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PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 5:50 pm 
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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.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 8:38 pm 
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Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2015 3:13 pm
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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.


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PostPosted: Sat Feb 22, 2020 10:27 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 24, 2015 6:38 pm
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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. https://youtu.be/hEr6BgZpA1A

- 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 https://youtu.be/-is1VSY5HQs

Always keep offshore safety gear handy and tested
- Marine radio
- EPIRB
- 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.

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


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PostPosted: Mon Feb 24, 2020 6:32 am 
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Joined: Thu Aug 21, 2014 6:43 am
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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.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:15 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 11, 2011 9:35 pm
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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 !


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 16, 2020 9:53 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jan 05, 2020 7:00 am
Posts: 28
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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PostPosted: Mon Feb 08, 2021 5:06 pm 
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Joined: Sun Aug 01, 2010 5:03 pm
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Location: Va Beach, Virginia
oceanmoves wrote:
...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 !


That's a brilliant idea. Can't imagine how it would be designed.
Outboard motors replaced shear pins with slip clutch. There must be a way.
How have other boats with rudders solved the problem. More support in the stern?


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2021 3:10 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 27, 2003 12:44 pm
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Location: Oceanside, California
Quote:
I don't understand why in all these years, the "rudder PIN" is still a fail and throw away device.


It is the fail-safe / Fuse in the system. You don't want to fail the transom or the housing itself. You can steer with a paddle or replace a pin.

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Director of Parts and Accessory Sales
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Hobie Cat USA


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PostPosted: Wed Feb 10, 2021 4:45 pm 
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Joined: Sun May 05, 2019 4:37 pm
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Location: Kallangur, Queensland, Australia
mmiller wrote:
Quote:
I don't understand why in all these years, the "rudder PIN" is still a fail and throw away device.


It is the fail-safe / Fuse in the system. You don't want to fail the transom or the housing itself. You can steer with a paddle or replace a pin.


This has always seemed to make sense to me, sama as the aka pins.

In the event of a collision or other excessive force, SOMETHING is going to break. Design a system where something is deliberately the weakest (not by a huge margin), then make that part easily repairable and affordable.

Other than massively over-engineering everything, I reckon this is the best way to do things. Over-engineering would result in everything being larger, heavier and more expensive - then people would complain that the boats are too heavy and expensive.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 6:54 am 
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mmiller wrote:
Quote:
I don't understand why in all these years, the "rudder PIN" is still a fail and throw away device.


It is the fail-safe / Fuse in the system. You don't want to fail the transom or the housing itself. You can steer with a paddle or replace a pin.

There has got to be a better way to do this. Maybe use metal components in the rudder and transom construction rather than plastic? This is a $7,500 boat, not a cheap plastic kayak where you would expect all plastic, lightweight components.

I love my Hobie TI but these ultra low-tech "fail-safe" mechanisms can immediately put the occupants in peril. If the rudder pin breaks during a critical time or while in a storm or heavy seas, or the plastic aka shear pins break during high winds, you can quickly find yourself hopelessly off-course, overboard, or in other dire peril.

These so-called "fail-safe" mechanisms are anything but fail-safe. In fact, when activated, they virtually assure the failure of the boat's most critical operations, often during the most inopportune and demanding times such as in high winds or in bad weather. They exist primarily to protect the boat's components, not the occupants, which is backward. The boat's components should protect the occupants.

For example, many of us, including myself, have replaced the plastic aka shear pins with stainless bolts. We'd rather sacrifice the boat's components, which are easily replaced, than risk our lives or the lives of our passengers from being thrust overboard in the event of an overturn after the plastic pin shears, often resulting in an immediate aka collapse and destabilization of the boat in high winds and/or bad weather. Would someone design a so-called "fail-safe" mechanism on an airplane where the wing folds back if stressed in an effort to prevent damage to the wing while then resulting in crashing the airplane? Of course not, and this is not much better. I'd rather take my chances with the overstressed wing.

Hobie's engineers need to do better here. For example, they could easily install gas shocks (the kind used on car hoods) to absorb the shock of an ama collision. It would then automatically return back to its normal position after a collision. This is farbetter than the shear pin breaking, the aka collapsing, and the occupants ending up in the water after the boat overturns, a potentially life-threatening situation, especially in a storm. This has happened to numerous TI owners, yet the design remains as it is with no apparent effort to improve it. Such safety improvements are left up to the owners who need to rig up their own modifications to mitigate the obvious safety flaws of the TI. Almost all of us feel the need to do this. When owners need to rig-up their own modifications to a new boat to ensure its safety, that's a clear failure on the part of the boat manufacturer.

Virtually all boat manufacturers improve their designs as the years progress, especially when it comes to safety, yet the TI design has remained mostly stagnant now for over 10 years with only a few improvements when it comes to safety. The safety flaws of these boats could be much improved with some relatively simple engineering upgrades from Hobie. There is simply no viable excuse for not doing so.


Last edited by pro10is on Fri Feb 12, 2021 7:36 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 7:05 am 
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forsythem wrote:
mmiller wrote:
Quote:
I don't understand why in all these years, the "rudder PIN" is still a fail and throw away device.


It is the fail-safe / Fuse in the system. You don't want to fail the transom or the housing itself. You can steer with a paddle or replace a pin.


This has always seemed to make sense to me, sama as the aka pins.

In the event of a collision or other excessive force, SOMETHING is going to break. Design a system where something is deliberately the weakest (not by a huge margin), then make that part easily repairable and affordable.

Other than massively over-engineering everything, I reckon this is the best way to do things. Over-engineering would result in everything being larger, heavier and more expensive - then people would complain that the boats are too heavy and expensive.

