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Old 22-02-2013, 13:04   #1
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Steering wheel turns lock to lock

Hello Cruisers,

We recently purchased a Swanson 42 with a pedestal mounted steering system in the cockpit. It has a pretty large wheel on the pedestal, not as big as some of the racing boats but big enough to dominate the cockpit and make it hard to get around.

The steering takes a total of three turns lock to lock, which to my mind seems a bit highly geared, and it really needs the largish wheel to get enough torque.

On the delivery trip home we found that sometimes we simply were not strong enough to turn the wheel against the force of the water, such as when we were running before some pretty nasty seas, resulting in some bad yawing. (The Swanson has a skeg hung rudder and is not at all balanced)

The steering mechanisms themselves are all in very good condition as far as I can tell, no significant friction in any of the pulleys etc, very little lash in the steering overall.

Now on another thread I am seeking alternative locations for the throttle lever one suggestion shows that with a smaller wheel it would be possible to put the lever on the steering pedestal, but with the current wheel I would not be able to reach around to the lever, I would have to reach through the spokes.

I know large wheels are popular on racing yachts, but our Swanson is most certainly NOT one of those, so I wondered about putting on a smaller wheel then gearing down the steering by introducing a pulley either side of the quadrant on the rudder post. This would mean six turns lock to lock and I am not sure if that is too low geared.

So, finally, my question is, how many turns lock to lock is considered acceptable for a cruising boat like ours, noting that it also has a Coursemaster autopilot which operates directly on the rudder quadrant itself so the wheel has to move as a slave of the system when the autopilot is on.

Thank you,

Matthew
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Old 22-02-2013, 13:22   #2
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

A few questions!

Have you tried the steering w/o the Coursemaster attached? You may be fighting that. Is there a bypass valve?

Weather/lee helm? Does it make a difference if you adjust sails?

Have you checked the rudder to see if there is resistance in movement when moored? The pivot points may be seizing.



Large wheels are so one can steer from far sides of the boat while heeled. Some are going to duel wheels or swing wheels now for the really wide transom (race) boats.

I would check all your sheaves and cable in the system. One may be seized up.
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Old 22-02-2013, 14:07   #3
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

Quote:
Originally Posted by delmarrey View Post
A few questions!

Have you tried the steering w/o the Coursemaster attached? You may be fighting that. Is there a bypass valve?

Weather/lee helm? Does it make a difference if you adjust sails?

Have you checked the rudder to see if there is resistance in movement when moored? The pivot points may be seizing.

I would check all your sheaves and cable in the system. One may be seized up.
All good points, thank you, but all checked. The Coursemaster is mechanical and it disengages completely, the boat is pretty well behaved with imbalanced sails (certainly more forgiving than some) and the rudder bearings are very good. A full inspection of all components of the steering system showed all to be very good, thankfully!

The problem moving the rudder only occured when falling off the front of waves with a following sea, so it's when the boat is well over hull speed and while fighting extreme yawing forces. Under other sailing it is fine. It feels like the forces are what would be expected under the circumstances, it just seems 3 turns is too highly geared..

My thought is, are 6 turns lock to lock too many turns for comfortable boat handling? And if so, how many is too many for most people? As it is I can go straight from 3 turns to 6 with the addition of just two pullies whereas if I have to go for something like 4 or 5 I will have to either change the quadrant or look to see if the gear wheel in the pedestal can be changed. Messy.

Matt
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Old 22-02-2013, 15:12   #4
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

Matt,
My Swanson has 3 turns lock to lock, other s42's i have been on, similar. As delmarrey notes, the size of the wheel is to facilitate access, rather than for leverage.

The rudder on S42 is large, and the steering mechanism goes through a few corners, so the steering effort is never going to be fingertip, but should not require brute force. Your problems suggest something is wrong, either in the steering mechanism, the rudder bearings, or the autopilot.

To check the steering mechanism, slacken off the cables, then take a jemmy bar to the sheaves, try to see if there is any slack, also check pedestal bearings. Better still, dismantle all bearings, regrease, etc.

To check rudder bearings, your ship must really be out of the water. The rudder is heavy, most likely with ballast, and the bearings are heavy. On hardstand, get a jack under the rudder, get a crowbar between rudder and keel, and see if any movement. try various pressures on jack, and various positions of rudder. Slacken steering cable and any adjustment on gland on top bearing for this test. Again, try to put significant lateral force on the quadrant as part of this test. Preferably have a shipwright on hand to observe this test.

Shaking the rudder by hand is not good enough. If you can observe movement by hand, things are very bad. I once saw a S38 on hardstand, the bottom rudder bearing had worn two grooves, and the rudder was jumping from one to the other. Only discernable by jack test.

I presume your coursemaster is hydraulic, I have no experience with them. As delmarrey said, check bypass. The electronic head can give problems (rare), sometimes taking command. Mine is sometimes slow to relinquish command, delay of a second or two.

Your ship has stood the test of time, I would suggest checking performance of systems, before instituting design changes.

Lee
PS rudder is keel hung, barndoor keelhung for our american friends.
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Old 22-02-2013, 15:38   #5
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

2-3 turns on a cable system is pretty normal. On a hydraulic system like mine 4 turns lock to lock is more usual. 6 would be...unusual. The main problem you describe sounds like getting broached in heavy following seas - i dont know if that is necessarily down to steering power. How much sail did you have up?
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Old 22-02-2013, 16:35   #6
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

Changing anything under the deck will screw up the alignment of the pulleys and quadrant. A bigger quadrant will put the pulley alignment out of whack and then you have cable failure. As for adding more pulleys, good luck. Have an emergency tiller ready to go. Perhaps a completely new Edson steering system...
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Old 22-02-2013, 17:25   #7
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

I too believe 2 to 3 turns is pretty regular. I prefer fewer rather than more turns, and on the boats I have sailed (mostly big wheels) a 2+ turns was always super light to turn (unloaded). Pressure under way varied with sail trim and sea conditions but never was an issue (I am a small frame - 6' tall, 150 pounds, no fat).

