A Guide to Steering without a Rudder

April 26, 2015


By Mike Keyworth

This guide is the result of multiple tests conducted in the fall of 2013 off of Newport, RI. The test vessel was a modified MK I Swan 44, Chasseur. The purpose of the tests was to determine the best method and equipment to effectively steer the vessel to a safe port in the event of catastrophic rudder failure. The goal was to utilize the equipment normally taken on the vessel on offshore passages or races. The overriding premise was; utilization of an efficient and controllable object to create drag and transmit to directional stability which results in the desired directional stability. It was my view that a drogue might be used to exert the appropriate drag. I further felt that a small drogue might provide the needed drag but not significantly impede the speed of the vessel.

Chasseur has been modified in the following relevant ways; the rudder skeg was removed and replaced with a modern spade rudder which is carbon fiber with a Carbon fiber shaft, the keel has been modified to a modern shape fin with a shoe, the mast is carbon fiber and 6 feet taller than original.

For the purposes of the tests, the rudder was removed and the rudder port was blocked off. I was familiar with and had onboard Chasseur a “Galerider” made by Hathaway, Reiser & Raymond of Stamford, Connecticut. I contacted Wes Oliver at Hathaway and he arranged to make several prototype drogues for the tests. We were equipped with: a 12inch diameter drogue with a 3 part bridle, a 12inch diameter drogue with a 4 part bridle, an 18-inch diameter drogue with a 4 part bridle, a 30-inch drogue with a 4 part bridle and a 36-inch drogue with a 4 part bridle.

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