials on hand instead of waiting to invent something while drifting toward a rocky shore in rudder-breaking seas.

And while you're at it... why not simply go ahead and replace the steering cables, clamps & chain and check all mounts and bearing surfaces? Have a look at the stuffing gland while you're there and attach a proper wooden plug nearby. Then you will have a stronger steering system, a clear understanding of it and a way to keep the boat from sinking should the rudder fall out completely.

The cost of rebuilding the system is NOTHING compared to cost of replacing it... not to mention the possible dangers involved to you and your crew.

If Aye were you, Mate, I'd clean out your lazarette, wiggle in there and have a close look at your steering system, instead of asking a bunch of strangers how to go about making your boat safer.

In closing, I'll quote an Old Maine proverb:

"Nothing Too Strong Ever Broke"

Happy hunting,


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Old 02-25-2006, 04:35 AM   #3
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I had read somewhere that in a pinch, a sailor used a cabin door attached to his whisker pole lashed it all together at the stern and was able to make it to where he was going.

Like Gallivanters had said, if you were worried about it, you would have a better solution in mind before you left. In desperate times, I'm sure I could make an emergency rudder out of a Q-Tip, floss and duct-tape. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention and there is no better inventor, in deed, than a scared sailor in need!

Goin' where the weather suits my clothes!
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Old 02-25-2006, 07:59 AM   #4
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I think the question thats really being asked is, what would you do if it (rudder) did fail.

I bought my boat a few years ago and after only 2 weeks of owning it, I was returning home when I noticed the autopilot having a hard time keeping course.. So. I kicked off the autopilot, grabbed the tiller and noticed immediately that there was a problem. Then all of a sudden, I lost tension on the tiller and the boat started to tack itself.. I look back to curse and noticed my rudder floating away..

Thankfully after a few minutes of colorful metaphors, I jumped into my kayak and retrieved my rudder thinking I could somehow do something with it. Well I couldn't. it sheared off at the hull, now what? Boat hook and companionway door, shelf, anything flat some rope.. naw, I couldn't make that work.

I looked at my kayak paddle and the light lit. I dropped my swim ladder and lashed the paddle between the rung closest the hull and to the stern pulpit. This gave a blade in the water and a blade at the top to steer with.

I made it home after 20 miles of close hauled sailing and sail balancing, no forearms left either, but it worked.

Now this was a 1979 27foot Hunter that was surveyed and was given a clean bill of health.. heck, I even looked it over and couldn't find a problem with it..

I had a metallurgist look at the rudder stock and the only thing he concluded was that the pipe was to thin.

Needless to say, I had it overbuilt and haven't had a problem since and now I carry a kayak paddle at all times.

sv Serendipity
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Old 02-25-2006, 08:53 AM   #5
rod hodgson
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Greetings All,

On our V berth there is a fairly large and substantial triangular hatch cover which has four holes drilled in it. On the underside there are two large U bolts and four appropriate nuts fixed there. The U bolts are the correct size to fit the whisker pole so it is simply a matter of bolting the hatch to the whisker pole and then securing the pole to the stern rail and there is your emergency rudder.

Not my idea, but simple, uses material already on board and very quickly rigged if needed.

I'd be interested in how others have prepared for the emergency.

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Old 02-25-2006, 03:33 PM   #6
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The site is a good place to seek advice before rather than after you need it - so you've been wise asking the questions.

The locker board / U bolt / spinnaker pole is I believe the most common 'emergency' set up - but practically we've not found it easy to use. Easpecially if you are a long way from a safe port.

We've lost two rudders (different boats) and when we first assembled our board / pole we expected to use it as some kind of 'sweep oar'. IE tied at one point over the transom and pushed from side to side to give direction.

We quickly found the loads when moving at a pace got so great one simple cannot control anything or indeed move it side to side. In fact the hydrodynamics on a pretty small surface area (remember if you use one not to use too big a board) lifted us off our feet.

After loosing control a few time we set it up differently.

We lashed the pole in two places, once to the transom and again between a hefty looped line stretched across the cockpit between two main. BY jamming a winch handle and using it as a tie bar in the inboard spinnaker beak, we then tilted or rotated the pole which gave us better steering control. Even so, over the distance of 100 miles it was a very tiring exercise.

However, after that last espisode, we then trialled two drogues on a long line - connected to the two aft winches. By adjusting how much line one pull in / lets out on either side, one can position the drogues to steer us in the needed direction. Still not a perfect straight line, but it was much easier on the crew.

They were absolutely useless trying to manouvre when going slow - but I've since always I've two drogues plus as back up the U bolt set up (for when one gets close to port) ever since.

Here's hoping you never need to use either.

Boring blog at https://www.yotblog.com/swagman
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Old 02-25-2006, 09:42 PM   #7
Join Date: Oct 2004
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I think John's experience is pretty typical for other than small boats. A good way to experience the level of forces involved is to ship the 'emergency tiller' with the wheel unbraked and try to sail one's boat. When boat displacement gets above 5-6 tons, this can be very difficult; on larger boats it's impossible (and also awkward, since the tiller often times if facing backwards).

On our 11 ton ketch, I had padeyes welded onto the emergency tiller and have tackle rigs set up to both quarters of the cockpit, the tails leading to winches. This makes the control of tiller possible but there are two major problems with it: steering the boat well is still a challenge (tho' physically a more manageable one) and it only addresses a failed steering system (chain, wire, idler or pulley, quadrant attachment, etc.), not the loss of the rudder.

If you look at the ocean rallies that mandate complete emergency steering capability (and which typically limit participation to medium size boats and larger), you'l find it's quite common for owners to have a stout transom fitting welded up which in turn they can use with a semi-balanced blade of some kind. Attachment points for the blade might be the transom fitting and the transom top edge/stern pulpit area. The welded fitting doesn't have to be pretty nor obtrusive; the semi-balanced blade is the more challenging task.

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Old 02-25-2006, 11:14 PM   #8
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Hi guys,

Let me add my penny's worth.

My boat is a double-ender with a rudder hung 'over the back' and tiller steering. Pretty darn simple in other words. However, I too worry about things going wrong so I carry a spare tiller and a steering oar.

Steering oars are great. They have been used for simply ages and you will find one, as well as a rudder and tiller, in every ship's lifeboat.

I attach a wire grommet to the mooring cleat fixed midships aft and pass the oar through that. The grommet acts as a 'rowlock' or crutch. I also attach a loine from the oar to the pushpit to just take the weight of the oar. Simpla and effective. The only problem is where to stow the oar when not in use. Mine is secured on the cabin top between handrails and extends forwards where it is also secured at the mast foot.

Cheers guys,


Yacht NAUSIKAA | Call Sign: 2AJH2



= Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Lithuania
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Old 02-26-2006, 02:26 AM   #9
Join Date: Sep 2004
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When I replaced my rudder I cut a hole thru it high up and aft which I then , after completing the paintwork , filled with ordinary putty and a final coat of paint. For emergency , if the tiller/cable fails I can rig a simple line and secure to port/starboard via the cleats. Fortunately never used it and as my rudder was secured top & bottom was unlikely to fail/float-away.

Just my pennyworth...
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Old 02-26-2006, 10:35 PM   #10
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hi all

many thanks for the inputs. i am sure i am not alone in my appreciation for the wealth of information of all types to be found on this forum. And also for the frank, open and honest manner in which queries are responded to, no matter how simple.

We have a steering oar as well on the X 372 Sport. however it was on a recent 200nm race that we actually had to use it. and believe me, it was easier said than done. Many thanks to Stephen for his advice on how to make this arrangement more use friendly.


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