Check your system if there is possibly some kind of blockage or resistance. Such things sometimes crop up only under way (e.g. a rudder shaft that bends and allows the foil to touch the bottom, etc..)

b.
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Old 22-02-2013, 17:50   #8
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

Nearly everything about my boat is very different than yours, hydraulic steering on a heavy full keeled cruiser, but as another data point ours is 6 turns lock to lock. There is a knob under the wheels that says I can set it to even more turns lock to lock. I can't imagine why anyone would want more, there's nearly no resistance as it is and it takes way too long already to get from one side to the other when we're docking.
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Old 22-02-2013, 17:54   #9
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My boat (balanced spade rudder, rack-and-pinion steering) is about 1.8 turns lock to lock. I like it that way, but it wouldn't be a whole lot of fun with a smaller wheel. (My wheel has a 48" diameter.) With the large wheel and higher gearing the rudder responds more like it would with a tiller. Indeed, when friends come aboard and take a turn at the helm, they often turn way too tight on the first tack because they think the boat will respond to the helm more like their own boats do. This is especially true of Catalina owners.

One option you could consider if you feel the need for greater mechanical advantage but don't want to go to a larger wheel is to investigate swapping for a larger rudder quadrant, if there's room for it.
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Old 22-02-2013, 20:02   #10
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

Quote:
Originally Posted by GILow View Post
All good points, thank you, but all checked. The Coursemaster is mechanical and it disengages completely, the boat is pretty well behaved with imbalanced sails (certainly more forgiving than some) and the rudder bearings are very good. A full inspection of all components of the steering system showed all to be very good, thankfully!

The problem moving the rudder only occured when falling off the front of waves with a following sea, so it's when the boat is well over hull speed and while fighting extreme yawing forces. Under other sailing it is fine. It feels like the forces are what would be expected under the circumstances, it just seems 3 turns is too highly geared..


Matt
If you've checked all the components and all is OK, you're probably just over reacting to an unfamiliar boat. With yawing forces one should expect some heavy feedback, especially with mechanical steering. One of the reasons I chose hydraulic.
2 to 5 turns would seem normal considering the size of the vessel and what amount of angle the rudder has to its locks. The more turns the more power one has. The less turns the more backlash one might experience, due to the adjustment ratio.
I've actually seen automotive steering gear boxes installed with a rod to the quadrant, which worked pretty good for mechanical steering.
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Old 22-02-2013, 20:10   #11
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

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Originally Posted by charliehows View Post
2-3 turns on a cable system is pretty normal. On a hydraulic system like mine 4 turns lock to lock is more usual. 6 would be...unusual. The main problem you describe sounds like getting broached in heavy following seas - i dont know if that is necessarily down to steering power. How much sail did you have up?

Yes, that was the main issue. At the time we had a fully reefed main and 30knot breeze right up the stern. Not a heck of a lot of fun. Banjoship might be able to shed some light on the behaviour of Swanson 42s in those situations? The thing that struck me at the time though was how much force we had to put on the wheel to bring the boat back round.

The original owner who lived aboard for 21 years is due to come and visit soon, I am hoping he can shed some light on the situation.

This has mainly come about as I wouldn't mind shrinking the wheel a little to gain space in the cockpit, but by the sound of comments here, 3 turns is in the normal range so I am not about to rush and change things. As SSW914 points out, docking becomes an issue.

And, in deference to the GOOD advice here, I will go back to the drawingboard and double check the whole steering system one more time. Can't do a proper check till October when I pull her out for antifouling, but the rest can be thoroughly checked. One thing I can be sure of is that the autopilot is not the problem (though it is a bit slow to disengage, as per Banjoship it takes a few seconds on mine also, but being mechanical, once it releases it is totally free moving.)

And yes, Bash, there is plenty of room for a larger quadrant, and it would not be a problem to get the alignment right. This would certainly be a better option than extra pullies, as Michael Samson suggests.

Thanks all, back to the process of continous learning on the boat. All this made harder by the stupidly hot days here in Adelaide making it too hot to do anything to the boat but try to intelectualise my way through my list of niggles drawn up on the delivery run. It's a big list.

Matt
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Old 22-02-2013, 20:22   #12
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

Is a more balanced rudder feasible?
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Old 22-02-2013, 20:31   #13
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

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If you've checked all the components and all is OK, you're probably just over reacting to an unfamiliar boat.
Yes, without the experience of other large boats I have nothing to guide me on what is normal, except this forum.

(Not sure how normal this forum is....)

M
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Old 22-02-2013, 20:34   #14
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

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Is a more balanced rudder feasible?

I don't think so. Being hung straight off the back of the keel/skeg/big flat thing under the boat, there's no room for a balanced version without some SERIOUS modification.

And I suspect that if there is a problem it will be something simpler, as far as I know there are no major problems in this area with the Swanson
designs. (Except for some problems with steering while reversing.)

M
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Old 22-02-2013, 20:39   #15
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Re: Steering wheel turns lock to lock

I googled the Swanson 42 and notice that they seem to have a rather small wheel. I wonder if someone installed a bigger rudder. Or maybe they were built for "real men"...
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