7/14/10 - A Little Explanation About What Happened
14 July 2010 | California Coastline
I thought I'd write to add a little more detail about our situation. Our problems all started about 3:30AM yesterday when we were changing to a larger spinnaker. Attempts to set 2 kites in a row led to big tangles with them blowing through the foretriangle. I realized later that the problem was our main was in too far causing the wind to blow backwards through the foretriangle (the boat is so fast downwind that the main is trimmed in much further than a normal boat for downwind sailing). Then just when we were wondering how much could go wrong at once I heard a clunk and the steering got very stiff. "All stop with the spinnaker set, somebody needs to come back and look at the steering system!" Buzz looked it over with his flashlight and saw that the port lower rudder gudgeon (or pintle depending on your preferred terminology) had broken. It was a break through one side of the metal strap that wraps around the front of the rudder.
To make a long story short, we pulled the port rudder off, pulled it on board, and proceeded merrily on our way with the starboard rudder. We set the jib rather than a spinnaker, out of caution, and the fact that most of our spinnakers needed to be packed, and people rested. "Ya, suure", as Sven would say. We were almost to our port tack jibe line according to the current projections, and that meant the starboard rudder would be more than adequate for most of the remaining trip.
We reported our 8Am position at roll call, described our situation and said all was well. We were still doing 10-11 knots. The wind then built a little and we decided to reef the main to reduce lad on the helm. Just as we finished that procedure, Liz shouted that we had another steering problem. Seconds later the starboard rudder lower gudgeon broke loose completely & the rudder started swinging wildly back and forth. While others set to dousing the sails I focused on removing the rudder. Both rudders now safe and sound on board, out of harms way! No better way to preserve your rudders than to pull them on board.
Back to our adventures.... We had a drogue on board to help balance the boat in the event of losing a rudder; so that has now become our primary steering system. We have a jib to port and staysail up to starboard, wing and wing, steer by shifting angle of the port & starboard bridle lines. The good news is steering now is just a matter of rare adjustments, once every couple hours. Everything is much dryer at 3-4 knots than it is at 12-20. The boat is cleaned up and organized and people catching up on sleep. We had a wonderful dinner last night with all six of us below, laughing and joking, enjoying some half way party favors and a bag of wine. The bad news is it will take a long time to get to Hawaii at this speed. Depending on when you look at the GPS, projections are as good as 6+ days and as bad as "you don't want to know".
We may have some tricks left in our sack. Hope to speed things up. In the meantime Buzz and I are talking through repair plans once in Hawaii. Squall coming up. Time to check things out on deck.
Best to all on shore and at sea. Jim