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Thread: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

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    Default Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    I have a Chamberlain Gunning Dory that I've been sailing with a steering oar. I'm trying to decide if it is worth while installing a rudder.

    The oar is convenient, effective, and it is a big help in coming about. My concern with the rudder is that it may be more trouble than it is worth to set up every time I go out, and that I may have trouble steering through the wind.
    Last edited by jon_m_campbell; 05-14-2011 at 06:29 PM.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    On my Chamberlain Gunning Dory "Leeward" I had the small rudder as shown but with a wheel atop the rudder stock and a continuous steering line around the boat, with cam cleats so I could fix it. Very handy with the board down for rowing across the wind. Also finastkind for sailing.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Ian,

    It has occurred to me that a rudder, rigged with the steering lines that you mentioned, might reduce the weather cocking while I'm rowing. Did you ever have trouble getting caught in irons when coming about?

    Also, when you dropped the rudder port through the bottom of the boat, did you offset it to miss the stem, as Gardner shows? I've been toying with the idea of adding local support to the stem and then passing the port through the strengthened area. The attraction of that method is that I wouldn't have to worry about fitting that block with a perfect seal all the way around. Plus, it seems cleaner to have the rudder on center.
    Last edited by jon_m_campbell; 05-15-2011 at 12:02 AM.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    This might be of interest, along the lines of what Ian was saying. I came across it while looking for ideas for a canoe rudder.
    He uses it for row-sailing on a St Lawrence river skiff.

    http://www.duckworksmagazine.com/08/...lasp/index.htm
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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    I off-set.

    Absolutely the rudder and centerboard make a huge difference in rowing in tricky winds. With the board down I could row the mile or so out to Granuaile even in the teeth of a Gale (Force 8, winds over 35 knots) because instead of rowing straight up I could be off the wind by about 20 degrees, tacking up, and board and rudder reduced leeway to an acceptable level. Even a few degrees off the wind makes the difference between making easy weigh and not getting anywhere against the wind, and the angle effectivly lengthens and thus gentles the steep chop such a wind can throw in the harbor.

    Off the wind, the rudder frozen to the correct angle made for more consistent rowing. Still have to work hard with the uphill oar and maybe drag the downhill oar a little surfing down a wave face but at least you get to use both arms symetrically most of the time.

    It is a small rudder and the Chamberlain model is not first and foremost a sail boat so, yes, she'll fall in irons so easily that you can call it a propensity to heave-to. The static weight, rudder only, solutions are:

    Tack on the smooth or atop a wave when the bow is light and make the tack hard; or

    Learn to sail backwards so you can sail in reverse out of the tack - this is trescool for close maneuver like docking or coming to another boat so well worth learning; or

    Especially in light air when one is "ash-power sailing" anyway (amazing how fast and easily she'll go to weather in light air if you row and sail) just row her around.

    I never made a jib for Leeward. One might be tempted to backwind the jib to force her around. I am not in the slightest bit fond of that method as it stops the boat, so you're back to sailing backwards anyway, and keeping the jib tight as you head up, before it backs, holds the turn back to such a slow turn that you're likely to only get far enough to luff the jib, but not to get it aback. Such a small rudder. Most of the time worth it but at times one wishes for more.

    By the way, your dynamic trim makes the biggest difference. You can almost tack St Lawrence skiff style by hauling in the sail and running (more lurching) into the bow and then back as she passes the eye of the wind. And for running, you'll want to hang two (cheeks that is) back practically atop the rudder post to get her to bear off. Sail and crew trim count for almost as much as the rudder. Master these and the small rudder will become as it was meant to be, a nice convenience and not a big dynamic drag.

    G'luck

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    I carry a steering oar as a back-up to the rudder on my outrigger sailing canoe. It is not so painful because its primary job is to be lashed across the crossbeams to lay my side seat (hiking seat) across -- otherwise the extra clutter would be irksome. It might also do triple-duty as a sculling oar but it is not optimized for that (and I carry a spare canoe paddle anyway).

    I used it once during the Everglades Challenge when I actually did lose the rudder blade. I steered the boat by playing main and mizzen, and had it ready if needed in the blow. Trouble was, it is hard to fling a 9 foot long oar to the other side of the boat when needed there, when you have a mizzen mast and crossbeams in the way -- a monhull boat would not have this problem. But during a beach landing across the waves, the oar was instrumental to good control, so it paid off.

