Rudder Damage

The rudder did not break during the beaching, but actually during the recovery process. The rudder had dug itself into the sand, and when the boat turned during the salvage, the rudder wanted to stay put. 

The keel rotated around the rudder (instead of the rudder on the keel) and turned past the limits of the rudder. 

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The top and bottom of the rudder snaked into the keel and chipped off bottom paint as well as producing some damage on the rudder's skin. 

The first step in the repair process is to sand away the area to reveal any hidden damage or cracks. All cracks are then ground out. The core of the rudder is then inspected for water intrusion and moisture. 

Luckily, in our case, the rudder is filled with a foam that will not accept water, so there was no moisture in the body of the rudder. The bottom only suffered a compression, but no crack. 

The voids were filled in with fiberglass and epoxy with 406 thickening agent and allowed to cure. This was then covered with epoxy and 407 fairing compound, making it easier to sand the final fix into the airfoil shape of the rudder blade. 

Steering is critical, it means the difference between a yacht and a shelter! This was the repair needed for the external damage to the rudder, but we still have to deal with the internal damage that occurred: the rudder quadrant. 

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Haulout After Beaching

It is rather painful to hear that your home needs to be "salvaged" and I hope you never need to go through this. We beached on the coast of Florida and laid in the surf on our port side. The sand rubbed off all our bottom paint and the rudder quadrant broke while we were being pulled off the beach. 

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Being towed to the marina, I had many thoughts running through my head about what the bottom might look like and what damage might have been incurred. Thankfully, she is an overbuilt boat and survived this ordeal with only cosmetic damage to the hull!

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The keel looks like it has been sandblasted, and the turn of the bilge had scraped through the blue, black, and into the red layer of bottom paint. 

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The rudder also had a small crack in it from being over turned after the quadrant had broken. These issues will all be addressed shortly as we prepare to repair our home and continue voyaging in a much more responsible manner. 

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Surviving a Beaching

Getting beached is a horrible experience. At the moment you contact the shore, a million thoughts will run through your head. Cloudy minds can lead to poor judgements, and that can cost you your boat!

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When you run aground, hopefully on a soft sandy beach in calm weather, there are a few things you need to do to save your yacht.

First, you need to seal up any point that water can seep into your boat and cause it to sink. This means you need to close and dog down all your hatches and portholes. Dorade vents work well to let air in and keep water out when the boat is sitting at its usual angles, but when you beach, you might be heeled over so far that they fail to drain and will allow water to enter. You want to seal up any of these openings and replace them with their sealing plates. Solar fans are also a nice way for water to pour in and flood your yacht while you sit careened. 

Second, you need to protect the yacht from the surf. The pounding waves on the hull will not break your yacht, but the pounding of your hull on the shore will. Each wave that passes will lift your boat a bit as the wave comes in, and then drop you on your side as the wave goes out. If the waves are big enough, the force of the fall can cause your hull to crack and you will sink! 

So, you need to get out of the surf, and the best way to do this is to beach your boat as far up on the beach as you can! It might seem smart to drop your sails immediately, but don't! You want to use the wind that is blowing you ashore, along with the waves that are picking you up and carrying you onto the high sands.  

The storm is going to get your boat up on the beach, this is inevitable. The trick is to get your boat up there without breaking the hull! Keeping your sails up will beach you faster and minimize the number of hits you will need to take in getting there. 

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Once you are up on the beach, the waves that will reach you will not be strong enough to lift your hull and drop you again. Instead, these waves will simply crash onto your boat like if you were a boulder on the beach. At this point, you can stop worrying about the hull cracking and focus more on keeping water out of the boat. 

Water intrusion will still be a critical issue, even up on the beach. Spray and surf can fill your hull and cause you to sink on dry land. It is best to try and orient the boat in a manner that will save your yacht in this disaster. 

Third, if you have a fin keel or full keel, try to orient yourself so that your deck is facing the shore and your keel is facing the surf. Breaking waves will smack the underside of your boat which is well sealed and waterproof. The deck will be spared this bombardment of waves and all your portholes and hatches will only have to deal with attenuated spray. 

