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Old 02-27-2013
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Loss of Steering

I am new to sailing and currently taking an advanced seamanship class that will be followed up by a navigation class, here at the Del Mar marina, Camp Pendleton, CA.
I am searching for any input regarding "loss of steering". Any information is appreciated. Thank you
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Old 02-27-2013
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Re: Loss of Steering

What about it? Causes? Responses?
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Old 02-27-2013
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Re: Loss of Steering

row boat or oil tanker? the procedures could be bit different
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Old 02-27-2013
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Re: Loss of Steering

Thank you for the quick response. this is in regards to sailing. I am assuming that there are many causes, from equipment failure to a fouled rudder from kelp to picking up some sort of netting, lines etc. Immediate responses while sailing in a channel and/or restricted waters are my first concerns. Your thoughts?
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Old 02-27-2013
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Re: Loss of Steering

Loss of power causes a lot of loss of steering. Without the motion of the boat going through the water the rudder doent work.

It is one of the most counterintuitove issues with jet skiers. When they get in a bad situation they tend to power down or shut off the throttle causing them to lose control of the steering of the jetski
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Re: Loss of Steering

curt, usually inability to steer completely usually comes from some mechanical break which prevents the rudder post from rotating the rudder. A jam or foul such as you describe would be more likely to inhibit but not altogether prevent steering.

The immediate response will vary depending how restricted the waters are where it happens. in a channel? Try to get sails down and anchor out quick (unless anchoring in the channel is worse than drifting--but if you're drifting towards a jetty or rocky shoal, then you have to stop your drift), meantime radio concerned traffic that you can't steer.

Got more room than that? It's possible to adjust sails to steer (not very well but better than nothing). need to go left (let's assume you're on port tack here)? luff or drop your jib, keep main drawing, put crew weight to leeward. All this moves the center of effort aft in relation to your pivot point.. Go right? then ease main way out, keep jib drawing and move weight to windward, this moves the CE forward. So do the opposite if you're on starboard tack.

What's hard though is to stop the swing once you've started it. that's when you might try to get an oar out, or drag somethng in the water alongside to induce lateral force. Me, I'd look for a tow from a Samaritan. Then he steers for both of you.

Part two is how to fix it. I don't know, what's broken?
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Last edited by nolatom; 02-27-2013 at 01:38 PM.
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Re: Loss of Steering

I appreciate the great response. All your suggestions are logical and spot on. So much depends on circumstances, tide, currents, wind, and reaction time. thank you again.
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Re: Loss of Steering

Drop a bucket on a line on the side you want to turn towards. You'll want to secure the bitter end on a winch though as you'd be surprised how much pull it will have.
If you intend that as a method, try it sometime, just lock your rudder and go. Try it while sailing slow at first.

For minor changes either use sail trim, or drop a warp (line) off - same as the bucket, less drag.
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Old 02-27-2013
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Re: Loss of Steering

I still don't understand if you are talking about loss of steerage, where the boat mechanically works but you can't turn it, or loss of steering where the actual steering hardware has failed (for instance your rudder fell off).

The former is very common and you'll learn how to recover from it in classes. The key is to have the boat moving through the water as other's have mentioned. The normal way to loose steering is to end up in irons and you'll learn how to backwind the sails to point the boat and get speed and thus steerage again.

Loss of steering hardware is a much more rare occurance and the right way to avoid it is to maintain the boat. A boat with wheel steering should always have an emergency tiller that can be used. For wheel or tiller steering an important part of every haul out is inspecting and maintaining the steering system. You should still learn how to steer with the sails (that helps for broad turns) and may be able to improvise and emergency rudder and tiller (using a paddle for instance) for tighter steering in port to correct the situation. The sailing classes that I took taught me how to steer with the sails, but I don't know how common that is. It is also a helpful skill for learning how to balance the sails when they come out of balance (coming out of balance is the same as steering with the sails).
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Re: Loss of Steering

Several sailboats offer emergency steering apparatus. Usually its a pipe of some design that will slip over the rudder shaft under the helmsman seat. (Clever designs have used a table leg from the saloon table or similar.) This type of emergency steering can work with a cable/quadrant system or a tiller steered sailboat. I know that Island Packet designs their rudder with a hole in the top aft end of the rudder that a rope can be passed through in order to turn the rudder with a rope in the event of steerage loss. In the event of loss of the rudder, I've read of sailors using (jury rigging) their saloon table as a rudder.
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