When all else fails, try what the Captain suggested

My father was a career US Navy officer, and in the 1970s he was the captain of a nuclear submarine.   In his study at home he has a bronze plaque that was given to him when he turned over command of the sub to the next skipper.   It says “When all else fails, try what the captain suggested”.  Half in jest I am sure, as I think the crew of a US Navy ship kind of HAS TO do what the captain says.  But you get the idea.

I took a few photos of the offending rudder head and sent them off to Clint with a query as to whether he’s seen this before, and whether maybe the thickness he has spec’d or the strength of the wood it’s made with is sufficient.  The part is made of 3 layers of 6mm plywood that came pre-cut in the kit and I had to laminate as part of the building process.

Clint was prompt in his e-mail reply, saying he was up teaching at the WoodenBoat School in Maine and didn’t have access to the plans, but would talk to some folks there and see what they thought.   He also said that it looked like I had installed the pintles in the wrong location, which could be the cause of the break.

Sure enough, I pull out the plans that I theoretically had followed to build the boat, and they quite clearly show that I should have mounted the pintles near the bottom of the rudderhead, so that water pressure on the rudder blade would not lever the part and break it just below the pintle.  In short, I didn’t follow the captain’s suggestion.  It was one of the last steps in the building process, and I guess I got kind of complacent.  After all, having nearly finished my DIY garage boat I was clearly a master builder.

I have a really big oak board lying around from which I can fabricate a replica rudderhead.  It should be even stronger than the plywood original, and with the hardware mounted in accordance with the plans, I shouldn’t have to worry about any further casualties.  But I don’t want to lose a weekend of sailing, so I had better get cracking in the garage woodshop.

Author: Larchmont Jim

A 50-something investment banker from Larchmont, New York (about 15 miles from midtown Manhattan). Amateur small boat sailer, boatbuilder, kayaker, musician. I grew up spending summers sailing the New England coast on my grandfather’s beautiful 47’ 1952 Sparkman & Stevens wooden yawl. I’ve lived in Larchmont, a major and historic sailing center on Long Island Sound, for 25 years, but career and family obligations kept me off the water for all of my 30s and 40s, and only about 7 years ago did I get back on the water, first in sea kayaks, and then in small boats.

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