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Old 20-10-2005, 12:04   #31
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With regards to ScottK's original question, maybe its just me but there does appear to be a consensus that wheel steering does not make sense on boat of the less than 32 foot length that he was originally asking about.

Other than that, there is a wide range of opinion here. For people like me with a lot of experience with hydraulic steering systems, little of it good, I would not have a hydraulic steering system on a bet. But for others who have had better luck they seem to love their hydraulic systems. This, like so many other sailing questions does not have one right answer but has a lot to do with individual tastes, experiences, sailing venues, and boats in question.

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Old 20-10-2005, 12:22   #32
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Hi Jeff

I think that you keep missing the point that several of us have tried to underline: NO SYSTEM IS WORTHY IF IT IS INFERIOR IN DESIGN, INSTALLATION, AND MAINTANENCE! There is ABSOLUTELY no doubt as to the advantages of proper hydraulic systems and they have a head-to-shoulders overall PROVEN success which cannot be argued with. Your bringing up a few particular failures is not significant in the overall world of sailboat hydraulic success.

I contend that you have NOT witnessed such a decent system. I know that over the years MOST small sailboat hydraulic systems that I have inspected are ABYSMAL in the manner that they were installed. Like most good things, they cannot be condemned for the wrong reasons.

Man was not put on the moon and successully retreived without technology which many sailboat people still condemn as being something that "if it hasn't failed it will" which is a fallacy flying in the face of successful facts. By repeating such defeatist anti-technology drivel such people are merely ensconcing themselves in caves amidst a world of wonderful opportunity. Don't deny others with such defeatism who might otherwise benefit from the bigger picture.

As someone pointed out earlier, I have seen several broken and failed tiller steering systems, they were either inferior or lacked maintenance yet I do not condem tiller steering systems.

Rick, the technical evangelist
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Old 20-10-2005, 19:49   #33
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Thanks again, Wheels & Rick, for the installation advice. I haven't gone completely through the manuals yet but the tank is a gravity fed system with a vent in the tank.

But it's good to know about the pressure problem for hooking up the autopilot. I'll defiantly have to isolate the steering pump from the pilot pump.

BTW I've seen some pretty raunchy tiller systems. I went out with the guy slipped next to me last June. And while he was up forward I took the tiller. It about drove me crazy with all the back lash in the handle cross bolt. It was so sloppy that every time you crest a wave it would about pull your shoulder out. After we got back I repaired the thing for him. He said it started to get that way about 5 years ago, but just got use to it and wasn't sure how to fix it.........................................._/)
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Old 20-10-2005, 20:46   #34
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Hi Delmarrey

Before you drill a vent hole in that neat knurled access knob on the top of your helm pump consider, instead, putting in a tube fitting in place of the rear top chamber pipe fitting which you can put a flexible hose on leading up to a conveniently mounted dessicator or at least an off-the-shelf clear plastic fuel fileter (which does not pass water) as a vent. In addition, you can use this hose as a convient manner to top off the fluid level without having to put it in when the pump is mounted and the top knob is no longer "convenient".
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Old 20-10-2005, 21:53   #35
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Not a bad idea!

Trying to find a small, easily removed dessicat might be a chore. But I'll bet Parker can come up with something!

Yeah that'll be a real pain trying to get to that plug once it's mounted under the deck.

One ggod thing is this unit will be mounted just aft of the diesel so it'll get warmed up once in while, keeping the moisture down. In the winters I keep a heat lamp in the engine compartment. just under where I'll mount the pump.................._/)
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Old 20-10-2005, 22:57   #36
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I wouldn't fret about mositure in the oil. You will be useing a proper hydraulic Oil and it will be about a 10W or maybe slightly more. There is nothing special about it as far as a haydraulic oil goes, but using the manufacturers brand is often best and then uyou have Exactly what you require. The proper hydraulic oil is fully synthetic and will not absorb moisture. DO NOT EVER NEVER, use transmission oil or Auto Power steering oil.
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Old 21-10-2005, 05:53   #37
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Rick:

I have not missed your point at all. I absolutely agree with your shouted assertion that "NO SYSTEM IS WORTHY IF IT IS INFERIOR IN DESIGN, INSTALLATION, AND MAINTANENCE!" I agree entirely. That is precisely why I don't like hydraulics. The reality is that the majority of hydraulic systems in the States (where I sail) are on production boats and are installed in the manner (components run through inaccessible areas) that I described above. This makes a system that is hard to maintain and repair easily. So I completely agree that proper installation and maintenance is a critical but I also think that one clear area where we differ is in acknowledging that very small proportion hydraulic systems are properly installed. I also think that very few hydraulic systems are properly maintained (periodic hydraulic fluid flushing and replacement, shaft cleaning near seal zones, reasonable high pressure hose replacement cycles, periodic seal replacement, etc.). Most hydraulic systems seem to be allowed to go to failure before any serious maintenance is performed. I personally would prefer not to have a system that requires that kind of maintenance.