If you have a long keel, try to beach bow into the shore. The keel will raise the stern out of the water and breaking waves will pass under the stern. The rudder and keel will also help cut the waves as they pass under the boat. 

Deck orientation is very important, but there is one caveat: Length of stay. If you are going to be rescued promptly, you want to orient your deck to the surf no matter what. Seal everything up and pump out any water that comes in. If you are going to be there for a while, point your deck towards shore.

The reason is, when they pull you off the beach, they will pull your bow into the water. The keel will act as a break and you risk rising up and tipping over on your keel. This hard smash can crack your hull and destroy your yacht. So, if you are going to be rescued very soon, put your deck towards the water so that you are already in the orientation to pull you in and you won't need to tip over. 

First and foremost, avoid running onto the shore. If you do, then follow these steps to save your yacht. The quicker you act on these basic principles, the better the outcome will be. 

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Ocean Watch Keeping

In an older post, I mentioned a method for "sleep sailing" where you sleep for about 20-30 minutes, and then look around. You make sure everything is ok and that there are no boats on the horizon and then go back to sleep for another 20-30 minutes.

That is a bad idea and I no longer recommend it! 

Keeping watch is just that, someone sitting at the helm watching. They are not sleeping, they are not napping, they are watching! 

We were sailing along the Straits of Florida when I was doing my "sleep sailing" and the result was catastrophic! Due to the proximity of the west wall of the Gulf Stream, we were very close to shore (0.8 nautical miles) and all had been fine. We had left Fort Pierce about two days ago and we were sailing to Miami. The route was straight and the winds were constant; the Monitor Windvane had been steering us on our course like a champion and I had not needed to make a single adjustment since 5pm. 

At starting at 8pm, I started my "sleep sailing" since getting up every 20-30 minutes doesn't produce a very restful nights sleep, I feel that I need to do it for a longer time to stay mentally rested. So I began at 8pm and was waking up 2 to 3 times per hour. Around 10pm, it was getting a little bit cold out in the cockpit, so I had setup my sea berth with the lee cloth inside. I continued to check on the helm every 20 to 30 minutes, just as I was when I was in the cockpit.

At around 11pm, we felt a lunge and a gradual slowing of the boat. Mind you we were only sailing along at 2-3 knots, so we weren't really moving quickly. Panic rushed through my mind as I thought about the damage I might have caused someone else. I quickly began to wonder how we came to collide since I hadn't seen any navigation lights on the horizon the entire night! 

When I crawled out of the companion way, I heard waves breaking and saw that we were on a beach. 

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Looking back at our tracking, it appears that right after I did my last look around, one of the control lines to the windvane fell off the wheel. We quickly turned 90 degrees to starboard, without jibing, and sailed straight for shore. In a few minutes, we were on the beach and the waves were driving us up the sand. 

Thankfully, this beach was only soft sand with no rocks or corals, and we were able to be towed off by SeaTow in a few hours. 

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This horrible experience could have been avoided in so many ways. Hindsight reveals all the ways I could have prevented this catastrophe, but the simplest method of all is to stand watch! 

When you are sailing, if you get tired you should stop. Do not sail while you are sleeping, and do not take naps at the helm. If you are near shore, enter an inlet and anchor in a safe harbor, or anchor near shore if it is calm enough. If you are far offshore, heave to and stop the boat.  

This was a really tough lesson to learn and we certainly learned it the hard way! Please learn from my mistake and never have this happen to you!

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Blue Water

Coming from the Chesapeake, where the water is always a nasty shade of green, seeing the ocean water is always impacting. 

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The water is just so blue! The deeper you go, the darker the blue gets. This picture was taken in water that was about 60 feet deep. When you get near the shore, the water has a bit of turquoise to it, and farther offshore, it turns into a deep royal blue. 

There really is something magical about the ocean and how vast it is! 

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