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Thread: Hobie 33 Rudder Issues

  1. #1
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Hobie 33 Rudder Issues

    To help understand why the two Hobie 33's, Aloha and Mayhem both suffered rudder failure.

    Received this from an anonymous reader:

    "A few days of reaching killed the Hobie 33 stock rudder posts? Had one of those years ago. Two piece shaft so you can put the rudder in and out when the boat is on the trailer in low position keel retracted. Shit system with the short stainless stub coming up from the blade connecting to an alloy tube with cast alloy end caps joined together with a long threaded rod. The end caps join the blade shaft with a tampered keyway which allows it to loosen itself and the rod starts to unscrew . Can't get into the thing to fix without the blade falling out of the boat. "

    The following is a report from the Hobie 33 Bazinga regarding their Hobie 33 Rudder failure.


    The Campos Rudder Saga: Bazingaplooee
    By Mike Ferring on August 6, 2015 in Sailing News
    By Steve and Christina Campo

    Preparing our Hobie 33 Bazinga for the 2015 Transpac was a two-year challenge, but with the help of the experts in San Diego it was a wonderful experience.

    We painstakingly went through every nut and bolt on Bazinga, leaving nothing to chance. One of the major focuses of the refit was the rudder. Anybody familiar with the Transpac knows that the number one reason for boats not to finish is rudder failure. The boat was inspected by the original Hobie builder out of Dana Point and nobody knows Hobies better than Spartan Marine.

    The rudder skin was removed down to the stainless shaft, exposing the three stainless cross members and their welds. The welds were massive and looked new. The rudder was then re-skinned and brought back to original. A sleeve was added to the upper aluminum rudder tube, increasing its strength. Rudder tube bushings and Delrin washers were replaced. This work was completed 1˝ years before Transpac and had been tested in a dozen races without incident. We dropped the rudder in April to have another look and all appeared good.
    We hired weather routing expert Rick Shema, “The Weather Guy,” to plot our route from Point Fermin to the finish at Diamond Head in Oahu and his plan was flawless. He predicted our arrival in 12 days and 7 hours. We were ready.

    On the fifth day at sea and 700 miles from the start, around 5 pm, the watch crew was alarmed to find the tiller and rudder pointing in different directions. They couldn’t steer. The wind was blowing 18 knots and we were in 15-foot seas. We were still trying to figure out what was wrong when we saw the rudder came out from under the boat and float away.
    Now the real work began. No rudder, heavy seas, and only a few hours of daylight remaining.

    Mod 1: We attempted to fabricate a rudder with an aluminum spin pole and a too-large blade made from a fiberglass bunk. The pole failed with the first wave over the stern and folded in half. What works well in 10 knots of wind definitely does not work well in 20+ knots and large seas. We decided to throw the sea drogue over the side and comfortably beam-reach through the night. All was good until we sailed into a high pressure system and slowed dramatically. The drogue brought us to a stop.

    Mod 2: Reaching strut with the back-up tiller handle and a hatch board from the V-berth held together with gorilla tape, clamp, nuts and bolts and attached with Dyneema line to the stern rail at the high point and the toe rail at the lower point. We cut plastic water jugs into strips for sleeves. That got us through the high. There was nothing more realistic to do than to sail at a little over one knot, covering 10 miles in 10 long hours. We were still 625 miles from Point Fermin. Eventually the next day the wind picked up and we were back to 5-6 kts. At this speed, the reaching strut couldn’t handle the pressure, nor could we. The tiller was in line with the blade and we had no leverage.

    Mod 3: We cut the broken spin pole in half, set the handle at 45 degrees and re-attached the hatch board with gorilla tape, clamp, nuts and bolts and attached to stern rail and toe rail. We called Rick Shema on the sat phone to get the latest weather information and he suggested we heave-to for two days, allowing tropical disturbance Dolores to pass. We headed north and as the wind increased the pulpit started to bend and welds began to fail. We continued to lash the pulpit together.

    The Bill Lee Mod 4: Slide the carbon spin pole off the stern with two spin sheets run through the spin blocks. Attach the pole to the stern and run the spin sheets to the tiller. The arrangement worked, but it didn’t take long for us to be worn out. We could only do 30-minute watches. Five hundred miles to go.

    Mod 5: Wrap spin sheets around winches and grind to head up or fall off; very labor intensive.

