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Old 29-01-2017, 01:12   #1
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Finding straight ahead at the wheel

This may be something that has a simple solution but here's my quandary....
My yacht wheel turns 2.5 circles from hard port to hard starboard.
There is a knot tied around one of the spokes to indicate position but sometimes (eg negotiating out of the marina berth) I need to know if I'm centred or port or starboard. We can't see the rudder position from above decks... does anyone have a simple way of determining rudder position when 2.5 turns are available?
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Old 29-01-2017, 01:18   #2
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

Our autopilot has a rudder position indicator. That helps. But normally I just turn the wheel fully to port or starboard then wind it back again before I move the boat. It becomes a reflex action after a while.


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Old 29-01-2017, 01:26   #3
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

We have a small lid over the emergency tiller point and my Admiral sometimes lifts it up to check the rudder position before we head into a tight marina or berth. Simple enough to do and no relying on electronics or fancy gadgets

Keiron
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Old 29-01-2017, 01:31   #4
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

The standard "fix" is to put a Turk's Head on the rim to indicate that it's centered. Though I'm not sure if that'll help in this case. And to me, if you're needing to use that much helm when docking, then you may need more practice. Especially if you're losing track of whether the helm is turned to port or starboard.

Going from lock to lock when docking suggests that either the boat handles very poorly, & or, that her helmsman could use some instruction. Typically the only time one puts the rudder fully over in one direction or the other is when trying to use the prop wash against the rudder as something of a thruster.
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Old 29-01-2017, 01:52   #5
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

Halving your 2 1/2 turns will give you a centre rudder position and that's where most people put a turk's head knot at the top of the wheel to indicate that the rudder is centred. The fact that the knot goes through tdc twice on each full turn from dead ahead to say hard to port is irrelevant as the second time is so close to hard port that it's easy to know it's not centre.
When you're sailing, the rudder is rarely pointing along the centreline when you are sailing to a point or a bearing. The rudder will be off centre to compensate for boat deformity, current, the rotating effort of sails not acting through the balance centre of the boat. The knot becomes a notional centre only and can't really be depended on to show the tposition the rudder needs to be to have the bost go forward. Sailing becomes a matter of feel. We sail to a landmark, a bearing or to optimise sail power. In all situations rudder centre becomes somewhat arbitrary. One moves the wheel to keep the boat doing best what it should do.

About the only times I want the rudder centre is when I first leave the quay so that I don't ram a neighbor and then when I reverse into a med mooring site so that as the boat builds up speed, it doesn't head off in an unwanted direction. My boat doesn't steer well in reverse initially as there is little water flow over the faces of the rudder. As water speed increases, I then can turn the rudder off centre to direct the stern where I want it to go. When you reverse, the rudder is usually close to centre because you were just going forward. Before you cast off to leave port, turn the wheel full to port and then come back about 1 1/4 turns until the knot is at tdc.
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Old 29-01-2017, 02:34   #6
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

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Originally Posted by UNCIVILIZED View Post
The standard "fix" is to put a Turk's Head on the rim to indicate that it's centered. Though I'm not sure if that'll help in this case. And to me, if you're needing to use that much helm when docking, then you may need more practice. Especially if you're losing track of whether the helm is turned to port or starboard.

Going from lock to lock when docking suggests that either the boat handles very poorly, & or, that her helmsman could use some instruction. Typically the only time one puts the rudder fully over in one direction or the other is when trying to use the prop wash against the rudder as something of a thruster.
Docking, it's very common to use hard over helm position and then switch to hard over in the opposite direction. In a tight fairway, a gradual turn over a 1/2 mile (ie: turns like the Queen Mary), isn't very practical.

Hard over and I can drastically reduce the turning radius but sometimes it's not enough if the fairway is really tight, so you back up. When backing, you switch to hard over in the opposite direction, so the boat keeps rotating the same way (ie: Clockwise when viewed from above)...repeat as needed.

The only exception would be if for some reason your rudder will go near to a fully perpendicular to the keel in which case it would act as a brake while providing negligible turning.

The exact method and timing will depend on the engine/rudder configuration. Twin engine are typically docked with rudders straight ahead but if you know what you are doing, you can make a twin engine boat more maneuverable with careful use of the rudders. It's usually discouraged for newbies as it's easy to lose track and then things go bad.

To the OP's question: Usually just put her in gear and if she starts pulling one way...turn the other way until she goes the way I want. As long as you are backing slowly and paying attention, you should have time to react. Between wind and currents, you may need a bit of rudder to go straight so better to react to what the boat is doing.

PS: keep in mind a turkhead or similar marker may leave you nearly hard over if the wheel is one full turn from centered.
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Old 29-01-2017, 03:41   #7
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

Quote:
Originally Posted by nzmal View Post
This may be something that has a simple solution but here's my quandary....
My yacht wheel turns 2.5 circles from hard port to hard starboard.
There is a knot tied around one of the spokes to indicate position but sometimes (eg negotiating out of the marina berth) I need to know if I'm centred or port or starboard. We can't see the rudder position from above decks... does anyone have a simple way of determining rudder position when 2.5 turns are available?
There is no simple way. You'll just get used to it over time and know where the rudder is from habit.

