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Old 05-02-2012, 08:31   #1
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Replace or Restore - Wheel or Tiller ?

My wife and I have a 1970 Ohlson 38 with Edson wheel steering. The steering was installed in 1972. I have had the boat for two years and want to take it off shore. The emergency steering system is not at all adequate, and needs major retrofitting. In addition after speaking with the Edson rep. at Strictly Sail in Chicago it looks like we need to upgrade the steerer to a larger size to handle the stress of the vane steering. The question should we go back to a tiller at some undetermined cost (bearing in cockpit seat, fitting a tiller to the rudder shaft, a tiller) which should also address the problems with the emergency steering or should we replace the wheel system ($1000) and spend some undetermined amount of money building the emergency steering system?
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Old 05-02-2012, 09:24   #2
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

Greetings and welcome aboard the CF, jack2.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:40   #3
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

Get rid of the wheel. Wheels handicap pendulum servo self steering gear as well as being numb nuts way to steer a boat. With a wheel, it's hard/impossible to get reasonable throw of the rudder when attached to a vane. You are also fighting the inertia in a wheel steering system which alone can make the vane perform poorly in light air. Hooking the vane directly to the rudder eliminates all those problems.

In your case, if you are going to have to totally replace the wheel, the expense of sticking with a wheel just doesn't make sense.
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:49   #4
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

If you really intend to use the vane alot, tiller is easier to make it work well. A wheel is really nice for cruising though. But if you dont have an autopilot, that will be cheaper for a tiller also. I dont get the wheel needing to be upgraded to handle a wind vane..?. I think someone is trying to sell you something!
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Old 05-02-2012, 10:55   #5
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

We installed a monitor vane last summer and it does work well, but the wind was fairly strong every time we used it.

The other reasons for making a change to a tiller is that, one: the current emergency tiller is about a 18-24" shaft that clamps onto the rudder shaft facing backwards. To use it the lazerett hatch cover must be open, not really a very good system for off shore. And two: the wheel takes up most of the cockpit.
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Old 05-02-2012, 11:47   #6
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

The "swing radius" of the tiller will take up a lot of space while sailing also. Especially with a tiller pilot. However, at anchor tilting the tiller up does give lots of room.
Off topic: Does your olson have a cored hull? I used to race on, and against a 30 footer. FAST boats, passed most 40 footers! I just wonder how the hulls have faired over time. I have no idea if they eliminated core at seacocks and stuff like that.
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Old 05-02-2012, 12:02   #7
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

The hull is solid, no core, and the boat is fast and likes all conditions, except wind less then 5 knots.
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Old 05-02-2012, 14:57   #8
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

Ahh yes, I googled it, entirely differnt boat than I thought.... looks nice! One thought:the Skeg hung rudder boats I've had result in pretty good pressure on the rudder, due to no balancing forward of the rudder shaft.... a tiller might be a little tiring on that type of boat... also, on a nice druiser like that a tiller will be a minus to most people if you sell.... FWIW
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Old 05-02-2012, 18:57   #9
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

The PO installed a Edson wheel in our boat. My wife kept trying to get me remove it, and eventually I did. Best thing we ever did to our boat. Way more cockpit room and a lot easier to maintain.
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Old 05-02-2012, 21:36   #10
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

my 2 bobs worth - if you have to replace i'd go for the tiller everytime - my boats got hydraulic wheel steering, an emergency tiller that comes up through the middle of the aft cabin berth if it has to be fitted, and i've just fitted another tiller handle that comes out through the side of the bunk that i can tie off because hydraulic steering bleeds so much it will never hold course. If i could think of an easy way to do it with a centre cockpit i'd just have a tiller. plus windvanes work a lot simpler onto a tiller. plus you can feel the damn boat when you're sailing.
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Old 05-02-2012, 22:13   #11
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

If you don't need significant mechanical advantage, tillers work fine and are definitely cheaper. Large racing "dinghys," etcetera as pictured below seem to carry wheels, however, so I'd assume they provide good feedback (or steering feedback is of minimal importance) to the helmsman for fast sailing. I've always used tillers when sailing (boats all under 30-feet LOA), but most boats over 35-feet seem to have wheels.

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Old 05-02-2012, 22:55   #12
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

Apparently the boat came with a tiller, so I would return to that design. Clearly someone thought it was adequate and the mechanical advantage of the wheel was not necessary. What I like about a tiller is that you quickly learn how to trim the boat properly, or you will build a hell of a lot of strength. I frequently see wheel-steered boats horribly out of balance (e.g. downwind with main only) with the helmsman blissfully unaware that his rudder is well over and being a pretty fair sea anchor. Try that with a tiller and it becomes pretty obvious (and painful). The downside of the tiller for most boats is that the autopilot has to be fitted in the cockpit, and these models are notoriously short-lived (I've owned a number of Raymarine's best tillerpilots - they are easily overmatched on unbalanced rudders). So while doing the conversion if you can keep the quadrant below decks, then do so and use it to attach a beefy, reliable autopilot permanently.

