The case of the missing rudder
28 June 2011 | Puorto Quetzal, Guatemala
You know, I was just happily sailing along the coast of Guatemala on a broad reach making 6 1/2 knots and the sun was just about to rise, when suddenly the boat appeared to be heading toward land and I couldn't correct my coarse. I turned the helm to port and nothing happened, I turned the helm starboard and still nothing happened. Hmmmn we seem to have a wee problem here I thought to myself. I checked the wheel connection and yes indeed, the wheel was turning the rudder post. Whew, I didn't really want to dig to the bottom of my lazerette to get my emergency tiller. In hind sight, I wish it would have been that simple.
Well, I guess I need to go for a swim, so I dropped my main, rolled in the Genny and put the swim ladder down. Sploosh, in went one of my crew. You didn;t think I was jumping in did you? He came back up and said the rudder was gone. I looked at him kind of funny and said "what"? He was telling the truth.
We made a makeshift rudder, it actually worked for awhile, at least while the seas were calm. Then the wind picked up to 30, then 35, then 40 and finally settled in at a pretty steady and constant 45 knots. Of coarse, you didn;t think that when something went wrong, the seas and wind would cooperate and make it easy did you?
We were close to a port, just beyond hailing distance with the VHF mind you, but we were fairly close and the current and wind was drifting us in the general direction. Ok, make a plan. We'll drift into about 35 feet of water and drop anchor. 3 hours later, we are close, but drifting further away from the port. Then a ship answered my call and relayed to the port. The Guatemalan Navy was coming to the rescue. Oh goody. They actually did more damage than good, but they did get us to port.
I arranged for a haul out, luckily they were able to do it, they don;t get many sailboats here, in fact I think I am the 3ed in the same amount of years.
Once I was hauled out, I didn't even have to enlist the skills of Sherlock Holmes, I was able to figure this one out on my own. After careful inspection, I deduced that there was indeed a problem with my steering, and it appeared that the problem was that someone, or something had made off with my rudder. I could be wrong, you look at the picture, but I'm pretty sure there is supposed to be a rudder attached to that rusty rudder post hanging down there.
So now I'm on the hard, in a port that has not much for sailboats and almost zero tourists. But I am moving forward and have designed a new rudder to build. Now I just have to build it, attach it and test it and hopefully be on my merry way once again.
I suppose I should mention that had the rudder not fallen off, I was sailing directly into the hurricane off the coast of Mexico. So perhaps it was a blessing in disguise to keep me and the boat safe.
Need to post, the time warning told me to hurry up...