Rogers City and Steering problems
It was a beautiful morning when we slipped the lines at St Ignace and made our way for one of our first Lake Huron destinations – Rogers City. We had heard great things about the marina in Rogers City from other boaters and heard that it was a must stop kind of place. We have about 48 miles to go today, so we were up early and left around 6:30 am. Getting up this early in the morning we are usually rewarded with a gorgeous sunrise!
There was little to no wind today so we motored our way to Rogers City and slid past Mackinac Island for one last time and a last glimpse at the Mackinaw Bridge.
As we settled into the rhythm of our journey for the day, we noticed that the shoreline of Lake Huron has changed from our views on Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan included lots of towering sand dunes interrupted by lighthouses that marked the entrances to small harbor towns. Lake Huron seems to have a more wooded tree lined coast dotted with houses right along the coast.
The rest of the trip to Rogers City was fairly uneventful. As we approached the marina in Rogers City, we opted to stop at the fuel dock on the way in which also has the pump out equipment to pump out our head. So, if you are not familiar, a head on a boat is another name for the toilet. All of our waste goes into a holding tank and must be pumped out every few weeks or so and it was time. We radioed ahead to the marina to ensure the fuel dock was open and available for us to dock there. They assured us it was.
Of course as we approach with me having all our dock lines at the ready on the port side of the boat the fuel dock is occupied and they motion for us to pull up on the other side of the fuel dock. This requires me to quickly change all my lines from the port side of the boat to the starboard side of the boat before Mark gets the boat to the dock. I got 2 of the 3 lines switched over to at least throw them to the guy waiting at the dock and had to rather un-elegantly switch the stern line and throw it as our stern was drifting away from the dock.
Ok, all is good. We got the head pumped out and we were ready to leave the fuel dock and head to the slip that they assigned to us in the marina. As Mark was backing out, the boat seemed to have a mind of it’s own and things were not going well. Mark said the steering was not responding as it should be and it seemed as through turning the wheel in one direction seemed to move the boat in the opposite direction. This is not right! Mark was able to work with the wheel as best he could and could also see the position of our rudder on our autopilot so that despite what the wheel was doing, he could steer to the position of the rudder.
We made it into our slip!
We spent the next 3 hours emptying out both lockers (lazarettes) that hold all our boat gear to get at our steering system to have a look at what was going on.
Let’s see if I can explain in simple terms what was happening.
The steering wheel turns the pedestal output lever which then also turns the rudder tiller arm which is attached to the rudder. The pedestal output lever and the rudder tiller arm both move in unison because they are connected by a rod called the drag link. In our case, the drag link was too short and allowed the pedestal output lever to turn further than it should and rotate to the other side of the rudder tiller arm. This results in feeling like your steering is opposite of what it should be. That is exactly what we were experiencing. The fix was simple enough, we just needed to lengthen the drag link so this did not occur. We were able to rotate it to lengthen it by about 3/8″. We also noticed that when turning the rudder hard to port, the rudder was not fully hitting the port side rudder stop. So we also lengthened the arm for the autopilot to ensure that everything was aligned correctly.
All this adjusting then requires that we re-align the rudder and the steering wheel so that when the rudder is centered the wheel is also centered. I tried to walk over to another dock to see the stern of the boat so we could actually see the rudder but we were sitting too low in the water to effectively see the rudder. So, we had to take the dinghy down on the back of the boat to visualize the rudder and where it was when Mark was turning the wheel.
One more final adjustment, we had to recalibrate our autopilot so that the autopilot computer knew how to sense all these adjustments we made. And then we had to put everything back together and put all our tools and gear away.
All of that took 3 hours that we were not planning on after a long 10 hour journey. We ate some left overs and headed to bed.
We never even left the docks at Rogers City to see the town or explore anything, we were exhausted and we have another day of travel tomorrow.