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How to Deal With Boat Steering Failure?

How to Deal With Boat Steering Failure?

Imagine this: you’re out in the open sea when suddenly your steering system starts failing. What do you do? Do you try to tame your yacht or come to a stop? And how can you fix the system so you can safely return to the harbor? In this article, we are going to teach you how to act in case of a steering failure.

Steering systems are fairly simple and rarely fail. That is why many boat owners take them for granted and don’t provide them with the maintenance they require. Two main reasons why steering systems fail are a lack of maintenance and damage sustained during an impact. If this happens, you will completely lose control of your vessel.

How Does the Steering System Fail?

The most common cause of failure is improper maintenance. This is why it’s recommended to have your ship checked at a reputable ship repair facility in San Diego before you set out. The cables that are the backbone of the system are durable and rarely break. However, they can become stretched after years of use and drop off a sheave. Additionally, if the system undergoes too much tension the turning block can detach from the bulkhead and release the cables from the quadrant in the process. 

What to do When the Steering System Fails?

Having your steering system fail can be a terrifying prospect, but there are still some measures you can take to get control of your ship long enough to reach the land. Here are some of the best solutions for the problem:

Engage the Autopilot

The autopilot is connected directly to the stock and doesn’t rely on the cables or the quadrant. If you have an autopilot on your yacht you can regain control in case of a bent rudder stock, loss of the rudder or seized bearings. 

Use the Emergency Tiller

If your boat does not have an autopilot, get the emergency tiller out. It takes only a few minutes to restore the control of the steering after you bolt the tiller on. It will make managing the boat easier due to the weight in the tiller. Make sure you practice fishing out and using the tiller before an actual emergency. As it can be your only way out of a difficult situation, make sure that it’s not corroded. It’s also worth noting that even though the tiller is durable, it can also break, split or bolt, so make sure you have a spare on board at any time.

Drop the Anchor

If you cannot rely on any of the methods above, the best course of action is to drop the anchor if the water is shallow enough. This will help keep you in place while help arrives. It will also give you enough time to try to find and fix the issue and regain control of your boat.

Tighten the Steering Cables

If you cannot employ either of the first two listed methods, perhaps you should check the steering cables. If they slipped due to a lack of tension, you might be able to tighten them using the emergency tiller and slip them back into place. 

Remove the Rudder

This might seem a bit drastic, but if the rudder is jammed you’ll never get control of your ship back. Not even autopilot or the emergency tiller can help you in this situation. On the other hand, there are different ways to steer the ship without the rudder. However, if it’s only partially jammed you may be able to regain some of the control using the drogue.

How to Prevent Steering Failure

To ensure this never happens at an unfortunate time, make a habit out of lubricating the sheaves and the entire cable with engine oil at least twice a season. If you come across broken strands replace the cable. If there aren’t many broken strands, you should keep the old one as a spare.

Also, make sure to check the cable tension. The cable should be tight enough, otherwise, the steering may feel sloppy and you risk the cables falling out of the sheaves if it is too tight or risk wearing the cables out faster if it’s not tight enough.

To make sure everything is working smoothly, have your boat checked at a trusted ship repair facility in San Diego like PCE. With over four decades of experience, PCE is the go-to San Diego ship repair company dealing with everything from diesel engine to steering system repair and maintenance.

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