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Steering Cable Fell Off

May 17, 2004
2,013
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
A topic posted by dreadpirath caught my attention. It was titled "steering cable fell off". What happened was his cable fell off while under power and after a frantic search he found the emergency tiller and was able to attach it.

Probably everyone, well not everyone, has a emergency tiller. My1st question is how many of you know where it is!! It should be located next to the helm. How many of you have tried a practice install of the emergency tiller at the dock. I did and the first thing I found was I didn't have a wrench to fit the nut. Once I obtained the proper size wrench I couldn't get the nut off!! What a great predicament I'd have been in if my steering failed when under power or sail.

Dreadpirath indicated he was glad the mishap didn't happen under sail. It easily could have and could have happened under adverse condition, making the situation worse.

Suppose it happened to you under sail and the wind is blowing about 5 knots with choppy condition. I know it's scary, at least to me, but the first thing you have to do is gain control of the situation. What would you do to gain control of the situation? I know calling for a tow is an option but not the answer I'm seeking. The situation is not as bad as it looks - if you have a plan.
 
May 1, 2011
2,264
Pearson 37 Lusby MD
My1st question is how many of you know where it is!! It should be located next to the helm. How many of you have tried a practice install of the emergency tiller at the dock.
Yes, I know exactly where it is and I know how to install it.
What would you do to gain control of the situation?
I have a below-deck autopilot that's attached to the rudder post with a short tiller arm. I can (and have) used that when my sailing buddy destroyed the starboard idler pulley by jamming the rudder into the stop in heavy seas under sail. I'd consider trimming the sails to steer a course, but that probably wouldn't' work because the rudder would be jammed to one side or another. Heave to might work to let you chase the rudder cables.
 
Jun 8, 2004
2,546
Catalina 320 Dana Point
Friends sold their boat recently and surveyor couldn't find Emergency tiller so they called me, I told them it's usually in the very bottom of the port cockpit lazarette wrapped in a disguising cover. Sure enough there it was, like anything in a pickup bed ends up next to the cab, tillers sink to the bottom of deepest lazarette.
I use a quick release knob on the wheel, got it at Minney's surplus because they are pretty pricey otherwise, but you can take it with you on the next boat.
Quick Release Wheel Nut - 1"-14 Shaft Threads
 
Last edited:
May 17, 2004
2,013
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
probably wouldn't' work because the rudder would be jammed to one side or another. Heave to might work to let you chase the rudder cables.
[/QUOTE]
If the rudder is jammed in our scenario that's good news. If it flopping around that's a problem that has to be addressed - quickly.
 
Sep 25, 2008
6,232
Alden 50 Sarasota, Florida
Let’s not forget that this (and many other) problems can be avoided by simple routine inspection and maintenance. What’s the old saying about anticipation being preferable to seamanship?
 
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Feb 17, 2006
5,077
Lancer 27PS MCB Camp Pendleton KF6BL
In 1944, the USS Intrepid was struck by a Kamakazi and damaged the rudder. No emergency tiller available back then, but the rudder was stuck in port turn I believe. The crew rigged a sail in Fo'c'sle to counter the turning ship and by doing so, she make it back to harbor for repairs. So the lesson here is sail balance. One can steer a boat simply by manipulating the balance of the sails. Adjust the sails to either head up of fall off.

But for the original question, I too know exactly where my emergency tiller is.
 
Nov 10, 2009
19
Hunter 410 Rock Hall, MD
When I bought my boat, the emergency tiller was one of the first things for which I checked. I made sure it fit in the socket and that I had full range of motion. The steering mechanism on my Hunter 410, Bay Poet, is rigid rod with cast aluminum rings around stainless knuckles at each end. Sailing back from Baltimore in 15 kts of wind, the aluminum ring under the binnacle table broke. We used tiller to steer the 15-20 miles back to our home marina in Rock Hall. I replaced the part myself. However, many asked why I didn't just call TowBoatUS. I simply smiled and said I was not disabled.

Know your boat and know how to use and repair your systems!

Capt. Rob

A topic posted by dreadpirath caught my attention. It was titled "steering cable fell off". What happened was his cable fell off while under power and after a frantic search he found the emergency tiller and was able to attach it.