    I made mine simply by cutting an old dinghy oar (6 feet long, a raft oar most likely) and epoxying the handle and blade into opposite ends of a fiberglas windsurfer spar -- the result was strong and light. In hindsight I now know that a steering oar ought to have a much longer and somewhat wider blade, so I will modify when I get around to it. Whaleboats used them for just the purpose you originally posited -- kicking stern around quickly. I also got a chance to row in a whaleboat at Mystic, and saw the museum staff guy use his steering oar to scull the boat out through some harbor clutter -- I was sold on the concept after that. By the bye, the long oar can do another duty if pushed -- emergency mast. Mine could set my mizzen lug sail if needed, but if I dismasted my aluminum spars I may have other worse problems :-) --FWIW -- Wade

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    He uses it for row-sailing on a St Lawrence river skiff.
    I've never heard of row-sailing, but now I'm going to try it. That looks great. Ian mentioned that too. I'll have to get the sheet up to the gunwales - it's fixed to the cb trunk now.

    I like that rudder arrangement too. That's kind of what I envisioned. I hadn't quite seen the possibilities of the steering line - being able to fix the rudder position to easily. I'm tinkering with a line in a little rubens nymph pram now - it's certainly nice to be able to steer from anywhere. It makes for much better trim, however many people are in the boat.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Quote Originally Posted by Ian McColgin View Post
    I off-set.
    How did you manage to get that block at the bottom of the rudder post to fit the shape of the planking? I've been thinking about that for about 2 years now and I can't figure it out. There's probably a fool-proof way that's been around as long as boats, but I can't see it.

    the rudder and centerboard make a huge difference in rowing in tricky winds.
    I went out for a nice row yesterday morning, but I still had trouble keeping her straight. I played with the depth of the cb, trying to move the center of resistance, but it didn't help. And it was worse with it all the way up. What you say makes good sense. I think I'll go ahead with that. I'm kind of excited by it now.

    And good tips on the coming about. it helps to know that that's partly due to the nature of the boat, and not solely my incompetence.

    How long were your oars? I made 9 footers that work pretty well. Then I bought a pair of 8 footers for a second rower but they provide almost no pull at all.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Quote Originally Posted by wtarzia View Post
    it is hard to fling a 9 foot long oar to the other side of the boat when needed there.
    I don't have mizzen complicating things but it's still a nuisance. I ended up using both oars, on on each side, and just pulling inboard the one i wasn't using. It adds extra clutter, but by myself, or with my 3 year old in the boat with me, it wasn't that big a problem, and it made the tacks neater and faster.

    Whaleboats used them for just the purpose you originally posited -- kicking stern around quickly.
    I have a hunch that I would still use it on occasion for that very purpose. I'll have to look for a place that i can store it to have easy access but that still keeps it out of the way.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    You might want to ping Bob Smalser on this Forum, and check out his articles and photos of the work he did on his Chamberlain Gunning Dory -http://www.woodcentral.com/articles/smalser/articles_614.shtml



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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    This might sound taboo, but would a quarter rudder work for you? Like a Viking ship rudder or an Indonesian double-outrigger rudder/oar. It is surface-piercing thus less efficient, but it has some pros too. I used one for three seasons on my outrigger. Each season I improved it more to allow it to kick-up on beach, ramp and rock but at the same time provide precise steering. I was not done developing it when I shifted to a stern rudder to improve tacking a little, but sometimes I miss it. -- Wade

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Quote Originally Posted by Thorne View Post
    You might want to ping Bob Smalser on this Forum,
    I've spent a fair amount of time looking at his boat - beautiful. I admire the way everything has its place - that's my model.

    A question - is it really necessary to have pulleys on the yoke? Is that because your hands get sore after hours of sailing? Or is it helpful to have the finer adjustments? I was thinking of just having a single line come off the yoke.

