Part 6. The Rudder and Lunch It’s not for nothing that they call the rudder “the most important part of the ship.” A defective rudder renders a boat unsailable, and no matter how seaworthy its design, a boat without a working rudder is little more than debris bobbing among the waves. As Dave described what he had seen below, it was clear that Restive no longer had a working rudder.
Dry rot in the rudderpost had caused the upper bearing to fail. This made steering impossible because the rudder could no longer be controlled by the helmsman, but was being driven solely by the force of the waves. It was just a matter of time before the lower bearing failed, particularly in rough seas, and even I had figured out that when that happened, Restive would sink. But no one could predict when that would happen. An hour? A day? A month?
The seas were growing rougher. The once-distant line of squalls was now directly above us and seemed in no hurry to move on. Heavy rains fell, waves surged to 12 feet, and winds were gusting to 40 knots. George was on the radio trying to notify the Coast Guard and locate any nearby boats. David and Dave, whose mechanical aptitudes had them speaking in what to me appeared to be tongues, devised ever-more-ingenious efforts to stabilize the rudder, all of which failed. And the cook went below. Fifteen minutes later he reappeared with a platter of sandwiches.
“We might as well eat,” he said.