The poor installation practices may partially result from the marketing of Hydraulics in the States as the system to use in applications where the wheel is located such that a direct connection system won't work.

My other objections to Hydraulics is that hydraulic steering systems are wildly expensive compared to other high quality steering systems. They require more extensive maintenance regimes than the steering system of my preference. While the cylinders can often be rebuld, the pumps are less easily repaired when they blow out (which was one of my experienced sources of totally failure.) I hate the feel and yes I know that is highly subjective.

Other than that, you and I have a fundemental disagreement on what makes a preferable steering system. This is probably a matter of individual taste, the boats that we sail, and where and how we sail. Obviously, since I tend to buy used production boats, dislike the feel of a hydraulic, and prefer the lower friction and lighter feel of a rack and pinion system, I do not like hydraulics and you have made it very clear that you do like them. Thats okay, we don't have to agree. I think that this discussion has been successful in presenting two very different view points on hydraulics and in that regard I think that this what forums like this are meant to do.

Respectfully,
Jeff
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Old 21-10-2005, 11:36   #38
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I came to this thread late and found it one day after I received the following email from a friend, Kent, on JACK IRON. This is in my experience not at all an unusual occurence:

"As you recall I was heading for Madeira [several days offshore from Portugal]. Well I turned around(75 miles out) after finding a puddle of hydraulic fluid in the back of the boat.. Mike being a "Air Force hydraulic specialist" noticed that the Ram was spewing oil ever so slightly.. So I thought Madeira would not have much as far as repair facilities. So I "Tacked" and went to Villamoura, Portugal [on P's S coast]. Had the Ram rebuilt for 100 Euros..."

The two arguments that seem to percolate thru the 'pro hydraulic steering' posts are that it *can* be fail-safe if properly designed, installed and maintained, and the anecdotal comments from some owners of boats with these systems who haven't had problems. As these BB's demonstrate over and over, it's possible to support any view by the anecdotal evidence of some ("I did a circumnavigation in my Catalina 30 and didn't have a problem..."). This kind of information is similar to comments that weak/poorly designed tiller systems have been spotted. Such logic (it worked for some, so it must inherently be good/better/best...or I saw it done poorly, so it's not a preferred choice in any form) is no different than me pointing out that the Navy invested some serious engineering in the hydraulic systems on the Subs I served aboard, including manual systems just like those found on yachts, but that sure didn't preclude problems unless the units were serviced regularly and knowledgeably...which gets me to my main point:

Whether a system is 'good' for a knowledgeable individual or not, the broader question IMO is whether it's 'good' for the average Joe, the typical sailor who's trying to get his boat from point A to B. And I know a fair amount about Joe, including that he knows zip about hydraulics, never changes the oil ("It's working fine...") and couldn't tell you when the seals were last replaced. Moreover, we're talking about boats here, which means not every steering system is going to be flawless when designed and built to a cost, installed by a hourly employee of unknown qualification, and who knows how many years old. For the same reason that a well designed tiller on that 30' boat in post #1 *could* be the best solution (simple, inexpensive, functional and removeable), this is why IMO hydraulic steering is probably the worst choice(unfamiliar, not simple, not inexpensive, every system seems unique in one or more respects, routine maintenance is required).

I noted in passing the comment about having seen some weak tiller systems...but saw no evidence that the other nickle dropped. Very few people IME see 'weak' wheel steering systems (rack/pinion, cable/sheave, hydraulic) because very few people are willing to get their knees scuffed by actually crawling around with a bright inspection light, looking at all the components. What most folks know about their wheel steering system is the wheel. Each spring while we've been out cruising, I find I'm the only one in a marina (with many cruising boats and Mom & Pop, short-handed crews who really should know better) who pulls the partitions aside and inspects idlers, pulleys, the chain, greases and oils, checks tension, sweeps for burrs, etc. For folks who haven't a taste for that level of effort, the tiller would be a better choice for serious sailing plans, presuming the boat is as small as was originally mentioned.

