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Old 31-05-2013, 09:11   #1
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Wheel to Tiller conversion

I am considering replacing my wheel for a tiller on my 1973 Islander 36. Has anyone had any experience with this on a boat of this size?
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Old 31-05-2013, 09:49   #2
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

I have never had experience with this but there are plenty of boats of this size with tillers. The Express 37 is the first one that comes to mind. You might have to change where your rudder is balanced because of the mechanical advantage you get with a wheel that you won't necessarily have with a tiller.

You may want to consult with a naval architect or whoever the expert might be at a really good boat yard.
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Old 31-05-2013, 10:19   #3
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

We went to a tiller at our refit last year, on our Choate 40 IOR cruiser, probably close to 20,000 disp. by now. We made the choice almost spur of the moment when we found the Monitor windvane was $500 cheaper for a tiller. We have a 2 piece tiller, 6 feet long with both pieces in play and it steers beautifully. We have seen a max of 35 knots upwind, and even overpowered we had no trouble with control. Much shorter though and I would feel at risk for steering leverage. Very glad we made the change.
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Old 31-05-2013, 10:32   #4
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

Thanks for the info. I had a tiller on my 34 Islander and loved it. I believe my 36 was originally equipped with a tiller. The wheel and pedestal appears to be a homemade installation and placed to far forward in the cockpit.
My 34 had a full keel and was 9 tons, the 36 has a fin and is 10 tons.
I am not familiar with the Express 37 but I will look it up.
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Old 31-05-2013, 10:38   #5
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

Wow, if it works well on a 40' Choate then I will certainly move ahead with my conversion. Did you have to move your engine controls? Where did you get your tiller?
Thanks for your input.
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Old 31-05-2013, 10:47   #6
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

Quote:
Originally Posted by chala View Post
Great.
The “JPEG” from Vetus should let you ascertain how suitable your rudder is
You should be able to calculate the forces involved, the length of the tiller required and the maximum speed at which the tiller become to heavy to operate.
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Old 31-05-2013, 11:04   #7
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

The tiller is the old emergency tiller spec'ed for racing, 2 pieces of aluminum tubing that slide into each other. The cleats for the windvane are mounted on the shorter piece, the one attached to the rudderhead. This tube is 30" long and is all that is in place when the vane is steering. Lots of cockpit space this way. All we had to buy was a Schaefer tillerhead casting, used at $150. We replaced a 60" wheel that was submerged in the deck about 12", we couldn't even remove the wheel without pulling up the pedestal. Oh, my wife just leaned over my shoulder to point out that, when motoring, the force on the rudder is heavy and a bit unpleasant. Maybe that is related to the balance issue referred to earlier.
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Old 31-05-2013, 11:35   #8
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

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Originally Posted by The Vortex View Post
when motoring, the force on the rudder is heavy and a bit unpleasant.
The wash from the propeller may increase the water speed on the rudder and more force will be required to operate the rudder.
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Old 31-05-2013, 13:12   #9
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

Wheels being easier to steer with is a mirage in my opinion. Ditched the wheel on my Pearson 35 for a number of reasons, one being it took too much force to steer the boat. Under power. It was a pain to maintain the constant pressure on the wheel to counter prop wash. Under sail with the unbalanced rudder and considerable weather helm at speeds above 5 knots, anything more than a few minutes on the helm grew quickly tiresome. Usually set up a line to the spokes of the wheel to hold course, it was so tiring.

With the tiller the boat is way more responsive to steer and no more guessing where the rudder is pointing. The weather helm is still there but it's not a problem to keep it under control with the tiller. The 4' long tiller gives plenty of leverage and using the variety of muscle groups available to steer with the tiller isn't tiring. Pendulum Self Steering vanes work way better with a tiller than with a wheel.