Probably everyone, well not everyone, has a emergency tiller. My1st question is how many of you know where it is!! It should be located next to the helm. How many of you have tried a practice install of the emergency tiller at the dock. I did and the first thing I found was I didn't have a wrench to fit the nut. Once I obtained the proper size wrench I couldn't get the nut off!! What a great predicament I'd have been in if my steering failed when under power or sail.

Dreadpirath indicated he was glad the mishap didn't happen under sail. It easily could have and could have happened under adverse condition, making the situation worse.

Suppose it happened to you under sail and the wind is blowing about 5 knots with choppy condition. I know it's scary, at least to me, but the first thing you have to do is gain control of the situation. What would you do to gain control of the situation? I know calling for a tow is an option but not the answer I'm seeking. The situation is not as bad as it looks - if you have a plan.
 
May 17, 2004
2,013
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
Let’s not forget that this (and many other) problems can be avoided by simple routine inspection and maintenance. What’s the old saying about anticipation being preferable to seamanship?
Yup, but "stuff happens" anyway.

I received an email (I don't know why newbies are reluctant to post but that's a matter for another topic) suggesting that the engine should be started. That's fine but the rudder is jambed and you can only go in one direction. A sailor could just drop the sails and call for a tow but suppose you're in a situation where you're drifting toward an obstacle and immediate action is necessary plus no panic is necessary.

Actually, the simple answer to this problem was given to me in 2011 from a friend and frequent contributor to the sail trim forum - "Joe from San Diego". The clue is he was a former wind surfer.
 
May 17, 2004
2,013
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
In 1944, the USS Intrepid was struck by a Kamakazi and damaged the rudder. No emergency tiller available back then, but the rudder was stuck in port turn I believe. The crew rigged a sail in Fo'c'sle to counter the turning ship and by doing so, she make it back to harbor for repairs. So the lesson here is sail balance. One can steer a boat simply by manipulating the balance of the sails. Adjust the sails to either head up of fall off.
Brian: That's it. Joe's method is to head up ease the jib and harden the main and to bear off ease the main and harden the jib. It is a balance between the jib and main. It's a easy thing to practice. just lock your helm and give it a try. You have to be diligent with the balance because of the changing wind speed and direction but once you do it you'll see how easy it is.
 
May 17, 2004
2,013
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
Brian: I had never heard that story about the Intrepid so I just looked it up - very interesting read. Not only how they got it back to Pearl but the problems they had trying to get it back to the West coast.
 
Nov 6, 2017
47
Catalina 30 5611 Stratford, Ct
I do know where my emergency tiller is and I have looked at it and figured out how it works. I have not actually tried to steer the boat with it, something that I will try next time I am out sailing. If for some reason I could not use the E tiller I would find something like a bucket that could be dragged alongside the boat to keep the boat out of harm's way and get to a safe place to anchor. If the issue could not be fixed I would call the towboat.
 
May 17, 2004
2,013
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
I do know where my emergency tiller is and I have looked at it and figured out how it works. I have not actually tried to steer the boat with it, something that I will try next time I am out sailing. If for some reason I could not use the E tiller I would find something like a bucket that could be dragged alongside the boat to keep the boat out of harm's way and get to a safe place to anchor. If the issue could not be fixed I would call the towboat.
cagreen: Next time you're at your boat at the dock, install the emergency tiller to be sure everything works and, if your emergency tiller is like mine (C30), you'll notice that you have to remove the wheel to get it to function. The 1st time I tried the routine at the dock I found that the hub for the wheel was frozen and I had an awful time getting it loose - after I found a wrench to fit the hub!! I'd have been in a bad fix if was a emergency and the tiller would have been useless.

Mother nature and Murphy's law are unforgiving and I've tried to anticipate situations and figure out solutions before they happened. Nothing worse than trying to think through a problem on the fly - especially when you don't have to.
 
Apr 5, 2009
1,547
Catalina '88 C30 tr/bs Oak Harbor, WA
See response to cagreen.

We're hearing from folks who know where the tiller is - I wonder how many don't know where it is or even have one!!
Mine is a Mk2 so it has a different E-tiller. It will function with the wheel in place but is a bit short on leverage. I have a eyebolt in the end that can secure a line and use the primary winches or other block and tackle to provide power. I still thing that I would use the drogue steering as a first cource of action. The E-tiller is based on the assumption that the steering gear was the failure but I have heard of numerous boats loosing some or all of their rudder and then the E-tiller is just a club to beat yourself with! :kick:
I tried my rocker stoppers with the rudder free wheeling and could control the boat just fine.
 