You reckon wrong. The safety of the occupants is first and foremost in any boat's design. "Fail-safe" means you keep the occupants safe, not primarily the boat's unnecessarily fragile components.

With proper modern engineering all of the TI's safety flaws can be fixed without compromising weight or affordability. This is done all of the time. If you were buying a car, motorcycle, airplane, or even a bicycle, would you accept such fragile components and poor safety mechanisms to protect them? Boats can be just as dangerous, there is no excuse for such safety flaws. The TI is a $7,500 boat, not some cheap plastic kayak. Safety should be properly engineered and integrated into its design at this price. Even if you were buying a $1,000 bicycle, would you accept the fact that there was a shear mechanism in the steering to prevent damage to the bike if it hit a rut, resulting in you losing the steering, or would you prefer that the components be well-engineered and strong enough to endure any such relatively normal occurrences it may encounter during its operation?

Owners should not feel the need to rig up their own safety modifications to mitigate the TI's safety flaws as they routinely do with the TI. If TI owners can find solutions to these problems without compromising weight or affordability, such as in the case of rigging safety lines to mitigate the aka shear pin issue, then so can Hobie.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 11:29 am 
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Joined: Tue May 19, 2020 2:01 pm
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Location: SW Florida
where do i get spare aka pins.
i suddenly find myself in need of a bunch of them
i was blissfully unaware until recently how easily the shear pins shear


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 12:33 pm 
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Location: Oceanside, California
Quote:
"Fail-safe" means you keep the occupants safe


Exactly! Allowing an easily replaced part to fail to avoid damage that could compromise the hull... keeps sailors safe. You can replace a pin and you can use a paddle to steer, but you can't help yourself if the hull were to fail.

_________________
Matt Miller
Director of Parts and Accessory Sales
Warranty and Technical Support
Hobie Cat USA


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 4:32 pm 
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mmiller wrote:
Quote:
"Fail-safe" means you keep the occupants safe


Exactly! Allowing an easily replaced part to fail to avoid damage that could compromise the hull... keeps sailors safe. You can replace a pin and you can use a paddle to steer, but you can't help yourself if the hull were to fail.

The possibility of losing the steering at any time or the aka suddenly and unexpectedly collapsing resulting in the boat immediately overturning during rough seas is certainly not helping to keep sailors safe. Rather, the shear pins of the rudder and aka are protecting the too fragile for the purpose mechanisms from damage.

I don't see the rudder shear pin protecting the hull at all. The TI's hull is flexible and strong at the transom, if there was an impact in that area, the hull could easily take it and the boat would simply move about in the water. I've impacted the hull on my TI in the transom area many times with a much harder force than what breaks the rudder pin, and it didn't even leave a mark. The hull is incredibly flexible and strong, that component was very well designed. It doesn't even make any sense to say that the rudder's shear pin is protecting the hull, there's no such mechanism or need to protect the TI hull from such impacts anywhere else. The rather fragile plastic rudder would always break before the very strong hull anyway, even if it had no shear pin.

Rather, the rudder shear pin is simply protecting the fragile plastic rudder components, which, as everyone who owns a TI knows, cannot take such an impact. This does make sense since it's far better to replace the shear pin rather than the whole rudder assembly on the water. However, if these rudder components were instead made of a marine-grade metal or perhaps carbon-fiber, they could withstand 10X or more times the impact of the plastic components before failing. You could still include a shear pin, but the pin could be multitudes stronger and far less likely to fail than the thin plastic pin protecting the rather fragile plastic components of the rudder.

The same is true with the aka shear pins. The TI's hull is so strong that you can easily lift the entire boat where the aka's attach. It can easily take a significant impact there. What the aka shear pin is protecting is not the hull or the occupants, but rather the aka extension mechanism itself which is fragile enough that it could bend on impact. This could be resolved with stronger components and/or a spring mechanism or a nitrogen gas shock absorber that would absorb the shock of an impact thus protecting the aka and then immediately spring back to safely protect the occupants from the boat overturning, as can now easily occur when the plastic shear pin breaks and the ama is rendered useless.

I don't know why Hobie doesn't get this. No one would ever design a car's steering system to break on a relatively minor impact just to protect the steering system components but then render the car unsteerable and dangerous to the occupants. Would you buy a car that did or think it was an adequate design? Rather it's always designed with enough shock absorption and adequately strong enough components to absolutely ensure, as best as possible, that the steering does not fail in relatively normal circumstances.

There's no question Hobie can do better here. Two of the absolute worst things that can happen to any boater is to suddenly lose steering or to overturn, especially in rough water, yet this is what can and has happened when these "fail-safes" activate. Again, most TI owners know this and it's why almost all of us have had to implement our own modifications to mitigate the TI's well-known safety issues such as with the aka safety line mod that most of us implement in one form or another. This is nothing new, it's been a huge topic of discussion on this forum for over a decade, yet Hobie has never addressed or corrected it. To Hobie's credit, they did correct the issue with the akas coming loose and falling out, but why stop there? No boat owner should ever have to routinely modify a boat to mitigate a manufacturer's inadequate safety designs. That is simply unacceptable.


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PostPosted: Fri Feb 12, 2021 4:56 pm 
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winfield100 wrote:
where do i get spare aka pins.
i suddenly find myself in need of a bunch of them
i was blissfully unaware until recently how easily the shear pins shear

You can get as many spare aka shear bolts as you need from your Hobie dealer or online. But having spare shear bolts won't stop your TI from instantly overturning and dumping you in the water, possibly in inclement weather, when one breaks. What you really need to do is to implement the aka safety lines mod which most of us do. Look it up in this forum and you'll find a great deal of discussion and detailed information on the many methods to do this.


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