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PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 5:50 pm 
Site Rank - Deck Hand

Joined: Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:09 pm
Posts: 7
Executive Summary – Rudder pin failure a mile offshore & downwind, 4+ miles from reasonable landing area. After initial uh-oh syndrome passed, tried a few things and ended up sailing home with paddle as a rudder, Polynesian style.

Long Version - I suspect I am far from the first to experience this, but in case you are as curious as I was about what you would do if offshore from a windward shore (lee side of the island) and had a rudder failure. I was sailing in a relatively light day about a mile offshore in ~15 knot winds, swell was 3’ with long period and 12”-18” chop. These are lighter-than-normal conditions for here, although I suspect the outcome could have been the same if the winds and seas were 25% greater. That said, I’m not sure I would have had the peace of mind to make the same choices, as the first few minutes were more than a little nerve-wracking immediately after the failure and I realized how quickly I was blowing farther away from shore. .

I was cruising along comfortably, taking the usual waves over the bow multiple times per minute, with one of those waves each minute filling the forward cockpit. I usually sail from the front cockpit, since I have no cargo, and at 200 pounds/91 kilos, the boat rides better with me upfront. In addition, sometimes a blow comes up quickly and access to the reefing line is handy. I was four to five miles south of home, just passing a fishing trawler I see regularly going the other way with lines out. A large billfish took a shot at his bait. It cleared the water with its whole body, but I didn’t see the typical reaction of hooked fish and the boat didn’t slow. So I steered toward the site, curious if I could see the big guy. I didn’t see the fish again, but about thirty seconds after I bore off, I felt a very faint bump on the boat. (It may have just been the pin failing, and the fish was just coincidence.) There was enough going on that I didn’t think much of the bump. At least not until I realized I no longer had steerage. The tiller was stiff, then mushy. I thought I had lost a rudder line, but upon looking astern, I could see the rudder hanging off to one side. Pretty obvious the pin had failed. (It is nine years old, the age when this old boat got the upgraded, more robust rudder after the initial tiny folding flip-up rudder.) I crawled back on the stern and secured the rudder on the deck with all the lines still connected, as I didn’t want to lose it. It would take a month and/or $$$ to get a new one here.

Possibilities flew through my mind as I continued to blow downwind. I fully reefed the sail to reduce windage and tried pedaling. In those seas, pedaling was an omni-directional mess. I tried paddling, which gave me a little more steerage, but was awkward between the akas. (I usually sail without trampolines.) I detached the mainsheet to get it out of the way overhead, but paddling was still not making much headway. I thought about moving to the stern seat, but I knew that was not a good boat balance. Even if I could get to shore, it would have sacrificed the boat as it was waves breaking on coral. I needed to get back home where there is a tiny break in the coral where I launch and land through. It’s over forty miles to the next island downwind, so that wasn’t an option. (it’s been done. Bad day to forget my compass!) I couldn’t think about activating my EPIRB; I would never live that down getting the coast guard out for a plastic kayak. Same for marine band, although that option was possible. My trawler friend was already too far out of sight to yell/wave for a tow.

Then I remembered all the pictures from childhood of Polynesians steering their sailing outriggers with a paddle off the stern. So I re-attached the mainsheet, un-reefed less than half the foot, so less than a third of the sail area, rested the paddle as best I could on the aka, and sheeted in. It took a while to get the hang of it, and it’s not as simple as sticking the paddle straight down and turning it. You have to pry your way to the direction you want, sometimes switching sides to get the leverage you want. If any of you have a tendency toward shoulder dislocation, it’s not a healthy position as it is very near a high brace position. As I got more confident, I put out a little more sail and off we went. When I got near the shore break, I fully reefed again, pulled the Mirage drive out, and rode in the smallest wave I could find with the paddle to steer and dragged it up the beach.

Today I replaced the pin and sailed comfortably all up and down the coast. Next week I plan to spend a little time with the rudder up when the wind blows harder to see if I can make it work in heavier conditions. (even though I sincerely hope it never happens again.) I now realize that a mast/sail failure would be much more challenging than a rudder failure, since a single pedaler in a TI heading upwind and against the seas will be a long slog. I suspect I would move to the back and alternate between paddling/steering and pedaling, probably heading for the nearest shore, then crawling along in shallow water just outside the break to get home, and hope it's before dark.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 8:38 pm 
Site Rank - Old Salt

Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2015 3:13 pm
Posts: 450
Great work getting back safely and thinking clearly and calmly in a tough situation.

A spare rudder pin is an absolute must on a TI. I also carry spare lines that I can attach to the rudder and control externally should an internal line fail.

Finally, and I know this is not an option for all, I can steer the TI with my Torqeedo motor.

Everyone needs a backup plan for rudder failures.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 10:27 pm 
Site Rank - Captain

Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:38 pm
Posts: 81
Location: Pennsylvania - Philly Area
Glad you made it back safe.

I too have experienced multiple rudder failures in sailing offshore single handed in my TI.

- Most have been from rudder pin fractures or partial fractures during surf launches in the Atlantic Ocean.

- A few failures from foreign object strikes in the water that fouled or broke the rudder pin.

- Tiller handle failures (handle snaps, bolt that holds the tiller handle snaps)

Multiple backups are a must.

I have used each of these:
- I carry several spare rudder pins in the back hatch and have done multiple rudder pin replacements while at sea
- Paddle as a backup
- Suzuki outboard - using direct steering with the outboard - in a big blow in frostbite sailing

Always keep offshore safety gear handy and tested
- Marine radio
- Cell phone (water proof case)
- Dry suit
- Signal gear
- Lights for night running
- Water / Food

Recommend all practice the above actions to be ready for rudder failures.

Hobie TI 2016 - Offshore rig - Outboard
Hobie Kona 2014
Hobie AI 2015 - sold
Hobie Rev 13 2014 - sold
Hobie Outback - 2008 - sold

PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2020 6:32 am 
Site Rank - Captain

Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:43 am
Posts: 126
Location: Chalfont Pa
use a thin line to tie a retaining line to the spare. It can be tough to put it in, and if you slip I doubt they float. A loop around your wrist could make a big difference.

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:15 pm 
Site Rank - Captain

Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:35 pm
Posts: 86
Location: Mt Kuring-Gai, NSW, Australia
I've had my TI for 8 years - dont sail as much as I'd like to - but when I do, I still love it.

I dont understand why in all these years, the "rudder PIN" is still a fail and throw away device.

When it fails, its due to a momentary failure.

If it fails, it leaves the boat unsteerable when in operation, with no convenient way of replacing it.

The component is crying out for some kind of "flick up" failure mechanism, which can be re-set by the user while on the water !

Hobie if you're listening....please consider this for next features !

PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:53 pm 
Site Rank - Captain

Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2020 7:00 am
Posts: 26
Great job figuring it out under stress. I had to do the same thing in a shipping lane in Fiji. Scared the crap out of me when the rudder failed. Just a couple suggestions.

1. Sailing from the back will be much dryer and easier to paddle when you need to.
2. I always carry spare rudder pins and ama pins.
3. Backup motor is a lifesaver in those situations. Because changing an rudder pin in big swells would not be easy.

Again, great job sailing your way through it!

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