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Old 03-22-2007
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Zanshin Zanshin is offline
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I sail a 2003 Jeanneau 43DS and had it thoroughly surveyed prior to purchase by a very good and reputable surveyor who knows the Jeanneau and Beneteau lines very well. He did say that the rudder bearings were loose and they were replaced prior to my purchasing the boat; he also did a post-fix survey of the rudder and all other (minor) repairs.
I was motorsailing at the time this happened. I had the sails well-balanced but with two inexperienced ladies aboard who were somewhat frightened of heeling I put on the engine at 1800rpm and was comfortably running at about 6 knots in 40 feet of water. The first thing I noticed when things went wrong was that we'd gone 90 degrees off course and my genoa was suddenly sheeted on the wrong side. I turned ofif the autopilot and immediately noticed that there were no forces on the wheel; then I saw a black shark fin and realized what had happened. Engine in neutral, told the girls it was OK and then winched like crazy to get both sails in. Seas were about 6 feet and 15-18 knots of wind. After getting the sails down and checking the bilge plus rudder post from the emergency tiller hole I wanted to retrieve my rudder with the dinghy but the girl's panicked reaction to my wanting to leave the boat convinced to me forego that.
I managed to get another boater to relay a message to the charter company from which I'd purchased the boat and gave my position and request for a tow. They did their utmost, but another ship had gone aground (with a fatality) so priorities were elsewhere. This was 9:30am and we finally got a tow to Virgin Gorga at 5:30pm. I tried to balance the sails to at least do something but I think my only successful direction would have been downwind - the wrong way. A quick look at the chart showed me that I was about to drift from 60ft to 80ft so I dropped the anchor in sand (200ft of chain was sufficient to hold us, even with some heavy squalls passing through).
I haven't hauled the boat yet, since staying in the Marina is better than finding a hotel. Once my new rudder arrives we'll pull the boat and I will have it re-surveyed while the rudder is replaced.
There is no visible damage inside the boat, and the whole rudder is moving smoothly and freely. I did a quick look while at sea and didn't see anything remaining below the waterline and I'm not about to dive on it in the harbor as the BVI has no holding tank rules...
I put out 3 drogues with about 300 feet of old running rigging and some buckets and we still yawed back and forth at least 90 degrees at 3 knots. Since I still had engine and prop, if I had been further out or not within range of help I would have used an inside door, some old running lines as lashings and the emergency steering mechanism to rig a provisional rudder to hang from the pulpit over the transom/sugarscoop. But as there was no danger to anything except my pride and I would have had to pass around the dog islands (bad lee shores and no holding if the temporary steering failed). In this case I feel that doing a McGyver would have entailed higher risk to both my passengers and boat and the only things I would do differently if I were in the same situation would be to (a) retrieve the rudder and (b) drop the anchor while the bottom was still 40 feet.
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