I went sailing the other day. My wind forecast app rightly told me winds from 15 to 20 knots were expected and so I planned accordingly. Winds were light at first as I meandered along at 4-4.5 mph but true to forecast the winds built up till I was beginning to surf in the direction of my exiting the harbor into open LI Sound.
Then I lost all directional control - 2 miles from land I was careening now out into oblivion with no response from my rudder inputs and looking back found it planing on the water. I should mention at this point this rudder is my own fabrication NOT HOBIES. Its also the second time my fabricating has failed me but this was particularly perilous...
The waves were now building and the wind was due NW - EXACTLY the direction I needed to go. I put all my strength into paddling (no mirage ) as hard as I could and found to my dismay speeds ranging from 0 to 1.5 mph with 0.5 being the norm. I paddled into exhaustion then took a break only to find myself being blown back out the harbor. So I stayed at it and stayed at it and stayed at it and finally came to terms with the fact I was not able to make it back to the boat ramp. I would have to go where the wind blew me without venturing into the opens sound. That the sky was now blue-purple looking like lightening (but none forecasted) only added to my anxiety.
I texted my wife telling her I might not be home tonight as the craft was disabled and i was drifting and paddling to a far away beach miles from my car. The cool air temps made the idea dreadful. I didn't know exactly what could be needed to fix the rudder once on land so that was my worst case scenario. I had ideas about lashing it to the craft where the bolts sheared. As the waves built to 3 feet breaking over my port side my ideas of sailing in this water with a Jimmyrigged rudder became foolhardy at best. Disasterous is was more like it .
I scanned my upcoming but still distant landfall as I crept at a seemingly speedy 2.5mph. I took breaks often as I was dispirited and exhausted. I wanted firm land so bad now. I to my wife I was safe but possibly not coming home tonight. I eyed a park but it had a rocky shoreline, then a residential area with beachfront property. I saw sand and that was all it took.
I finally made landfall after getting port slapped continuously with the 3 footers and never felt better for it. I was startled to learn I had virtually no upper body strength to lift myself from the craft. It was a shaky grunting maneuver that caught the homeowners attention who'd seen my drama play out.
"I saw you struggling" was her first words - thankfully - it wasn't going to be a pissing ground contest. I was still below the high tide line
Surveying the damage finally revealed my awful circumstances. My rudder broke free partially but acted as a hydro-brake by laying a flat ninety degrees to my travel. It fluttered and veered but ever remained as a monumental drag that sapped me dry.
I slowly put my salvation to work...
Ok I have money in my car, ill call a taxi - lo and behold the home owner (renter I came to learn) said it was fine for me to beach my craft over night.
Free at last.
Safety review: wisdom learned wasn't new but it was reaffirmed - even a shakedown test cruise can go horribly awry. Always carry exposure wear for that unplanned forced beaching that leaves you cold wet and alone till rescue - self or otherwise. I always have a space blanket, etc, but not this time. I was too too optimistic and careless as a result.
Lesson number 2: I am SO getting an outboard. This could have happened with me ten miles being the closest land - easily. Not only would have the outboard afforded me better speed it would have allowed far better steering and I could have power sailed. Paddling alone with sail up was miserable to liability prone. With sail lowered I moved just as awful. If you have no rudder control and its fluttering sailing his not an option. A motor would have had the needed muscle I so dearly wanted.
You have no idea how warm and inviting even the simple smells of home are when you realize you ain't gonna make it.