My wheel is 3 turns lock to lock and has a turks head at the center position. The only time I lose track of rudder position is when I leave the helm and come back to it. But I've had the boat for awhile and know it pretty well.

I agree that when it comes down to docking, after the initial approach, that most maneuvers are made with the rudder hard over, one side or the other, so you just spin the wheel till she stops. My boat has a considerable amount of prop walk, in reverse to port, which actually comes in handy when maneuvering the boat. If I gun it in reverse the stern will pull quickly to port, even with the rudder hard to starboard, which allows me to spin the boat to starboard in a little over it's own length without a lot of wheel gymnastics.

It also makes face dock docking on port side extremely easy. Pull forward to the dock at about 20 degrees, a burst of reverse stops the boat and tucks the stern in parallel to the dock.

So what I'm saying is that you have more than just the rudder to help you maneuver, so experiment with it to find out what your boat will do and won't.
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Old 29-01-2017, 05:33   #8
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

Panope's steering is 6 turns lock to lock so counting turns is not a reliable solution. In addition to a turks head, I built a small window which allows vision of the chain/cable mechanism. A simple pointer shows when the rudder is centered.

Another, much simpler option is to fasten a bit of string to your wheel's shaft and tie a small wieght dangling below a few inches. The string will "wind up" on the shaft when not in the centered position.

Steve

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Old 29-01-2017, 05:42   #9
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

I like the string idea, simple no expense and has to work.
I have just become used to it, and being a full keel boat when turning in the marina I'm often hard over and sometimes backing and filling.

I guess use a soft weight so it doesn't knock or tap in a seaway?
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Old 29-01-2017, 06:19   #10
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

A little snazzier than a bob on a string: Davis Instruments Rudder Position Indicator

Or you could put together VDO Marine Viewline Onyx Rudder Angle Gauge and VDO Marine Rudder Position Indicator Sender for not too much.
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Old 29-01-2017, 07:13   #11
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

Just a reminder that a turk's head knot, string, or any rudder position indicator that's mounted on the wheel isn't going to work well with hydraulic steering, where the wheel may not always be in the same position when the rudder is centered. It won't work at all if you have two stations and/or an autopilot (in a hydraulic system.)

Before I installed my AP, I looked at replacing the failing electronic RPIs I had and was astonished at the price. The components looked like something that the "old" Radio Shack would have sold for a few bucks each. Not hundreds.

I suspect there's a business opportunity here. Get some rugged, industrial-grade components at wholesale, bundle them and resell them in the marine market.

Related story: One boat I was on had a round indicator at the hub of the wheel. It worked like one of those cheap kid's toys with the silver ball bearing that you have to move around a plastic maze by shifting the toy at different angles. Except this one was a spiral. Turning the wheel moved the ball bearing on or out along the spiral track. When it was in the center, the rudder was in the center. Probably cost pennies to make, not sure what he paid for it. Haven't seen one since.
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Old 29-01-2017, 08:27   #12
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

All of these replies are just fodder for the argument in favor of tillers over wheels, but I leave that to another rant!

A friend of mine has a Morgan 32 which has an amazing amount of prop walk, and he was always having problems coping with it... turns out PO had put the rudder center mark in the wrong place. Problem solved.

My current boat has a wheel and it's just a pain, but I fixed it. My emergency tiller post requires the removal of a fiberglass cover with two phillips screws, just dandy if you are really in an emergency! I replaced the cover with a clear piece of plastic, held in place with velcro strips. I painted the rudder post top white and put a red line to indicate position. Problem solved.
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Old 29-01-2017, 08:32   #13
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

Good grief it is not rocket science. Count the number of turns lock to lock then turn back half the count! No wonder so few boats actually go anywhere!
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Old 29-01-2017, 08:40   #14
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

Quote:
Originally Posted by nzmal View Post
This may be something that has a simple solution but here's my quandary....
My yacht wheel turns 2.5 circles from hard port to hard starboard.
There is a knot tied around one of the spokes to indicate position but sometimes (eg negotiating out of the marina berth) I need to know if I'm centred or port or starboard. We can't see the rudder position from above decks... does anyone have a simple way of determining rudder position when 2.5 turns are available?
Dead centre will be 1 1/4 turns. Reposition the knot if its not reading true.
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Old 29-01-2017, 08:40   #15
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Re: Finding straight ahead at the wheel

Quote:
Originally Posted by nzmal View Post
This may be something that has a simple solution but here's my quandary....
My yacht wheel turns 2.5 circles from hard port to hard starboard.
There is a knot tied around one of the spokes to indicate position but sometimes (eg negotiating out of the marina berth) I need to know if I'm centred or port or starboard. We can't see the rudder position from above decks... does anyone have a simple way of determining rudder position when 2.5 turns are available?
The knot is most probable a sign for the center.
You may check it as already suggested be turning to one extreme and backing the wheel halfway.
One thing to understand - when sailing backwards, the boat prefers one direction over the other because of propwalk. Your rudder will ne centered but the boat will sail sideways (usually to the left but not always - depends on prop specifics). Perhaps this phenomenon confuses you..
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