Q&A – #88

Capt. Woody,
One of my concerns about going offshore is steering loss, particularly through the loss of, or severe damage to the rudder. Given a boat that has a fin keel and no skeg, the potential for problems is probably greater than with certain other designs. I believe that rudder failures are in the 3% range in the ARC. I work on the basis that if it is going to happen to anyone, it’s going to happen to me and 3 out of 100 in my world is really high.

There are vane gear manufacturers that incorporate emergency steering options. Are there any that offer not only good self steering but truly solid, meaningful emergency systems or would you suggest a completely separate emergency steering set up?

Any insights would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks Jim

The rest of the boat being well built, I suspect you would be fine with a stand alone spade rudder for most coastal cruising and even for nice downwind crossings. People circumnavigate with spades but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Even my relatively light displacement Cal 33 has a full skeg protecting the rudder. I suspect my rudder could operate without it but the skeg gives extra protection and cuts back on wear and tear on the rudder shaft bearing and sleeve. Going with an unsupported rudder is another cruising tradeoff, this time speed for safety.

There are products that offer both self-steering gear that can operate as an emergency rudder system as well as stand alone emergency rudder systems. My Low Key has the Aries self-steering. I’m told that if I were to lose the rudder I could lock its mini-rudder in place and steer the boat with the vane section. I suspect that the rudder would not be big enough to keep us stable in heavier weather. In that circumstance I would deploy a drogue and hope that the combo would keep us from broaching. Once conditions mellow I’m sure the little Aries rudder, with properly balanced sails, could get us to the nearest island.

If my boat had a spade I would be satisfied with a self-steering system that had a true emergency rudder option if it were backed up by a series drogue and a storm (tiny, strong) headsail. Hydrovane offers a self-steering system with emergency rudder capabilities (and offers a discount to Lats and Atts Cruising Club members). Tania Aebi loved her Monitor which is a similar design to the Aries. It was always an adventure getting the rudder in and out of the water with the Aries. The new Monitors have a flip up design which would alleviate that scenario. Monitor also offers a larger rudder that could be swapped out at sea to provide emergency steering – sounds good. Cape Horn and Auto-Helm also offer self-steering with emergency rudder options. An interesting stand alone emergency rudder set up is the SOS Rudder. You can find all of these products online: http://www.selfsteer.com/, http://www.hydrovane.com/, http://www.selfsteer.dk/, http://www.capehorn.com/.

Regarding the “it will happen to me” mindset. I don’t believe in bad luck. I believe that some people get in the habit of bad planning (choices). Keep an eye on your gear. Cruising is not a ‘hope for the best’ pastime. You get good gear, you install it properly and you watch it, check it, inspect it and keep it going. You’ve given up your job, house, cars, most bills and family requirements; you’re going to want something to fill the void. Replace some of that spare time with ‘the game’. You and yours now have one primary mission – to keep your floating world at peace. Stuff on a boat is constantly working its way loose, wearing down. It’s fun. Learn about your boat. Be able to get to every locker and bilge space. Can’t see behind some piece of gear? Get a mirror. One last tip: if you do allow something break, fix it asap (fluff items – nonessential for boat operation, excluded). The sea has a tendency to take advantage of those with the ‘manana’ mindset.

Captain Woody,
We have recently modified our fridge compartment to allow the installation of a C-keg so that we can enjoy, as you do, a coldie while underway. We have our first batch of the golden nectar in the carboy and soon look forward to completing the cycle and putting it in the keg. During the process we have noticed several items that may (or may not) be issues concerning making beer while underway. So we figured you were an excellent source of knowledge and submit the following questions for your review:

1. After cooking the malts, etc. do you worry about getting the remaining water near freezing so that you can pitch the yeast immediately, or do you just use the water you have at the temperature it is and wait for the wort to cool below 80 degrees before adding the yeast?
2. Do you do anything special to keep the temperature of the wort down below 85 degrees during fermentation? Most recipes suggest 75 as an ideal temperature but that seems impossible in the tropics.
3. Do you have any issues with the movement of the boat causing mixing of the sediments during fermentation?
4. Do you run CO2 or use a hand pump for the keg?
5. Any problems finding CO2, hops, brewers yeast, and malts in other countries?

We really look forward to making this happen, beer can be expensive in other countries, so we hope this provides us an economical and refreshing way to enjoy our coldies after a hard days sail. Not only that but I am sure there are other cruisers out there that with a little help and encouragement can modify their fridge compartments (if necessary) to make this happen. In fact it could be a movement, not unlike the Alice’s Restaurant Anti Massacre Movement, maybe the Cruisers Brew Making Movement. You could be our leader, got a tune to go along with it?

Graham Coffee
S/V Hot Latte Tudes

What a splendid idea. Like the monks of old we’ll integrate Cruisers Brew Making into our Church of the Sea ideology.

Sounds like you know more about brewing than I. Understand that my system was a simplified version of a complicated process that I observed while adventuring around Australia. In Australia beer is expensive and a can of pre-made wort (www.coopers.com.au) cost about $12 and was available from every corner store. Each can made 6 gallons of beer. With the pre-made wort, I would boil water and pour it in, adding the yeast, as I recall, as the temperature dropped. Sometimes the sea temp would get above the desired 74 degrees but on the fo’c’sle floor of Low Key the temp was always in the prime range. This is what brought me to the realization that God likes beer. I asked the Aussies about the sloshing/mixing issue and they were under the impression that it helped. Mine always turned out perfect. You can filter the sediments if you like.

I didn’t use CO2 though I saw a rig with that set up. It looked like a good way to go. Again, keeping it simple, my brewing container had a tap at the bottom and, for secondary fermentation, I would decant into plastic liter soda bottles. It worked really well for me. I could chill just what I needed and, of course, there was a space savings.

I didn’t have to track down all the ingredients. The only thing I had to carry was sugar and the cans of wort which had their own little packets of yeast. I would imagine that you can find CO2 anywhere, just about every place a cruiser is likely to go has pressure bar taps.

“Just a half a mile from the railroad track …” working on the tune.


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