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Old 28-02-2015, 11:09   #1
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Which steering system is best?

Hello all,

I've just purchased a 1998 Hunter 340 and while I endure the torture of having to wait to Spring to do anything with it, I noticed it has rack and pinion steering.

I did some research and noted most of the yachts I've seen have cable steering. Naturally that brought me to wonder if one was superior to the other, or if there were some inherent pros and cons to either?

Appreciate any feedback. I've tried searching this myself but mostly got maintenance information on either.
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Old 28-02-2015, 11:22   #2
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Re: Which steering system is best?

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Originally Posted by mmalivuk View Post
I've just purchased a 1998 Hunter 340 and while I endure the torture of having to wait to Spring to do anything with it, I noticed it has rack and pinion steering.
You have the best, IMHO, since I have it, too.

Actually, the only thing better is a tiller....

Dave
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Old 28-02-2015, 12:07   #3
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Re: Which steering system is best?

A tiller, nothing else comes close for reliability, feedback, and ease of steering
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Old 28-02-2015, 14:35   #4
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Re: Which steering system is best?

Thank you for the responses so far! I also have a C&C 25 which has a tiller and I certainly agree that it's superior to wheel steering.

However, to clarify, I'm inquiring more if you have wheel steering, is it better to have the cable system or rack and pinion?
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Old 28-02-2015, 15:03   #5
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Re: Which steering system is best?

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Originally Posted by mmalivuk View Post
However, to clarify, I'm inquiring more if you have wheel steering, is it better to have the cable system or rack and pinion?
Of the multiple types, cable vs solid mechanical (rack & pinion), solid mechanical is far superior, IMHO. Less slop, more feel, fewer things to go wrong, hardly anything to get out of adjustment. Probably the next best thing to a tiller.

Now there are differing cable systems. Push/pull teleflex cable types and pull/pull types. They may have pros and cons compared to each other. Hydraulic systems are another matter. Probably the least feel but they must have some advantages (that I don't know of) to exist at all.

Dave
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Old 28-02-2015, 15:25   #6
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Re: Which steering system is best?

At what point or LOA does a tiller become less desirable, on a typical spade rudder fin keel boat?

Is that point or LOA any different (perhaps shorter) on a full keel boat?

I have sailed on 35 foot boats with tiller, with no problem, but on none larger.

I seem to recall some of the longer open ocean race boats have tillers.

Opinions?
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Old 28-02-2015, 15:26   #7
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Re: Which steering system is best?

I also have a rack and pinion steering system (Whitlock Mamba) which is great. Just overhauling it now after 25 plus years of service.

Since I have a very large transom hung rudder I sometimes get too much rudder feedback i.e. the wheel can be almost wrenched out of my hands if a wave hits it right. For those times I wish I had hydraulic steering or perhaps hydraulic assist. But other than that all is good with the system.
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Old 28-02-2015, 15:40   #8
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Re: Which steering system is best?

I'd stick with the rack...
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Old 28-02-2015, 18:22   #9
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Re: Which steering system is best?

I have an edson cable system on my boat.. never had a problem.. but this is my first boat, never sailed anything else but a sunfish..

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Old 01-03-2015, 12:33   #10
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Re: Which steering system is best?

Just to stir the pot-I have Morse (Teleflex) push-pull cable steering,on my 28,using the "rotary"style helm(as opposed to the "rack" helm) & I have had the "rack"helm on previous boat.Work fine & very reliable,but they both have "slack" at straight ahead position.I suspect slight wear in helm teeth,at center,because that is where the helm is most of the time.
I have repaired/replaced any other "loose" points-tiller pin,arm to rudderstock pin,etc. I am not going to replace the helm unit yet,as it is only a minor irritant.
When I installed A/pilot,using a Raymarine electric ram,another minor nuisance(to me) cropped up-the steering wheel turns while on pilot.As it is a destroyer style wheel,no big deal,but if it had been a spoked traditional,I would change it,to avert being neutered.
If I were to replace the system,no question,it would be Teleflex/Capilano or equivalent, manual hydraulic.Simple,proven reliable,relatively inexpensive ,with flexible lines that can be run easily almost anywhere. If you want to add a pilot-2 tees & valves.
I can live without "tiller" type feedback at the wheel-but then I have both a wheel in pilothouse & a folding tiller at stern for nice days-getting old too.Different strokes----
Cheers/ Len
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Old 01-03-2015, 12:45   #11
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Re: Which steering system is best?

I had a tiller now a wheel. Like the wheel better. Dont want another tiller. I like standing and moving ask over the boat while steering. I use my feet allot while reading. Prefer the wheel.

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Old 01-03-2015, 13:12   #12
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Re: Which steering system is best?

