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Old 06-08-2009, 07:35   #1
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Convert Wheel to Tiller Steering

Hey,

I'm seriously thinking about converting my wheel to tiller steering. I've seen threads about tiller to wheel, but none about wheel to tiller.

I love the idea being able to reach all my winches while still steering, and maybe my dodger would actually be good for something if i had a tiller. Also while passage making, it will work better with a windvane than with wheel.

Has anybody actually made this conversion? How difficult was it? I assume this would be the easiest of the 2 conversions. Are you glad you decided on the tiller?

Thanks
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Old 06-08-2009, 08:58   #2
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There are good and bad points to both. I've not converted. If I had a good working wheel system I doubt I would change. I love the "feel" you get and the quick response of a tiller though. They can be tiring on the arms on a long beat, especially if your boat has much weather helm. Simplicity is nice and a tiller pilot will be less money. If I was building new, boat size under 37 I would opt for the cost savings of a tiller probably.... Tillers need to be tied off at anchor etc to keep from thrashing around... this blocks the cockpit some, but some wheels do to! If you keep your wheel brake in good condition, often you can use just a little brake pressure and make fine sailing adjustments to stay on course... a tiller has no resistance at all, you have to manually concentrat on long beats etc to stay on course...
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:47   #3
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I love the feel of a tiller over wheels. There comes a point though where tillers start taking too much space and the mechanical advantage of a wheel becomes an important consideration. A 35 foot boat is starting to approach the limit of needing a wheel...depending on how you use the boat as well and how close to balanced is your rudder along with mechanical and clearance considerations.

You could probably do it but take into consideration some of the downsides some people have already mentioned. Consult with a naval architect if you want a firmer answer.
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Old 06-08-2009, 09:50   #4
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Ya it is hard to beat the 'feel' of a tiller. I did some day sailing on a Cal 28 that had a tiller and i loved it,the rudder feels like an extension of your arm; in a way i guess it is.

I never thought i would want a tiller over a wheel, but i guess the more i sail, the more a pay I attention to the details.

David - Your point about room in the cockpit underway is one of the few downsides i see in a tiller, and is a good point. Although i also hate having to jump from behind the wheel to make adjustments. I do all my sailing shorthanded, and in the process of outfitting the boat to sail from BC to Mexcio and beyhond. I will be installing a Cape Horn windane, and from all I've read windvanes perform better with a tiller.

I'm just curious on the installation of a tiller. I think this may be one of those questions with too many variables that are unique to each boat.
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Old 06-08-2009, 10:13   #5
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The more I think about my tiller boats, the more I think I should emphasize how "busy" a tiller tends to be on a cruising boat. The tiller does not have any resistance to lock it onto a minor adjustment, reading a book with a tiller is pretty much out except in perfect wind balanced boat situations etc. Your arm just get's tired of being in one stationary place. You can try schemes to tie it off, but now you are forced to sit in front of the tiller and have to reach behind you to make adjustments...
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Old 06-08-2009, 10:23   #6
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Tillerpilot....I love my Raymarine one
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Old 06-08-2009, 12:00   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freerider View Post
... I'm just curious on the installation of a tiller. I think this may be one of those questions with too many variables that are unique to each boat.
Indeed.
I suspect that the Hughs 35, in particular, may not be well-suited to a tiller conversion.

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Originally Posted by Freerider View Post
I'm seriously thinking about converting my wheel to tiller steering. I've seen threads about tiller to wheel, but none about wheel to tiller...
Which, of itself, might be instructive.
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Old 06-08-2009, 12:08   #8
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Originally Posted by Freerider View Post

I'm just curious on the installation of a tiller. I think this may be one of those questions with too many variables that are unique to each boat.
That's why I suggest getting the professional opinion of a naval architect who can come out to see your boat.
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Old 06-08-2009, 12:26   #9
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If he wants a tiller, why doesn't he sail with his emergency tiller for a while and see if he likes it better? When I finish with my Valiant, it will have both a tiller (for sheet to tiller steering) and a wheel. The tiller handle is below deck, easily accessible by a rear hatch. In fact, the tiller steering could be used totally inside, if for some reason the cockpit is compromised. If the skeg rudder falls off, well I have thought on how to handle that too- but I haven't practiced with my drogues.
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Old 06-08-2009, 13:50   #10
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The problem with servo pendulum self steering vanes is the F^%(*)&* wheel and all the friction points that are associated with it. Wheels have so much internal drag and limited range of motion with the vane that they often don't steer worth a damn. The Monitor that came with my current boat wouldn't steer the boat below 4 knots of boat speed. Just not enough force generated by the servo rudder to turn the wheel. The faster the boat went, the better it steered but I don't drive so it was unacceptable. In contrast, our tiller steered Westsail 32 with its huge barndoor rudder and fearsome weather helm at speed was steered by the Aries Vane if the boat would move right up to surfing at hull speed. From barely ghosting to 180 mile days, the vane steered the boat. Some wheel steered boats are reported to work just fine with a P S Vane but others have some degree of degraded performance.