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Old 21-10-2005, 12:09   #39
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Jack:
I wish I'd said that!!!

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Old 21-10-2005, 12:45   #40
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Well said Jack. Excellent post, although if I may just comment on a point made by Jeff and echoed by you. The maintanace aspect. Actually, lets go back a step first. I think the argument is clouded by size of vessel being left out of the discussion. Yes, in smaller boats, Tiller is a good choice. Tiller is by far the easiest, simplest and least maintainance of any steering system. Yes Tiller can also fail, and yes it also needs inspection once in a while. Just like ANY high loaded and/or moving part on a boat.
Once we get to a boat that size dictates a different steering mechanism other than tiller, then I think this is where our arguments have become all clouded. It would be simply rediculouse trying to steer a boat of the size I own and with it's design via a Tiller, except in anything other than an extreme emergency. So the argument for larger boats would have to be, what system is best for such installation. So lets proceed to the point I wanted to make.
Maintanace of Hydraulic as apossed to any other mechanical steering device. Actually, hydraulic would have to be the least in terms of maintanance. Plus it is very rare for a catastrphic failure to the point of absolutely no steering. If I may comment on your comments Jeff. Regular mainatance of seals and hose replacement aren't required as you suggest. I have seen hydraulic systems that have worked flawlessly in commercial fishing vessels for 20yrs with no one looking at anything other than beltdrives. A helm pump seal rarely fails due to wear. The shaft is simply never subjected to the number of cycles required to cause the wear. The biggest cause of wear in seal systems, is when the system has had an oil change and incorrect oil has been used, and /or, the internal pressure of the system due to incorrect breathing. The ram seals are also very robust. The two failure points here are overloading, which I will come back to, and corrosion on the shaft. Corrosion of the shaft is rare, but can occurr. Allowing this to run through the front seals can then cause leakage. Rams are such that they will withstand very very high cycle lives before seal wear becomes evedent. As for hoses, the hosing should and can last a lifetime. Danger with hosing come from corrosion of fittings. But in the overall design, the hoses are capable of working at much much higher pressures than the system will ever be subject to. And if in the event that a leak does occur, a repair can easilyget you up and runnin again. Over loading is the greatest danger to a hydraulic system, with the main area to sustain damage being the Ram. This makes the ram the weakest link in the steering system. If it gets bent, it fails. This is rare, but the events of falling back off a wave or running aground are the two main dangers to the rudder. But any steering system is going to be subject to damage. Mechanical steering is probably the safest here, as the wheel will probably spin around, but hydraulic fitted with backing valves will lock tight the ram and thus rudder and so allow the rudder and ram to take the fall load. Ofcourse, this can also be a blessing, as it stops the rudder from falling hard over, but that is another argument.
So now that I have approached Mechanical, lets look at that in comparison. Mechanical systems would have to be the highest maintanace device out there. Mate, have I done some work over the years on worn out mechanical steering systems. The greatest two areas of concern are corrosion and wear. Mostly due to the main wearing areas being inaccessible to apply lubricants. Such as morse cables and rack and pinions. The number of VERY expensive Morse cables I have replaced over the years is untold. I have seen frozen from corrosion through to cable failures from wear. It's subject to all. And when one fails, it fails, no dury rigging will help, unless you can get to the rudder stock and bypass the compleate system.
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Old 21-10-2005, 12:49   #41
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Well said Jack!

As for myself I prefer the hydraulics, with the tiller back up, being the maintenance specialist that I am. Besides, it keeps an ole fart like myself in shape crawling around in them tight spaces.

Like you stated below, that if you don't have the knack for technical things, it's best to stick to the simplest system. Me, I have a problem trying to get all the electronic gadgets to interact with each other.

One system is no better then the other, in relation to the owners enthusiasm to do the maintenance. As shown in previous posts, even a tiller system can fail; let alone any other parts of the vessel.

Back to Rick,

Below is a drawing of the installation. The way it's set up, the header tank can serve as the tube/fill vessel. Which is also plumbed to the rear top chamber fitting. Being here in the PNW with high humidity and cool temperatures, a desiccate could be adapted to the vent of the header tank. Especially with the tank being a 1/8" wall bronze casting.