Hey all, I don't mean to change the subject...to Northwestsailor...I had a friend with the same setup as you and the same complaint...he took an old steering dampner from a car and installed it and it worked well...as of the last time I saw him 7 mos. ago...It took the shock instead of your hands...
There must be a marine version out there for a gazillion dollars...
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Old 01-03-2015, 13:42   #13
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Re: Which steering system is best?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steady Hand View Post
At what point or LOA does a tiller become less desirable, on a typical spade rudder fin keel boat?

Is that point or LOA any different (perhaps shorter) on a full keel boat?

I have sailed on 35 foot boats with tiller, with no problem, but on none larger.

I seem to recall some of the longer open ocean race boats have tillers.

Opinions?
All depends on application. For round the buoys or short-course racing a tiller is superior. For longer races or passages a wheel has the benefit of reduced fatigue. There are some big racing boats out there with tillers...the feasibility of that is directly related to boat design and steering dynamics.

It really depends on how you use the boat, how many crew, etc.
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Old 01-03-2015, 15:22   #14
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Re: Which steering system is best?

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Originally Posted by Suijin View Post
All depends on application. For round the buoys or short-course racing a tiller is superior. For longer races or passages a wheel has the benefit of reduced fatigue. There are some big racing boats out there with tillers...the feasibility of that is directly related to boat design and steering dynamics.

It really depends on how you use the boat, how many crew, etc.
Chay Blythe had a tiller on the 56' 'British Steel'. That was probably pushing it as I hear it was a handful to steer in rough conditions. Wheel was an option on the Cal 40, not standard. Not uncommon to see a tiller on 40' plus racing sail boats. Really depends on the boat and the design of the rudder. A balanced spade rudder takes little force to turn and could probably be handled with a tiller on a quite large boat. An unbalanced barn door rudder probably wouldn't be suitable on a boat over 40'. The popularity of wheels has little to do with the need for mechanical advantage of the wheel but more to do with vanity of the skipper.

Find wheels way way more tiring to use on long passages or challenging conditions. Have done 72 hours straight on a boat with a heavy tiller at hull speed and only took a break for bodily functions and finally to sleep. If it hadn't been for sleep could have continued indefinitely. With a wheel, I'm ready for a break in minutes not days. First, you use a much smaller muscle group, arms, wrists and hands, exerting force in an inefficient side to side motion which results in rapid tiring especially when worked hard with a wheel. With a tiller, you can use almost all the the muscle groups in the body, including back and legs if necessary in an efficient pulling motion. Most wheels take a lot more motion to maintain a desired heading especially off the wind. Sawing a wheel back and forth a 1/2 wheel rotation or more at a time vice short pull and release motion with a tiller.
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Old 01-03-2015, 17:51   #15
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Re: Which steering system is best?

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Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
Chay Blythe had a tiller on the 56' 'British Steel'. That was probably pushing it as I hear it was a handful to steer in rough conditions. Wheel was an option on the Cal 40, not standard. Not uncommon to see a tiller on 40' plus racing sail boats. Really depends on the boat and the design of the rudder. A balanced spade rudder takes little force to turn and could probably be handled with a tiller on a quite large boat. An unbalanced barn door rudder probably wouldn't be suitable on a boat over 40'.

The popularity of wheels has little to do with the need for mechanical advantage of the wheel but more to do with vanity of the skipper.


Find wheels way way more tiring to use on long passages or challenging conditions. Have done 72 hours straight on a boat with a heavy tiller at hull speed and only took a break for bodily functions and finally to sleep. If it hadn't been for sleep could have continued indefinitely. With a wheel, I'm ready for a break in minutes not days. First, you use a much smaller muscle group, arms, wrists and hands, exerting force in an inefficient side to side motion which results in rapid tiring especially when worked hard with a wheel. With a tiller, you can use almost all the the muscle groups in the body, including back and legs if necessary in an efficient pulling motion. Most wheels take a lot more motion to maintain a desired heading especially off the wind. Sawing a wheel back and forth a 1/2 wheel rotation or more at a time vice short pull and release motion with a tiller.
I often enjoy reading your comments on this forum, because your experience and your description of it is very good.

Reading your good points above, I was actually able to recall similar sensations while steering boats with wheels or tillers, "muscle memory" or "memory of effort" and your good descriptions matched my feelings at those times. Good writing and vivid memories go together.

Wheel steering can be very tiring in a different manner than tiller steering, for those reasons you mentioned (different muscle groups used, different leverage).

I also think many people steer with a wheel while standing (to aid in turning the wheel with upper body). I think tiller steering (as I have done it) is most often while seated and while using legs and back (longer/stronger muscles) for leverage (if in a strong wind), and more rarely while standing.

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Above, you mentioned something I have seen others say/write before:
"The popularity of wheels has little to do with the need for mechanical advantage of the wheel but more to do with vanity of the skipper.
"


I may be a rarity, but I do not see that as you do. I would like to understand what you mean or others mean by the "vanity" aspect. Would you or others please clarify or elaborate on this point?

I have a few thoughts on this and will put them in writing as soon as I can.
Thanks.
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