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Old 29-04-2013, 10:24   #1
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Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

Is it possible to replace a wheel with a tiller? We've found a few under-30' used sailboat with wheels but have a strong preference for a tiller.

Is is possible to replace the wheel without changing the boat's performance? Could anyone make a range estimate of how much that might cost to have done?

The boat we're considering is a Mirage 29, perfect in every way except for the wheel.

Thanks for your comments.
Eustace Scrubb
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Old 29-04-2013, 10:38   #2
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

A photo of the cockpit would be useful, but do remember the pedestal and wheel cost a fortune new, so selling them might help pay for a big chunk of the cost.

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Old 29-04-2013, 10:41   #3
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

With a reverse transom and a skeg-mounted rudder placed all the way aft on the hull I think that particular design lends itself poorly to a tiller conversion.

There are numerous similar designs that came with a tiller option. Some, such as the Erikson 30, came with both wheel and tiller. On such boats it's an easy option to remove the wheel entirely, and this will actually improve the boat's performance. Then, when you go to sell the boat, you can easily reinstall the helm you removed, and not detract from the boat's value.
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:03   #4
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

Thank you both for your responses! I've posted a photo of the boat we're considering. I see that it is a reverse transom and can see now that a tiller installation could be problematic. However, I don't understand why "a skeg-mounted rudder placed all the way aft on the hull" poses a problem.

We're very new to boat design and hope you'll forgive our dimness.
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:07   #5
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

the first photo shows what you are talking about and that would not really work. the second photo shows who it ....might be able to work....

figure out if you can extend the rudderpost to attach a tiller...if you can do that, then yes, it will work.
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:08   #6
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

oops....photos uploaded opposite of my description.....
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:09   #7
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eustace Scrubb View Post
Thank you both for your responses! I've posted a photo of the boat we're considering. I see that it is a reverse transom and can see now that a tiller installation could be problematic. However, I don't understand why "a skeg-mounted rudder placed all the way aft on the hull" poses a problem.

We're very new to boat design and hope you'll forgive our dimness.
The problem with the skeg mounted rudder all the way aft with a reverse transom is that the top of the rudder post is usually under the transom so hard to access and mount the tiller.

A tiller generally mounts to the top end of the rudder post, sometimes with a straight extension up from the post to get the tiller high enough to fit in the cockpit.

You need to look at the top of the rudder post and determine how you can access it to attach the tiller.
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:16   #8
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

Thanks! I think we'll forgo this boat. We are ust beginning our search in any case.
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:22   #9
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

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Originally Posted by Eustace Scrubb View Post
Thanks! I think we'll forgo this boat. We are ust beginning our search in any case.
Good idea, not that I have anything negative to say about the boat. But there are a zillion boats out there <30' with lovely tillers.

Falling in love with the right boat is half the battle. .
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:25   #10
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

Really not much reason for smaller boats to have wheel steering, unless conversion would be difficult.
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Old 29-04-2013, 11:36   #11
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

What Skipmac said.
Also, this looks like a boat that was designed with wheel steering in mind. Boats designed for tiller steering often have a partially balanced rudder (rudder post aft of the leading edge of the rudder, but forward of the center of effort). It's hard to tell in the picture you provided, but it looks like the rudder post is on the leading edge of the rudder. Although the rudder appears to be relatively high-aspect, it still might take a good deal of effort to control and require a very long tiller.
So, in addition to the concern about how to attach a tiller to the rudder post, you need to be concerned about how the boat will handle under a tiller. You won't know if the later concern is important until after you've made the modification unless you consult with a NA, preferably the boat's designer.

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Old 29-04-2013, 12:35   #12
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

Any boat handles better with a tiller. Wheels are for yuppie BMW drivers who want to play admiral, Lord of the Fleet. Just ditched the the wheel on my boat for a tiller. Way way better control and so much easier to steer a course for long periods.

What you need to check out is where the rudder post will exit through the cockpit sole or some other place. Most often that will be where the emergency tiller is installed. On most boats it will come through the sole which is not a problem. Some boats it exits in the lazarette or similar location (Tartan37) which can present costly modifications to make a tiller work. It's a good idea to try steering with your emergency tiller to get a feel for it. Anyone should try that in any case. On my boat, the steering cables had to be disconnected to steer with the E tiller as there was so much friction in the wheel system that it was nearly impossible to overpower with the tiller. Once the wheel was disconnected, it was a joy to steer. Discovered that when the quadrant shifted surfing into SF Bay and nearly rammed a Pylon of the Golden Gate Bridge as a result.

I bought a piece of hollow bronze round stock and had it machined to fit over the rudder shaft on one end and a piece of 1 1/2" round bar at the other. Used a piece of 2" Delrin where the rudder stub shaft went through the deck. Bought a rudder head fitting from Edson which was by far the biggest expense in making the conversion. Cost a little over a $1,000 for the entire conversion including machining. You will have to fill the puka or cover it where the wheel was attached. I glassed mine over and used painted non skid which looks a lot better than the factory finish. Could also have put a piece of teak over it if I wanted to do an easy conversion back to the wheel which will never happen in my case.

With an unbalanced rudder, any boat up to past 40' can be easily steered with a tiller. You can go even larger with a balanced spade rudder. It's all about the power of a lever. Of course, the longer the lever, the greater the area it sweeps to for given movement of the rudder. A 4' tiller is no problem. If you think you need longer tiller, might mock up a tiller with 2x material and see how it will work in real life.
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Old 29-04-2013, 12:45   #13
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

I had both wheel and tiller setups in my Colvin aluminum schooner. There really was not much difference in control. I used the tiller when sailing long distance because it allowed cheap and easy sheet to tiller steering, which sailed the boat for days and days without a hand to helm. I could never make that work with a wheel. On my boat, the rudder head fitting worked well for both systems. As an aside, I would not like to own a boat with critical systems like steering system and sail rig that I could not fix at sea all by myself. Just saying ...
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Old 29-04-2013, 13:54   #14
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

My boat has a reverse transom and a tiller (see picture). From the Mirage 29 plan Mirage 29 - Used Sailboat Market in Canada, it seems that the rudder stock would exit just at the top of the transom. In fact, it has to, to make possible to fit an emergency tiller.

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Old 29-04-2013, 14:05   #15
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Re: Can we replace a Wheel with a Tiller?

indeed this is how ours works as we have both tiller and wheel on a 31ft waterline.

Pete
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