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Old 11-30-2009, 03:40 PM   #1
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Having read numerous accounts of disaster & near-disaster involving, or caused by Rudder Loss, I feel it would be beneficial to gather any opinions, views & expertise.

Rudder loss is usually violent, sudden & unexpected ... it causes some to abandon their vessels & many such vessels are salvaged afloat ... do you have a Rudder Loss tale to share ?

Sudden loss of steerage can, in heavy seas, result very quickly in capsize, roll & even pitchpoling of a vessel ... what causes rudder loss & what possible consequences can result ?

There are however, many accounts of quick action using replacement tackle & excellent improvised get-U-home solutions ... what methods & techniques can our readership pass on ?

Ocean race organisers require all competing vessels to have an alternate set of steering tackle able to be deployed in case of rudder loss ... what is out there either commercially available or home-made ?

My planned stategy in case of rudder loss is :

a. being equipped with an Airies windvane steering system ... I hope to be able to steer using the Aries rudder unit ... does anyone have experience of using windvane tackle as emergency steering ?

b. lash a paddle or an oar to the transom ... or any other effective use of an oar or paddle as emergency steering ?

c. trail a line or drougue from either side to exert steerage by drag ... any experiences ?

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Old 11-30-2009, 05:10 PM   #2
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Old 12-02-2009, 11:08 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by svtadpole View Post
Sudden loss of steerage can, in heavy seas, result very quickly in capsize, roll & even pitchpoling of a vessel ... what causes rudder loss & what possible consequences can result ?
I'm talking out my, um, whatever here. It seems that any seas in which rudder loss might cause capsize or pitchpoling would be dangerous seas in which to abandon the vessel. I might say that if you can get safely off the boat, you can safely stay on it.
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Old 12-03-2009, 04:27 AM   #4
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The rules governing offshore long distance races are governed by very strict rules - here is one extract :-

4.15 Emergency Steering

4.15.1 Emergency steering shall be provided as follows:

a) except when the principal method of steering is by means of an unbreakable metal tiller, an emergency tiller capable of being fitted to the rudder stock;


( crews must be aware of alternative methods of steering the yacht in any sea condition in the event of rudder loss. At least one method must have been proven to work on board the yacht. An inspector may require that this method be demonstrated.


The above rules can certainly apply to the cruising yacht - which also may sail well offshore. In which case the skipper and his crew should first and foremost know exactly what type of rudder and steering system is installed. Second, they should know in detail how it functions. Third, in the event of steering loss they must be able to apply at least one method of an alternative steering system -- which they have tried out successfully.

Remember well responding to a mayday from a Hans Christian 48 - which had lost its steering and was being set down onto a lee shore. On arrival found that the steering cable had come off the rudder stock quadrant - popped it back on tightened it up and sailed back with the skipper (who had thought that his rudder had fallen off and didn't look any further!) It cost him a bottle of scotch and lots of leg pulls.
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Old 12-03-2009, 05:56 AM   #5
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To S/V Tadpole , many rudders have been constructed improperly , and later in their lives were not inspected properly.

First look at where most rudders fail in open sea conditions,,,, I think , most fail at where a SS shaft or tube exits a fiberglassed blade.

Some yacht surveyors say as a general rule , "Never Pot SS" , meaning don't bury it in epoxy or polyester resin.

From what I have heard is that crevious corrosion "sets in", at the interface area at the junction of the SS shaft, and the F/G blade of a rudder, and that inspecting this area at haulout time is critical .

Douglas , S/V Calliste
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Old 12-03-2009, 05:32 PM   #6
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I've never lost a rudder but I have been in seas which made autopilot unsafe and long term helming was not an option...

In any event when one can not control the boat by steerage, whether due to rudder failure, or harsh weather/fatigue the first thing to do, IMHO, is to get some form of sea anchor out. Even just trailing the running rigging makes a significant difference when trying to keep a vessel stern to sea, as I've mentioned in other post, pots and pans make great sea anchors, but my favorite is a solid plastic (no spokes) lawnmower type wheel, you tie it on with just a stopper not and boy does she give you some good drag... and won't blow out like a sail cloth sea anchor
“The world turns aside to let any man pass who knows where he is going.” (Epictetus 55 - 135 AD)

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Old 12-03-2009, 11:11 PM   #7
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One of the reasons that I am less than tolerant of some of the reports of boats abandoned because of rudder failure is because I've known of boats being brought to safe harbor by its skipper and crew even with a broken rudder. I've related one of those instances elsewhere on this forum, but another one is probably even more pertinent.

When we were in Mangareva, in the French Gambier Islands, we met a German fellow, single-hander, who set out from French Polynesia for Chile, South America. He hit some very bad weather (no surprise) and broke his rudder. It took him months to turn around and return to Mangareva, sailing alone, no assistance, no calls for help. His little boat was all he had, and from talking with him, I doubt that even if he had been offered a chance to get off the boat and abandon it that he would have. One man, not five or six. The Southern Ocean, not the mid-Atlantic.

Ah, they don't make sailors the way they used to, eh?

In 1986 we went cruising for a few years. After 20 years and 50+ countries and several oceans, we are STILL "cruising for a few years".

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