My boat displaces in excess of 23,000 pounds, fully laden, and has a "barn door" rudder on the transom (unbalanced to say the least). And yet it is no problem for steering, so I think you are safe with the tiller.

If you decide to stay with a wheel, then you might consider getting a combined wind vane and auxiliary rudder system, as sold by WindPilot and Fleming, which is independent of the wheel and is used with the wheel locked. I agree with an earlier post that the idea that the wheel has to be upgraded for a wind vane is something only a salesman of wheel steering would say - ignore. BTW I much prefer the WindPilot and Fleming designs for wind vanes; both incorporate more evolved features than older designs. Also beware of used wind vanes: corrosion can take a toll, particularly inside certain stainless tubes, and can be weak although not obvious.
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Old 06-02-2012, 01:49   #13
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Re: Replace or Restore, Wheel or Tiller?

Greetings. I have owned and sailed one of the 3 or 4 Ohlson 41's ever built for approx. 8 years and absolutely love the boat (then again...who doesn't love their boat?). We live aboard and are preparing for an extended cruise, or at least for as long as we are having fun. She has a wheel with an edson pedestal, original to the boat, and the pedestal is just aft of the main sheat. The emegency tiller is accessed through a 3 inch port in the cockpit sole just forward of the mainsheat. The tiller drops onto a 1 inch square bronze post which is linked to the quadrant below the cockpit sole. The system is strong, efficient and steers the boat well. Space below is tight for sure, so be sure to build it right the first time should you do something similar. As for the wind vane issue...I am planning on installing the Cape Horn windvane, which I believe after much research is the best match for my boat. (I like that a tiller pilot can be attatched to the Cape Horn as a less expensive AP back up if/when the below deck AP fails.) That said, I have not installed one yet so this is hypothetical only. I installed a 42" folding Lewmar wheel, which is fantastic for my boat and a similar wheel may work on yours as well. Regarding the wheel inertia problem, every boat that has a wheel that does not disengage in some way has this problem. I am trying to create a way to "disengage" the wheel, but the problem is one that is overcome by autopilots the world over. Seems to me that balancing my boat is more important by far when it comes down to minimizing stress to the AP as well as the steering system as a whole.

IMO, the method you choose to steer your boat is a personal one; valid arguments can be made for both tiller and wheel. If you don't feel compelled one way or another, get a couple quotes for each (converting back to tiller; servicing the wheel and adding a solid emegency tiller) then go with what works best for you and your boat...no one knows her better that you. If it were me...I would refit the tiller if it was easy, inexpensive and "just works" in the cockpit space; otherwise, I would service the original pedestal, replacing parts that should be replaced knowing my goal is to head offshore cruising; and install the emergency tiller system.

I love the Ohlson 38's. I looked long and hard at one in Annapolis about 13 years ago, but it wasn't meant to be. Found my 41 a few years later. Funny how things work out.

Without more info and pictures of your 38, that is my advice. I hope it helps some.
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Old 08-02-2012, 12:50   #14
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Re: Replace or Restore - Wheel or Tiller ?

I have Edson worm gear steering with alot of slop and I was advised to rebuild it or a wind vane wouldnt work. I called Scanmar and talked to them about it. The story is you need 4 turns lock to lock to make it work with a Monitor and it has to be fairly free & easy without alot of slop. I bought a used Monitor and installed it without doing a thing to the steering other than installing the drum to the wheel. My wheel is at the end of the cockpit, not in the middle like most wheels so it doesnt take up any room.
It took a little fooling around to get the lines & pulleys working correctly but it works perfect! I use a cheap Simrad tiller pilot attatched to the Monitor where the vane is attatched when there is little or no wind. The pilot doesnt work hard at all and uses very little juice. All this is hooked up behind me out of the way and with the remote I can steer the boat from the bow if I want to. The whole outfit cost less than $2500 - pilot, windvane, etc. and it works great!!!! I imagine if I were to get rid of some of the slop in the Edson gear, it would work even better. My steering has about one spoke of slop in it and it still works great. I need to resleeve the top of the rudder post eventually. Rebuilding the Edson worm gear is a machine shop job someday but it all
works fine the way it is. The unit is over 70 years old and it probably will outlast me. The monitor is an amazing unit, by far the best I've ever used once you learn how to set it up. As far as an emergency tiller goes - the montitor will steer the boat with the rudder locked straight ahead. I cant imagine what it would take to destroy the Edson gear - It is built to last two lifetimes. As long as nothing gets in a bind it will work untill the rudder falls off and when that happens - you can steer the boat with the monitor with two lines. My boat is 48' heavy full keel canoe stearn woodie.
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