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The Rudderless ‘Lucky Dog’ Is Resurrected

Four months ago Jeanne and Dan Streiff left Mexico on their Seattle-based Catalina 470 Lucky Dog for the trip of a lifetime. They were just two weeks into their passage to the Marquesas when disaster struck with the loss of their rudder, for no apparent reason. Jeanne told the story of misfortune turning to salvation when they abandoned Lucky Dog and then were able to return to her and bring her into Hiva Oa for repairs.

We recently heard from Jeanne, who let us know that after much creative and resourceful effort, they’ve managed to build a replacement rudder in Hiva Oa. Jeanne wrote, “Here is our new rudder! (Emergency one shown on back of boat; really illustrates what we were missing!).”

Dan shows off the properly sized new rudder adjacent to the temporary rudder hastily fashioned for Lucky Dog‘s mid-ocean rescue.
© 2023 Jeanne LeBlanc Streiff

They documented the build of the new rudder on Instagram showing the whole process of fashioning the rudder with marine plywood over stainless steel, then shaping, fiberglassing and painting. Then, “Tadaa! — it’s now installed.”

Beyond building a new rudder from scratch in the South Pacific, this huge interruption in their plans has forced some other adjustments to their schedule. As Jeanne describes, “We only got a one-month extension on our 90-day visa, so we are heading back to British Columbia and keeping her in the yard in Hiva Oa until next March — through cyclone season. We are looking at this as a giant reset button for our cruising. Next year should be great. At that point, we will test the rudder out nearby, then keep going. We are so grateful for all of the local support in Hiva Oa. We are really so very lucky.”

There are some products and places where you can’t get things from Amazon Prime overnight, so it’s still true that cruisers have to be flexible and resourceful when setting off on a voyage. The ability to find a French cruiser to help them find their abandoned boat, bring it back to Hiva Oa, and then build a new rudder on site highlights the best of these cruising traits. We look forward to hearing more from Jeanne and Dan when they return to Lucky Dog next spring.

5 Comments

  1. Mike McDonough (previously Nepenthe, Pearson Bounty II 10 months ago

    I certainly don’t know all the details BUT,
    I just don’t understand people that abandon very good, well prepared seaworthy boats in mid ocean. They lost their rudder. They were not sinking. Abandoning ship seems like an irresponsible action. Leaving a hazard to navigation for the rest of us.
    Luckily they did find and save their boat.
    One thing I learned as a child aboard an 8’ sabot was how to sail without a rudder.
    I have sailed my own boats and on other boats to Hawaii 4 times and to the South Pacific once.
    All but one of those boats was underfunded but still had some plan for an emergency rudder.
    These voyages span from 1977 to 2011.
    I applaud Skip Allen (who I met at KYC after the first singlehanded tranpac).
    When he had to abandon his much loved vessel (for very serious reasons) he chose to scuttle his boat rather than let it drift around as a hazard to navigation.
    Thank you Skip.

  2. Rick Johnson 10 months ago

    Well, having lost my rudder “for no apparent reason” a few years back, I certainly don’t fault anyone who, in the vast expanse of the South Pacific, were forced to abandon their boat. The “hazard to navigation” was minimal, and the eventual outcome was wonderful. This is a happy ending to an amazing story.

  3. Joseph DiMatteo 10 months ago

    This is one of the greatest stories of resilience and creativity by an owner in saving their vessel I am aware of. Good on Lat 38 for reporting on the story. However, It continues to amaze me the “know nothings”, both specific to this story and generally when it comes to scuttling a vessel, who have criticized this couple instead of celebrating them. A few facts for the uninformed: 1) their vessel represented a nearly incalculably tiny risk to any vessels following behind them for many reasons, one of which is they left their nav lights and AIS on 2) they were in contact with the USCG from the outset of the ordeal who never suggested they scuttle their vessel based on reports from the owner.

    I suggest Lat 38 do an informed article about when is scuttling a vessel warranted and when not. I reached out to two retired USCG officers I know with much time on the water and they pointed out it is not USCG protocol, in their experience, to recommend scuttling vessels that are fundamentally sound. In certain circumstances scuttling makes sense, in others it does not. This case of Lucky Dog is clearly one where it did not make sense to scuttle it.

  4. Shannon McIsaac 4 months ago

    Such an inspiration and an amazing story of grit and fortitude. Well done Lucky Dog!! I’m so hoping to someday soon share an anchorage and a few happy hours! You’ve shown what can be overcome with ingenuity and strength of character. The first round is on us!!

  5. Mona 4 months ago

    Well done Jeanne and Dan! Knowing the “real life story and details” makes me wonder why some people bother to comment. Jeanne and Dan were very lucky to find the help they needed for rescue, recovery, and repair of their vessel. I, for one, am looking forward to crewing with them in the future.

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