So Scott, it's really up to you what you want/can do. In the 30' range, either way is fine............................_/)
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Old 21-10-2005, 15:43   #42
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Delmarrey

Looks good to me. Don't forget to include either a couple of manifolds near the ram or two pairs of tees. You Tee off for the autopilot (one) and plug off the other two Tees to include adding another pump. The "other" pump can be either a 1 cubic inch per second (or thereabouts) pumpset used as a steering backup and/or remote control to jog around with when you are working on the rudder or when you are on the bow looking for deadheads in the water or "bergie-bits" when you go up to Alaska towards one of the glaciers.

If the autopilot drive electronics are rated to handle two pumps you can switch in the other pump motor in parallel (double check the polarity corresponding to fluid flow) when you get into a storm and are in big following seas you will notice an improvement in response time (THAT takes unadulterated horsepower) which prevents excessive yawing. If you notice it is VERY difficult to find an affordable single pumpset over 1/4HP and I feel that 1/3 HP is necessary for a "usual" 40 footer. Naturally in calm conditions the pumpset draws less than those "toy" steeringwheel autopilots.

I was in a hurricane going down waves that I flat could not steer without yawing all over the place. It was black out during daytime and I could hardly see a thing (except some white when some wave boarded the boat and entirely covered the deck). When I turned the autopilot back on the boat stood right back up and went straight. Couldn't believe it.
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Old 21-10-2005, 18:10   #43
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Re: hydraulic

Quote:
roverhi once whispered in the wind:
Usually the emergency rudder is under a plate in the cockpit sole. It is not sealed once the plate is removed. In emergencies, you can easily attach the tiller but you better have a good bilgepump as there is no stopping any water in the cockpit finding its way below. Other boats, like the T-37 make conversion to a tiller nearly impossible. In the T-37 the emergency tiller is fitted in the lazarette hatch. You'd have to totally rebuild the aft deck to make it work. Other boats like a Wauquiez that I looked at would be easy. The emergency tiller fitting comes up throught the FRP cockpit coaming and you just have to slap on the tiller.
.
Speaking of emergency tillers, I find the one in my current boat comical. It is below the centerline queen, in the aft cabin. There is no possibility of extension, and you simply have to steer from below decks..... ha ha ha.

Sure hope I never have to use it--- I can see it now... "I SAID 20 DEGREES LEFT RUDDER, not 24 DEGREES!!" All you need to complete the picture is a few oars through the topsides and like 12 guys down below rowing.
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Old 22-10-2005, 03:00   #44
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When asked, “what’s a good boat ?”, I’ve often replied that I’ve never seen one - just some that aren’t as bad as others.
Ok, part of my reluctance to discuss specific boats stems from a poor memory, that tends to merge all of the “problems” I’ve encountered into one great ball of frustration at the way boats are designed, built, and operated.
Fixing boats for a living, seems to leave you with an impression that nothing is every 100% right on a boat. Not right from the factory, and certainly not after abused by ignorant owners (or worse yet, “improved” by those same IO’s).

Unconscionable Emergency Steering design
From roverhii: “In the T-37 the emergency tiller is fitted in the lazarette hatch ...” and from ssullivan “... I find the one in my current boat comical. It is below the centerline queen, in the aft cabin ...”, et al

It’d be sidesplittingly funny, if it wasn’t so potentially injurious.

Rant over,
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Old 22-10-2005, 14:10   #45
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unconscionable

I heard of one boat that had an even more interesting 'emergency tiller' adventure. When the steering failed, they were able to easily get at the rudder head to install the emergency tiller. The problem was the pedestal wouldn't allow them to swing it. They had to remove the pedestal to be able to use the tiller. They weren't in any life threatening situation but things would have been interesting in rough weather.

As far as a tiller failing, yes it's possible but it sure is easy to inspect the whole steering mechanism.

It's good old Murphy at work. Plan on any system on your boat failing. If possible actually use the back-up as it is intended to be used. The exercise can save your butt in an emergency.

Off topic, but the radio is one of my concerns. What do you do if the mast comes down. Almost everyone has their antenna at the masthead or a stay. No mast, no antenna, no radio. Know that for a HF radio, you can use a tuned whip antenna. From experience HF radios are really finicky about tuning the antenna to the radio and proper ground planes. Without the proper match you simply don't get out. I understand Vhf radios aren't so finicky but without the mast height, the signal is probably greatly reduced. Next cruise, I'll test out the back up system for real just to be sure it works and I know how to make it work.

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