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ehmanta 11-28-2009 04:45 PM

Spade Rudders vs. Skeg Hung
I am pretty sure this topic has come up before and before I get spanked, I have a new spin on the topic. Skeg hung rudders obviously offer protection for the blade while the spade or balanced rudder is hanging out there by itself. The spade rudder offers more performance and responsiveness while backing etc...
The question is this: is it really a big danger having your rudder struck to the point of being disabled? What is the percentage? I have heard the stories of boats losing their rudders, but how many in the countless number of boats that are out there? Why have respected builders like Morris, Sabre, and Tartan (AND more) switched to spade rudders on their cruising boats? Is it just a performance issue or is it that rudder loss is really not that likely? Are spade rudders built better today than years ago?
I ask these questions, because I am looking at a cruising boat with a spade rudder. The Tartan 37 that I have now has a skeg protecting the rudder.

ramminjammin 11-28-2009 06:13 PM

Those skeg hung rudders are a biatch to fix
the whole way they are attached is too complicated, if it fails then it is not an easy fix
have to haul the boat then wrangle it off
i like the simplicity and access of the spade
i am currently having to fix my tartan 30 skeg hung and thinking of converting to a spade mounted off the stern !

Boasun 11-28-2009 09:15 PM

Have run boats with the spade rudders... Have seen them broken off at the hull line. Seen them bent over to one side. And have one wear out its hanging bearing and drop down where it was difficut to steer with.
Skeg hung rudders may be more complicated in your eyes. But when properly maintained on haulouts, I've never had one give us any troubles.
But then again it is your choice... Mine?? I'll take the skeg hung rudder every time.

davidpm 11-28-2009 09:28 PM

I would suspect that from the manufactures point of view the spade is less expensive to build, makes the boat faster, both things make the boat easier to sell. Since 95% of the boats are used for coastal cruising it sounds like a slam dunk for the builder.
Just one of a hundred decisions that make a boat slower and more durable that only matters to a very small slice of the buying public.

If you are planning on spending a few years in northern latitude storms a stronger rudder sounds like a good idea.

I just finished Occupation Circumnavigator. How to Finance a Lifestyle. 10 years on the Seven Seas with S/Y Jennifer (9789163304880): Lars Hassler, Katarina Smith, 70 color photos: Books

He had a brand new 50-foot Beneteau built and sailed it continuously for 10 years. He had to rebuild his rudder several times.

paulk 11-28-2009 10:07 PM

Skegs are nice for the protection they provide for the rudder from things like lobster pots. In the past forty years two boats I've been on had entanglements with lobster pots. One was heading out to the start of a Newport-Bermuda race, and our prop snagged one. The skipper (who was steering) had his eager son go over the side to clear it. The second was this past summer in Maine, in our twelvth season on our spade-ruddered J/36. We were powersailing, close to high tide, trying to make Frenchboro Long Island before it got too dark to see. The high water and current dragged the float under and we ran it over without seeing it. Thwop,thwop, thwop, (we thought the shaft might break) thunk.
Silence. No gushing water. Ooof. The prop cut it off (?!?) Who knows? Essentially, the rudder seems to be adequately protected by the keel most of the time, and having the engine running is the problem, not the spade rudder. Having a skeg in front of the rudder would make clearing any snags much simpler (stop, and the line would drop out of the way) without the possibility of getting a line caught between the rudder and the hull. If the boat comes with a skeg, it's nice insurance to have. If the boat doesn't have a skeg, being a tad more careful doesn't hurt. For the number of times it's been an issue for me, however, it's not something to worry much about.

TQA 11-29-2009 07:33 AM

If you have a spade rudder the steering under power in reverse is usually better BUT if I went offshore with one I would want a back up steering system. Too many are failing. There is a guy who makes a good living out of building replacement spades.

I have helped someone out on the Chesapeake who had a rudder jammed by a crab pot. It took several dives with the breadknife to cut away the portion jammed between the top of the rudder and the hull. It would have been almost impossible to do if there had been a sea running.

JohnRPollard 11-29-2009 08:30 AM


Originally Posted by ehmanta (Post 546353)
... The question is this: is it really a big danger having your rudder struck to the point of being disabled? What is the percentage? I have heard the stories of boats losing their rudders, but how many in the countless number of boats that are out there?

It seems like every month or two we hear another report of a lost/broken rudder, often leading to abandonment/rescue. There actually aren't all that many boats "out there" (by which I assume you mean well off-shore) at any given time, so if there was a way to measure it scientifically the percentage of failures would probably be higher than many of us would assume.

A few years ago we talked about starting a thread where folks could file reports of broken/failed rudders leading to abandonment/rescue. I guess no one ever did that. If there's an interest, I'd be happy to make it a "sticky"?

ehmanta 11-29-2009 09:35 AM

Thanks for confirming what I felt was the way to go.....I've always have been in the "skeg" camp, but was wondering why high-end builders were building with spade rudders, I mean it can't be a cost issue when a Morris can cost well over a million and the new Tartan 5300 tops out at 1.2M. Of course, if you are looking at the "Hunte-Bene-Linas", I could see a cost-saving issue as well as a quality issue.

Mechsmith 11-29-2009 10:06 AM

Consider also that a spade rudder can be "balanced" allowing for easier steering. A skeg mount generally can not. This is usually only a problem while reversing, or sliding down a wave backwards.

The skeg mount should be made with the attaching point (hinge-gudgeon) weak enough so that the hinge will break before the skeg. With the hinge broken and the rudder post bent you can still float and probably steer. With the skeg broken off you may have a big hole in the boat. A rudder post should also bend before it breaks the boat. This is an engineering problem for the designer!

Faster 11-29-2009 10:35 AM

Another thing... there are skegs and then there are skegs.

Some are bolted/added to the hull essentially after-the-fact and while they ostensibly protect the leading edge of the blade, the skegs themselves are not particularly robust and may themselves break if struck. Now you've suddenly got a "spade" rudder with a loose chunk slamming about it's leading edge.

In other cases where the skeg is molded in and substantial in area, this is obviously less of a structural issue - but in many cases the skeg is not full depth to accommodate a balancing tab to avoid heavy helm forces.. And that can be a handy slot for a lobster trap line unless properly executed.

But in the end, for me, and I suspect for most of the coastal sailors around, the added maneuverability, esp in reverse, is what tips the scale in favour of the spade.

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