Many sailors who venture offshore are a little fuzzy in their emergency steering plans. If asked, most will tell you they intend to use a whisker pole with a floorboard attached – a method that rarely works well (see Evans Starzinger’s “Emergency Steering Solutions,” Cruising World, December 2006). The prudent mariner will plan ahead so that should the rudder fail, a back up is available.
The SOS Rudder ($2000 to $2200) from Scanmar International – the company that makes the Monitor windvane self-steering system – is a commercially available solution. It’s designed to get your boat home – though the company cautions that you should shorten sail and do all you can to make the boat easy to steer. It’s entirely constructed of 316 stainless steel and, except for the mounting brackets, comes apart and stows in its own bag ready for use.
Each unit is custom built for your particular boat, and Scanmar will help you choose which of its two models is right for you. For more information see www.selfsteer.com or call (510) 215-2010