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X-Yachts AUS X4 728 - 2

Yet another jury-rig steering idea

by Christine Kling/Sail-World Cruising on 27 Jan 2014
Learnativity’s jury-rigged rudder control .. .
Recently we published a story of four sailors who lost their steering some 300 miles offshore and, after a few days of attempting repairs, called for rescue and abandoned their cat. We queried the decision, quoting one sailor and his crew who completed 1400 miles in the Atlantic without a rudder (See story. Now, courtesy of the Ocean Cruising Club, here is yet another method of jury-rigging a steering system once you have lost control of your Christine Kling, author and sailor, tells her story: Recently, there has been lots of discussion out in the world of cruising boats about the abandonment and rescue of the crew aboard a catamaran off the coast of Virginia that lost control of their rudders.

They had lots more go wrong than we did, and they were in the frigid and dangerous waters of the North Atlantic in January. I would not presume to suggest they should have done anything differently.

However, I’m very glad that I was sailing with captain Wayne who, like me, grew up watching MacGyver and put those problem-solving skills to work to figure out a way to get Learnativity to sail her way to Majuro.



We were 211 miles south of our waypoint off the end of the island (or about 225 from the anchorage) when we lost control of the rudder, but in looking at the track we sailed I think we did over 250 with the jury-rig.

(in skipper Wayne's words: Our rudder shaft sheared off just below the flange where the 2.5' SS rudder shaft bolts onto the flange connecting it to the shaft going up through the hull where it attaches to the lever arms that the hydraulic cylinders push and pull against. The good news is that we did not donate the rudder to Davey Jone's Parts Department at the bottom of the sea due to the way the skeg hung rudder on Learnativity is set up it is captured within this top flange and the similar one on the bottom where it attaches to a short shaft set in a bushing in the skeg. The bad news was that we had no way to turn the rudder and therefore no steering!)

Back to Christine:

It wasn’t like we figured it all out right away.

In case you want to take a look at our steering jury-rig, I’ve included a video below that Wayne shot with my GoPro when he’d finished tying up the rudder lines. Pay careful attention to the rising and falling of the transom in the seas. If you have a tendency to get seasick, watch it at your own risk.

Given that she is a steel boat, the rudder has zincs on it that Wayne used to keep the lines from sliding up. The ropes go around the rudder, and then they are lashed together at the trailing end and led up to either cleats or the radar/wind generator posts for tying off. On deck we were able to pull in by mere inches to move the rudder this way or that and steer the boat. It worked remarkably well.

Oddly enough, throughout the whole adventure we felt like we were doing much more than making do. We ate well, listened to music, laughed and had fun.

Maybe it wouldn't work with all boats, but it's another idea of how to improvise when it all goes wrong at once.

Here is the video:


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