    Mod 6: Combination of sea drogue and spin pole rudder system proved to be the best balance in the varying wind and sea conditions. Three hundred miles to go.
    Coast Guard San Diego hails Bazinga on the radio wanting to know our status. We plan to sail as far as possible and then motor until we can get to within 40 miles in order for Vessel Assist to tow us in. Copy. Let them know when we’re 100 miles out and when we start to motor.
    One hundred miles out we start the motor. At 40 miles out we hail Vessel Assist. Whoa, not so fast. They inform us they won’t come out until we’re out of gas. So we keep motoring through the morning hours. We drain gas from the generator to get us to SD Bay. Mark Butler and Steve Harrison meet us and tow us to SDYC.
    We hail Coast Guard SD and thank them for keeping an eye on us.

    Vessel Assist hails us and wants to tow us back to SDYC. We thank them for all they did for us, but we’re under tow by friends.
    Back on dry land, we could investigate the rudder failure. When the boat came out of the water we saw four inches of stainless steel rudder shaft protruding from the bottom of the boat where the rudder used to be. The shaft had sheared at the top of the blade, most likely from corrosion from the inside out. With no pitting or corrosion on the outside of the tube, it would be next to impossible to foresee an internal failure.


    Hobie 33 Owners Manual

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  2. #2
    Seems like an obvious fix that should be addressed if sailing offshore.

  3. #3
    despondent correspondent Photoboy's Avatar
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    Timing is everything. And with that, Mayhem has arrived safely in San Diego where they were greeted by Ronnie Simpson.
    (Damn he sure gets around) To be clear, Mayhem was not using a stock rudder, but a custom made unit that sheered right at the hull,
    See photo by Ronnie:

    The crew of Mayhem are enjoying Mai Tais in San Diego at the moment and are planning for 2020's Pac Cup at this point.
    They will be getting a new super bomber rudder built for that race! It is our understanding that Aloha too was using a custom
    rudder which failed in the power reaching 1st 24 hours for Wednesday starters...
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  4. #4
    That unit looks pretty damn beefy.

    I supposed you could have a continuous stainless steel tang running the length of rudder and blade to avoid that?

  5. #5
    Back when Santana 35's were newer boats and did Pac Cups they were losing rudders a lot. The answer was a beefier rudder post. I think they had a schedule 80 stainless shaft (that were breaking) and the fix for existing boats was to fill the tube with epoxy and a stainless rod.

    The later boats were built with a schedule 160 stainless shaft. When I replaced my rudder a few years ago Schock was very helpful and told us the spec. The rudder guy (Finco in So Cal) was surprised by the schedule 160 and had to adjust his quote to accommodate the change. For comparison schedule 80 wall thickness is .276" and schedule 160 is .375"

    Nice work on everyone's part to get the boat home safe.

  6. #6
    That description of trying to make hatchboards duct-taped to spin poles work as an emergency rudder is about as powerful a motivator I can come up with to build a real emergency steering system if you go more than about 30 miles off the coast.

  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by Alan H View Post
    That description of trying to make hatchboards duct-taped to spin poles work as an emergency rudder is about as powerful a motivator I can come up with to build a real emergency steering system if you go more than about 30 miles off the coast.
    The Longpac (even though it was not a requirement) was good motivation for me to finish my emergency rudder setup.

  8. #8
    Interesting... did the PacCup in 1986 DH on a Hobie 33... our rudder/shaft was one piece. Looked bullet proof. For an emergency rudder, we brought a second rudder/shaft. Yes we would have had to go swimming to install it (we both had wet suits to survive the first few days).
    Where the Buffalo roams

  9. #9
    I cant imaging jumping into the water with string wind and wave action and trying to insert a rudder from
    beneath the transom. The thing gets pulled out of your hands and that is all she wrote!

  10. #10
    Headed Offshore
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    Paul Kamen has an article on the SSS Website <> about "soft rudders." I can't upload photos because of their size, but if you explore the <" Resource pages you'll find the article. It's a simple "sail rudder" made from a couple of aluminum tubes (spinnaker poles? old windsurfer masts?) and Dacron (possible part of an old sail?). Paul demonstrated the principle on a J-24 (rudder removed) and on a Beneteau 57 (with rudder). He has diagrams for a Cal 40 and other boats. It's a "get home" rudder for sure, but simple in design, construction, and use. I think it's worth a try, especially for smaller boats; if I were to do another Pacific Cup or SSS Longpac, I think i'd build one to bring along in addition the cassette e.r. I bought from Alan and modified to fit my Wyliecat 30. And Paul's local if there are questions (when he gets back from this year's Transpac).

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