These guys http://www.idasailor.com/catalog/default.php made a tiller conversion for a 30 some foot Pearson for the guy that ran AirForce Sails, believe his name was Sam Boyle. There was a write up on the AirForce Website but it appears to be NLA. Might try contacting either AirForce or Idasailor. The IdaSailor fix was a sleeve that went over the rudder post with a stub steering tube that brought the steering tube above the cockpit sole for the tiller head attachment. The puka in the cockpit sole was covered by a PTFE Plastic that covered the puka, acted as a bearing and stablizing force on the stub tiller. Sam seemed happy with the conversion.

My current boat, Pearson 35, is my first with a wheel and will be my last. The happiest day owning this boat will be the day that I dump the wheel in favor of a tiller. Problem is the cost. I need to pull the rudder to inspect the shaft. Can't seem to stop the shaft from leaking around the log. Fear there may be some electolysis which will necessitate replacing the rudder stock and rebuilding the rudder. Hopefully will get around to that this year. If the shaft needs replacing, it will make conversion to a tiller a no brainer. If the shaft is okay, will go with the Ida Sailor arrangement.

You can't just stick in the emergency tiller and get a feel of what the boat will steer like with a tiller. You need to disconnect the wheel steering or you'll be fighting the wheels friction as well as the water pressure on the rudder. Had to use the emergency tiller when the quadrant slipped on the wheel steering. It was a thorough pain fighting the wheel. Wasn't a problem when I disconnected the wheel steering cable. Unfortunately that's not all that easy to do, especially when you're faced with ramming one of the towers of the Golden Gate Bridge.

I really don't know why this wheel fetish that has infected the sailing community, maybe it's Bligh syndrome. I find the wheel to be inferior in almost every way to a tiller. Wheels do not take less effort to steer than a tiller. Steering my boat at near hull speed or under power with the wheels is god awful tiring. Worse, it requires forearm and hand strength that I find particularly onorous. Under the above conditions, find I have to stand to get the leverage to steer which gets old real quick. I've done three days at hull speed single handing a W32 without a problem except sleep depravation. A wheel leaves me wishing for a break after only a few minutes under these conditions. With the tiller, you get more muscle groups into steering which, for me, is virtually non tiring. Nothing like banging your cold fingers into the spokes of the wheel when the wet rim slips in challenging conditions. The wheel effectively blocks fore and aft movement in the cockpit. I can step over a tiller, but have to take a detour to get around the wheel. The wheel has no feel and takes forever to respond to command inputs. Heaven help you if have to make a large steering correction quickly. Cranking from center to stop just isn't fun. With a tiller, I just lean back. I can steer a tiller with my legs either standing with it between or against my legs. Really a benefit when short tacking, single handed as I can steer and tail the winches simultaneously.

Having a wheel, just makes you the a**hole, isolated at the back of the boat, yelling commands at your crew.

Aloha
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Old 06-08-2009, 16:46   #11
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Indeed.
I suspect that the Hughs 35, in particular, may not be well-suited to a tiller conversion

Hey Gord - Just curious, why do you think a H35 would not be suited for a tiller conversion? I admit I know very little about this subject. What kind of boat (wheel steering) would be "well" suited?
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Old 06-08-2009, 19:38   #12
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The 35 would probably work just fine. The only fly in the ointment I can tell from the drawings is that the rudder is an unbalanced skeg rudder. I wouldn't expect it to be overpowering but not as light to the touch as a balanced spade rudder.

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Old 06-08-2009, 20:29   #13
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While the idea of using an emergency tiller to try it out may not be perfect, it's what you'll do in the end. You can't change where the rudder is, so You need to make it work. The tiller attachés to the rudder post unless you want to make a new one. Removal of the wheel and all the crap in the way would of course be required. The tiller length is a factor in any boat. It would be good if you were still inside the cockpit.

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The only fly in the ointment I can tell from the drawings is that the rudder is an unbalanced skeg rudder. I wouldn't expect it to be overpowering but not as light to the touch as a balanced spade rudder.
An unbalanced trim is most always the same no matter the rudder design - over powering. You can have that with a tiller, spade, or skeg hung rudder. It's more of a sail boat thing than a steering thing. Tillers are more self balancing if you just let go.
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Old 06-08-2009, 21:00   #14
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Has anyone tried installing a tiller pilot on an emergency tiller? I have a center cockpit and could install it below decks.
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Old 06-08-2009, 21:23   #15
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I removed the wheel steering from my previous boat (a 25ft Triton 24) - the boat in my opinion was too small for a wheel and it clogged up the cockpit. I simply unbolted all the workings, plugged the hole in the cockpit floor and reattached the tiller that had been left on the boat when I bought it. The boat was much more responsive and easier to sail with the tiller. My current boat (Doven 30) has a wheel and I am really impressed - it is direct and has a wonderful "feel". I would not change it. When solo sailing I can lock it off to windward and go and sit on the rail up to 20 knots of breeze and it tracks beautifully
On the other hand, I often steer a Beneteau 40.7 in races and that does seem to lack some feel. The wheel is large and seems to require a lot of action to keep the boat "in the groove" to windward and requires good communication between steerer and main sheet person to maintain track - especially in well powered conditions.
I think the "feel" thing is very individual with many variables - sail set up, wheel size and gearing, rudder size, keel shape, hull shape etc etc. I'm not sure that it is entirely a wheel Vs tiller thing. Well - that's my two bob's worth!
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