Back in the good old days before yachting got yuppified, wheels were optional on boats even up to 40'. The Cal 40 came with a tiller unless upgraded, to name one. Nearly bought a Bristol 39 with a factory supplied tiller. My Morgan 35 came stock with a tiller. There was an Islander 36 with a factory tiller installation in my old marina. Get rid of the wheel and enjoy sailing again.
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Old 03-06-2013, 17:45   #10
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

Where did you get the tiller?
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Old 03-06-2013, 18:15   #11
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

From memory, the I-36 had an unbalanced rudder hung on a full depth skeg. The Express 37 and quite possibly the Choate 40 have semi balanced spade rudders, and the helm loads will be somewhat less for them.

You might try to contact the I-36 owners group for info on any factory installed tillers and how they work in practice.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 03-06-2013, 18:37   #12
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

FD- similar to Vortex I switched to a tiller on a early 80's forty footer that weighs about 18,000, a decision I couldn't be happier about.

One thing to note is that unlike Vortex and myself, if I am not mistaken, your Islander 36 has a skeg-hung rudder which is not balanced.

Vortex and I have balanced spade rudders where a portion of the rudder's surface is in front of the rudder post which helps to reduce the amount of effort required to steer the boat. You might try sailing with the emergency tiller first to see how it drives.

To do the conversion I dropped the rudder while it was in the water and took it to a friend to weld an extension on that goes above the deck where the emergency tiller would have been installed. Made a bracket out of some stainless plate he had and a 5' long tiller out of wood. I used a Vetus single lever engine control mounted on the side of the cockpit to replace the one from the pedestal.

Regarding your present wheel set-up, I knew a boat once where the owner moved the wheel all the way forward in the cockpit to make it easier for his wife to hand him up his cup of soup while he was driving. Go figure.
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Old 03-06-2013, 18:50   #13
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

Don't forget to include the considerable cost saving of a tiller-pilot versus a hydraulic A/P for wheel steering. Not to mention the ease of carrying and fitting a complete spare.
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Old 03-06-2013, 21:14   #14
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

We just converted our 38' Pearson Invicta yawl from wheel to tiller steering. Nice thing was the emergency tiller was the tiller that came with the boat if wheel steering was chosen instead of the standard tiller steering. We have found some interesting problems some of which have been mentioned in this thread as well as some benefits written here.

First some history (short I promise; ). Boat was designed for tiller steering and raced that way successively in many open ocean races. Wheel was an option on later boats. I do not know but think all hulls were made to the same dimensions as designed being a full keel design. Rudder looks the same size as what I can make out in drawings I have seen for the original design.

We are planning on refitting this boat after this season for long term cruising so we knew we had the remove the pedestal and steering hardware for overhaul, what a better time to see how a tiller would work out.

Some of our reasons for wanting tiller steering was first simplicity, second making cockpit lockers larger and cockpit well smaller for less volume and thus better drainage, freeing up space below the cockpit sole and a simpler (less expensive) self steering system.

What we found was excessive weather helm and a much more difficult time steering when motoring. Difficult steering while motoring I believe is the prop wash as mentioned by charla. This is a boat with a full keel and barn door rudder. However after a few sails (two in particular with up to twenty knots of wind) we found weather helm excessive on starboard tack and light on port tack. That makes us think that either rudder/hull is fouled on one side more then the other or wood rudder is warped. Eye balling mast seems for it to be true.

We are hauling boat to check bottom to see if anything sticks out as a problem (also needs a good bottom cleaning anyway). We are thinking this could be a problem that the wheel steering hid so it is a good experiment before we refit the boat. Steering from the tiller position, line of sight at helm, space in cockpit are all better with tiller and we hope to fix problem with weather helm so we can keep this steering setup. A more heavy hand steering while motoring will be the drawback but everything in sailing has those.

Crewed on a Express 37 with tiller. When I got the chance to steer it felt like a big dingy. But that is what it is; ).
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Old 03-06-2013, 22:26   #15
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Re: Wheel to Tiller conversion

Thanks for all of the great information and suggestions. I love this forum.
I know my Islander was originally equipped with a tiller and was converted to a wheel about 5 years ago and was installed very poorly. If I keep the wheel I will have to move it to the correct position, further aft. So I will try the tiller first and see how that works out. The next question is how do you determine the size and shape of the tiller? I have the original which as delaminated but the hardware is still good. But the tiller seems a little short...about 40".
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