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Lake Constance and The Rudder

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In the Main Forum, I posted a thread about Mucklas new rudder and I promised to tell you how and why it  became necessary to make a new one. Here's the strory.

Every year in the autumn, I get a week off for  single handed cruising , normally on Lake Constance.

Lake Constance is'nt just the only body of water big enough for cruising in the region where I live, it is also very beautiful with picturesque and neatly kept up towns and villages all around and rolling hills covered in forests, fields and vineyards. To the south-east, there is the majestic backdrop of The Alpes. The lake is 63 km long and 14 km wide;  there are ports and marinas aplenty .

People of former days liked the region too so everything oozes history - from remains of stone age settlements (and a splendid open air museum of replicas) through findings of the Romans, medeival- als well as baroque castles and churches to more modern developments such as the Zeppelin-Museum and  aircraft industry.

Lake Constance is an international body of water with parts of the shoreline belonging to Swizzerland, to Austria and to Germany  respectively. It is also the souce of drinking water for several millions of people. 




All this surely makes it understanable that there are strict rules for boating (and everything else) even though not each and every of these make sense to everybody. 

Last year I had to re-certify Muckla. She was examined, particularly the emergency-equipment and found good. It was a sunny day with a light breeze. After I had got my certificate and sticker, I cast off and headed SE for Wasserburg under a light westerly breeze. Slowly the wind picked up and I enjoyed a quick deep reach. As there were some heavy clouds, I donned my foul weather gear including PFD and sailed on, now and then in full planing mode. 

Due to that course, it took me some time to realize how strong the wind meanwhile was. After a jibe, a strong gust hit me and made her luff up and heel over a lot. With my dinghy sailer-reflexes, I dumped both sheets and rolled in the jib (well, almost, there remained a small proportion open, enough to make tremendous noise). Then, under mainsail alone, I wanted to round her up into the wind to douse or at least reef the main. But she refused. I tried many times but she always came from a run only to a beam reach but I did'nt bring her into the wind. With the mainsail flogging, she still heeled so much that I did'nd dare to leave my position on the side deck for fear of capsizing.

I tried to start the electric motor but its cable had wriggled loose and so it did'nt work. To get it running, I would have to open an inspection port in the cockpit and use both hands which seemed too dangerous in the given situation.

So I had the choice of either running into port at planing speed, hoping to find calmer water and less wind and thus better maneuverability and at the same time fearing to hit something hard and expensive like a boat on a mooring - or otherwise drift sideways onto the shore. 

Then there was a crack and the rudder was broken. This left me (so I felt) without any choice. I was really scared. I had to actively convince myself that my life was not at risk but only my beloved boat.  And all the emergency equippment that I have to carry along was absolutely useless.

Now, even beeing scared, I am not the type to just do nothing. Since there was no rudder left to work with, I stood on the side deck, hooked my left arm around the windward shroud and, in between the gutst, reached with my right hand for the mainsail's tack and pulled for a few seconds. So very slowly, I got the mainsail down. Of course this did'nt prevent it from playing mischief - but it was mischief with little leverage and manageble. Now I could fix the motor and drive into port. 

When  I had finally tied her up and fastened the sails, disaster made another attempt: I lost my mobile phone. I thougt, I couldnt even tell my wife - but then I found it lying on the jetty.

Only then it occured to me, that I might have got her into the wind if I had dared to sheet in the main a little to give her enough drive against the chop to roud up. Who knows - maybe the old rudder would still be there by now.

I went to a restaurant for dinner (as I always do on my cruises) and phoned my wife. 

The night was not quiet. Neither was the water nor the boat, let alone my soul. I thougt of motoring back (would there be enough power in the battery ?) or of several ways of repairing the rudder.

The following mornig was calm and sunny and my mood had improved a lot. Of course, I would repair and proceed my jouney.

As everyone knows, on an old wooden boat there must be a well filled tool box. But as everyone also knows, there isnt much space for tools on an old wooden and small boat. My solution is carrying smallish tools, partyl childrens tools (some of them are really from my childhood days). One is a egg-beater-style hand drill.

With this, I drilled a new pivot hole in the broken rudder blade, having removed the small upper part, fixed the position with a bolt to prevent it from swinging up and a webbing strap to prevent it from swinging forward. And I was ready to go. 

Apart from the rudder, the jib was damaged too, so I changed to the genoa.

Muckla behaved almost as normal with the smaller rudder and I went on cruising for the rest of the week.




The repaired boat in Wasserburg-harbour




The front before it reached me. Strangely, the gale-warning lights did not flash.







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