    Another question - more embarrassing. How do you upload pictures here? I tried from a web page and directly from my computer. Neither of these worked.
    Last edited by jon_m_campbell; 05-16-2011 at 10:39 PM.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Quote Originally Posted by wtarzia View Post
    would a quarter rudder work for you?
    Right now I'm open to all options. What are the advantages of that? I guess you could still attach a yoke and steering lines. And it would allow me to avoid drilling holes in the bottom of the boat.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Quote Originally Posted by jon_m_campbell View Post
    Right now I'm open to all options. What are the advantages of that? I guess you could still attach a yoke and steering lines. And it would allow me to avoid drilling holes in the bottom of the boat.
    --- Yes, you can avoid bottom holes, though you need an attachment a bit down on the hull and one at the gunwale if you use a Norse style steering oar (quarter rudder). But this need not be a through-hull fitting. On the other hand, the Indonesians used a framework to provide the bearing surfaces, but this may not suit our sensibilities. If you go to http://www.instructables.com/id/Buil...-Sailing-Gear/ involving the quarter rudder step of my build-essay, you will see one way I did it -- or go to Youtube, search for my videos under 'wadetarzia' and click on the "returning to New Haven" video, and you will see some brief filming of it. I used two posts coming out from the side of the hull to support pintles/gudgeons on a cheek piece, with the rudder hinged off that.

    An earlier version was simpler: a wooden bearing screwed to hull near waterline, and one at the gunwale, with rudder blade backed by a half-round dowell that fit into the bearings and held in by lashing on gunwale and bungee at waterline (for shock protection if I hit a rock). The lower bungee could be released when I knew I was about to beach. I varied this over a period of experimentation -- nylon line pulling in on the lower bearing and attached to a cam-cleat to release when beaching, etc. I'm not explaining this well ....

    Hey, I just remembered, Kevin O'Neil's "wikiproa" page has a link about rudders, and I discuss mine, with photos, right there. (I have posted so many places I am forgetting some of them... :-)
    http://wikiproa.pbworks.com/w/page/2...Rudder-systems

    The more I look at the Viking quarter rudder, the more I like that set-up, though. There is room to experiment and develop a quarter rudder, anyway. -- Wade
    Last edited by wtarzia; 05-16-2011 at 11:11 PM.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    The rudder as Gardner designed is the least intrusive thing you can have. I did not use a yoke because a yoke cannot ever have both steering lines tight and cannot be operated one-handed from one side only - it can't push-pull.

    After experimenting with a direct rope, I made a 2:1 arrangement to make the steering less twitchy. This worked by having a large belt wheel attached to the top of the rudder stock. A line went around this and back to a pair of turning blocks on the very stern bresthook and thence forward along each gunnel, terminating at each end with a small block. The steering line that was actually held started fastened conveniently ahead of the blocks on each side, back through those blocks and then around the boat - there's the 2:1. Led through fairleads except up by the mast partners where it went from one gunnel to the other and there she had blocks. I had on each side a bit abaft amidships and just above the natural run of the steering ropes a cam cleat. If one side only was fixed it prevented line movement in one direction. The lines were laid out such that if you looked down and imagined the steering ropes a big wheel, it drove like a car. On any given side, pushing the line forward turned the bow to the other side while pulling the line back brought the bow to that side. I positioned the cam cleats to resist weather helm on the line on the weather side.

    A single athwartships tiller arm fixed to a push-pull wand would have been a more exact steering system but would not allow for locking the rudder in position so readily. The locking is not especially important for sailing but absolutely critical when rowing across or down wind.

    G'luck

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    I use both at times on my Macgreggor sailing canoe which is narrower I think. Often though I just use the leeboard and my own movement in the boat and a paddle assist if necessary. In light airs she is likely to go into irons coming about.but with a decent breeze I have no trouble.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Quote Originally Posted by jon_m_campbell View Post
    A question - is it really necessary to have pulleys on the yoke? Is that because your hands get sore after hours of sailing? Or is it helpful to have the finer adjustments? I was thinking of just having a single line come off the yoke.

    Another question - more embarrassing. How do you upload pictures here? I tried from a web page and directly from my computer. Neither of these worked.
    Those pulleys have the nautical name "blocks", and the mechanical advantage they provide is called "purchase". You can certainly try sailing without them, then add them later if needed. Here's my first yoke -


    My Chamberlain Dory Skiff's current yoke tiller has cheek blocks along with blocks mounted on the frames to give the required 2:1 purchase -- otherwise the strain of steering is too hard on hands, wrists and elbows.

