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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Learning to Sail
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Old 06-23-2009
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fighting the tiller

First off, sorry for the complete noob question. Role your eyes and shake your head here. Go ahead...

Ok,

We were out sailing around angel island in san francsico Bay on Sunday 6/21 at about 1pm on a Cal 27. The Jib and Main were both up. We were making about 5-6 knots. When we were about to go round to the back side of angel island (we went counterclockwise: leaving from sausalito around angel island then up raccoon straight back to sausalito) I noticed that the the tiller/rudder was excessively hard to move, almost like all the bearings were grinding away. At one point I thought the tiller might even snap (I know drama, sorry). I was getting a bit concerned, though a no point did we lose steerage. It was just exceedingly hard to do course corrections.

When we came around the backside of angel island into raccoon straight, I noticed that there was seemingly no pressure on the tiller at all. I had to wag us back and forth a bit to convince myself the rudder was still down there (of course it was)

So my question is what would account for such strong pressure. I realize the tide/current yes, but can it really be that strong that you would fight to steer?

Or should I get the tiller rudder checked - I had someone dive the boat to clean it up and he said everything looked good underneath...

Thanks!

Last edited by lumpen5; 06-23-2009 at 12:56 PM.
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Old 06-23-2009
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The first thing that comes to mind is weather helm. Was the tiller difficult to move in both directions? Coming up into the wind as well as falling off?
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Old 06-23-2009
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Definitely harder to move to port - which is the side the wind was coming from- then to starboard, but not by much. It felt like it was going to get stuck.
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Old 06-23-2009
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Once you're out in the current, it affects your whole boat as a single object (equivalently, there is no current and the coastline is moving past you).

Was the tiller much harder to move in one direction than the other? What were the conditions, and how much canvas did you have up? If winds were above 15 knots and you had full sails and were beating upwind, it's likely that it was just weather helm (lots of other threads on this topic). Maybe when you got into Raccoon Strait, you were in the lee of the island and felt less weather helm. Next time, try reefing earlier. If you haven't thought to reef, you can try sheeting out or bearing off, either of which will depower the sails.

Another possibility (something that happens pretty often on my boat due to the cockpit layout) is that some line or other got wedged behind the tiller and is acting sort of like a doorstop. On my boat, it's usually the mainsheet and sometimes the traveler (mounted right behind the tiller).

There might also be something fouling the rudder, like fishing line. Seems unlikely if you had a diver look at it, but he could have missed it.

Also, what is your rudder setup? Is it transom- or skeg-mounted, or is it the spade variety? The latter, in which the rudder pivots around its centerline rather that the forward edge, is supposedly easier to steer.

Beyond that I couldn't help you. Tiller steering is pretty simple. I think if you have ruled out everything else, you'll have to haul the boat and drop the rudder to look at the post and bearings and what not.
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Old 06-23-2009
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Originally Posted by lumpen5 View Post
Definitely harder to move to port - which is the side the wind was coming from- then to starboard, but not by much. It felt like it was going to get stuck.
I assume you mean that the tiller was harder to move to port not the boat, so that rules out weather helm. I doubt that current could have that much of an effect. So I'm thinking something mechanical like bearings or something getting stuck between the hull and the rudder.
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Old 06-23-2009
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Was the tiller also "bouncing" in your hand when you were holding it? Could you feel it "jumping around"? That is also caused by a fast current.
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@freesail99
yes the rudder would wag back and forth a bit (the tiller would wiggle slightly in the hand) when the sails are dropped and we were motoring back with the outboard at about 3/4 throttle.
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Old 06-23-2009
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YOu could have had something fouled on the rudder for part of the time... that would account for the serious difficulty in turning it, and then the sudden change.
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@AdamLein

The wind was at about 20 knots, gusting to 25knots. we had full main and jib up. High tide occurred at 12pm.
When the wind would gust the boat felt like it wanted to turn into the wind and I had to fight the tiller to keep us straight. At this point I turned us into the wind and dropped the jib.
Once came into racoon straight, moving the tiller was effortless. IT almost felt like the rudder was not connected.

I have attached a jpg of the journey and what happened where. Mostly b/c of the cool gps/google mash up, but also cause i don;t think i explained very well.
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Old 06-23-2009
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"When the wind would gust the boat felt like it wanted to turn into the wind and I had to fight the tiller to keep us straight."

You just described weather helm. The boat DID want to turn into the wind, they're built to do that. With wind of 20-25kts, you probably should have reefed the main. You should also have dropped the traveler to leeward, if you have one. Either way, you would have felt the pressure ease up pretty much right away.
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