ToddS

.
Sep 11, 2017
248
Beneteau 373 Cape Cod
I know where mine is (and it is easily/quickly accessible), and while I KNOW how to install it in theory, I will admit to never having tried it out on my current boat. Probably should eh? Anyhow... I'm mostly a coastal cruiser... never far from shore/help which in SOME situation makes safety precautions easier, but in some situations makes it harder. On a trans-Atlantic sail, you might have hours or days to find the right tool, or to rig something up, but sailing in close quarters in busy channels with strong currents, nearby shallows, minutes and even seconds count. I certainly have played with steering the boat by trimming the sails, but wouldn't want to navigate though narrow winding channels that way if I didn't absolutely have to. I'm USUALLY towing a dinghy on a painter behind me, so in a pinch, my 9ft RIB with a 6HP outboard could help steer or even propel my boat (assuming not too much wind or rough seas) I also have a hydraulic autopilot that could replace the wheel steering in SOME situations... depending on what's broken... The steering chain being broken would warrant a different emergency solution than say the rudder itself falling off. Also, and often overlooked in near-shore emergencies, is the anchor... when the you-know-what hits the fan, I can drop/furl my sails and deploy an anchor pretty damn quickly... giving me lots of time to rig something up that's not being worked on in a frenzied panic.
 
Feb 17, 2006
5,077
Lancer 27PS MCB Camp Pendleton KF6BL
Another possibility if, heaven forbid, your rudder falls off, is to use the motor for short burst steerage. This would be accomplished by means of using prop-walk in both forward and reverse bursts.

Again, JMHO
 
Jun 14, 2010
1,693
TBD Looking for my next boat CT
Another possibility if, heaven forbid, your rudder falls off, is to use the motor for short burst steerage. This would be accomplished by means of using prop-walk in both forward and reverse bursts.

Again, JMHO
:thumbsdown: Your humble opinion might change after you actually try that. Please let us know how that works for you.
 
May 17, 2004
2,013
Other Catalina 30 Tucson, AZ
Another possibility if, heaven forbid, your rudder falls off, is to use the motor for short burst steerage. This would be accomplished by means of using prop-walk in both forward and reverse bursts.

Again, JMHO
Brian: Your comment regarding the rudder falling off made me remember that exact situation. Years ago, when we decided to get back into sailing, the 1st boat I purchased was a Mac 22 on Lake Havasu, AZ. We decided to get back into sailing because we were sick of our kids bringing home our jet ski boat in pieces!!. Years of sailing as a kid on Narragansett Bay (RI) didn't come back to me. In reality, I purchased a sail boat and didn't know how to sail it - a lot of people do that. The salesman told me no problem, just raise the sails and take off - so we did. About 15' off the beach the rudder falls off because we forgot to insert a pin. So I grabbed a stern line and jumped in the water and dragged the boat to the beach.

Anyway, the way Joe from San Diego told me how to steer the boat using the sails assumes a rudder. I wonder if it would work without the rudder?

Note: Camp Pendleton. I assume you're a former Marine. When I lived in So Ca I was part of a shooting group and one of the members was a former Marine. He arranged for us to shoot with the Marines at Pendleton and 29 Palms. The marines were great hosts. They gave me a Marine emblem for the back of my shooting jacket, which I still have today. Didn't hurt that I was the only one of group shooting a 1903 Springfield and M1 Garand. The jacket is a little tight now but when I wear it to the Tucson range I get a lot of comments from retired Marines. Sadly I have to tell them I was in the Air Force but they appreciate the story.
 
Jan 18, 2016
647
Catalina 387 Dana Point
I certainly know where the E-tiller is on the 387. I just washed the bag it hangs in. And I do know how to attach it. I've also made sure that the wheel is indeed easily removable.

On my old C-30, I used my emergency tiller in anger once. Was perilously close to the harbor (returning) motor on, main still up. Ping went the steering cable. Luckily I knew where the tiller was, and had a fantastic crew on board that got the main down in something like 15 sec. Was _very_ hard to steer because as Don says, you really should take the wheel off. I could not so had to have the tiller up at an angle. It worked, but it was a lot of work.

I didn't see it mentioned, but you can toss out an anchor if depth allows. I would have done that in the case above if I couldn't get the tiller working. Obviously, halfway across an ocean, sail balance, drogue, fix the cable, etc...