    As Ian and others have said above, one issue with steering lines is the lack of tactile feedback that a tiller provides. They can also be awkward to manage when dealing with mainsail and jib sheets, but I still prefer them to struggling with a tiller over my head when sailing with crew in the boat. YMMV





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    Last edited by Thorne; 05-17-2011 at 08:42 AM.
    "The enemies of reason have a certain blind look."
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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    There are a lot of variations on the Duckworks "Clasp Knife Rudder" shown in #4 above. The venerable Sunfish has a kick-up rudder that has to be slammed down into place by hand. The Laser has a kick-up, with a little line that cleats on the tiller, that can swing the rudder down while underway, and holds it most of the time, just fine. The Hobie Cat 18 has an elegant rig that includes a lock in the rudder head. Too difficult to explain in words, but in practice it works well, although expensive. What do expect of a boat with two, count 'em, two carbon fiber rudders.
    I've seen steering oars being used in surf boats, and then once outside the surf line the oar is stowed and a rudder is shipped. Which is probably a commentary on the relative virtues of the two.
    One advantage of a side-hung quarter rudder is that the "tiller" is perpendicular to the centerline of the boat, and if a push-pull link rod is attached to it, the rudder can be worked from anywhere on the boat. By changing where the link rod is attached to the tiller, you vary the "gear ratio" of the steering. Right close to the rudder, you have very quick, twitchy steering. Way out at the end you have more power, less speed. Maybe with a kind of "saw tooth" pattern carved into the tiller, and a fork-and-retainer shockcord arrangement on the link rod the ratio could be changed while underway, without going aft.
    In terms of the link rod, I'm sure that wood would be quite lovely, but the hiking stick from a Hobie Cat is quite an elegant piece of gear, telescoping glass or carbon fiber tubes. They have to be able to extend quite long, because the helmsman is sometimes out on a trapeze, eight feet or so from the centerline of the boat, and then have to be able to be telescoped very quickly and easily, because the boat can't be easily/quickly tacked with the hiking stick at full length.
    Here's a link to pictures of them. You'll notice that they aren't cheap:
    http://www.murrays.com/mm5/merchant....&Store_Code=MS
    I have read latter-day accounts from the voyage in 1893 of the Gokstad-replica ship "Viking" to Chicago, where they wrote about running off before a sea at speeds over 12kt, which suggests that her steering gear worked pretty well. This is an article about the boat, but not about the trip over:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viking_(ship)
    Last edited by seo; 05-17-2011 at 10:00 AM.

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Quote Originally Posted by seo View Post
    ...I have read latter-day accounts from the voyage in 1893 of the Gokstad-replica ship "Viking" to Chicago, where they wrote about running off before a sea at speeds over 12kt, which suggests that her steering gear worked pretty well. This is an article about the boat, but not about the trip over:...
    --- That boat did have some nonViking modifcations such as full decking and a fore-aft rig as I recall, so I wonder if it also had a modern stern rudder? -- Wade

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    Default Re: Steering Oar vs. Rudder

    Quote Originally Posted by seo View Post
    ...I've seen steering oars being used in surf boats, and then once outside the surf line the oar is stowed and a rudder is shipped. Which is probably a commentary on the relative virtues of the two. ...
    --- That has been my experience. On my old proa, I needed a paddle for all downwind angles (reaching and upwind I just shifted bodyweight or trimmed sheet). Surely a needed a proper steering oar, but for more than a few hours I think it might become wearisome. I tried my nonproa 'tacking outrigger canoe' steering oar for a half hour (nonemergency) set off a steering-oar outrigger with an oarlock. That does solve some of the 'fling the oar to other side of hull' steering problems (but not all!), but it was not satisfactory (and true, I needed a steerer with a longer bigger blade). However, some outrigger sailors do have them set up for better performance than I can report, to be fair. I think I would still find them more trouble than a rudder that can sometimes be lashed for various purposes, such as rowing cross-wind. I typically use my stern studder while paddling -- I bungee the tiller for trim so that I can use a canoe paddle on one side of the hull for long periods (canoe paddles are better ergonomically than kayak paddles, at least for some people). -- Wade

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