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Old 15-02-2017, 07:56   #1
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Self-steering with wheels?

When it comes down to self-steering, there seem to be three choices:
  1. An electric autopilot
  2. A windvane
  3. Rigging the sheets to the tiller

Given the whole belt-and-suspenders approach, I'd hesitate to make a solo passage without at least two mechanisms ready.

Some windvanes steer by driving a secondary rudder. Some use a pendulum to drive the main wheel or tiller.

Every discussion of rigging the sheets to the tiller involve just that - rigging the sheets to the tiller. I've never seen discussion of rigging the sheets to the wheel.

E.g.: John Letcher: Self-Steering for Sailing Craft

Is there some fundamental reason for this? Is it impossible to rig a sheet to a wheel in the same way that pendulum windvanes connect to a wheel, on boats that have wheels rather than tillers?

Or is it just more complicated to figure out how to get everything balanced?
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Old 15-02-2017, 13:12   #2
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

You will see a "sheet to tiller" system using surgical tubing and a storm jib if you look on page 5-2 of my singlehanded tips book, that you can download for free here: http://sfbaysss.org/resource/doc/Sin...rdEdition2.pdf

In order to use a wheel instead of a tiller, all you need to do is connect the sheet and surgical tubing to a bottom spoke of your wheel. The bottom spoke works the same way as a tiller, in that if you pull it to port, you will turn to starboard, and vice versa. The only trick is to figure out where on the spoke you want to connect the lines. At some point, near the middle of the spoke, you will find the area at which pulling on the spoke has the same effect as pulling a tiller by the same amount. You can just find this by using your fingers at various points along the spoke until you find the right spot. But don't worry about being exact. The sheet to tiller system doesn't need precision. It just works. Have fun.
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Old 15-02-2017, 13:29   #3
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

With sheets attached to a wheel, the most you can ever get the wheel to turn is 90 degrees, or a quarter of a rotation. On some boats, this is not going to turn the rudder very much. I have sailed boats where it took 4-5 full rotations to go from stop to stop.

I think that is why you don't see sheets to wheels very often.
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Old 15-02-2017, 13:48   #4
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

My first and gut reaction, since I haven't seen it done on a boat with a wheel, is that the wheel needs to travel more than the tiller, too much to make it work...... but now I am not so sure.. there may be certain boats... certain sized wheels, certain rudders, certain points where it might work fine... hmmm something to ponder...
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Old 15-02-2017, 13:50   #5
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

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Originally Posted by denverd0n View Post
With sheets attached to a wheel, the most you can ever get the wheel to turn is 90 degrees, or a quarter of a rotation. On some boats, this is not going to turn the rudder very much. I have sailed boats where it took 4-5 full rotations to go from stop to stop.

I think that is why you don't see sheets to wheels very often.
I've never tried it, but generally sheet-to-tiller steering requires that you have your boat well-balanced so the corrections will be modest. I don't see why the limited range of wheel motion would prevent the sheet-to-wheel method from working in easy conditions.

For that matter, my friend's auxillary rudder windvane steering system also has a quite limited range of control. That tiny aux rudder can only nudge the boat a bit, so if he gets thrown way off course, or if the conditions change significantly, the self-steering can't get his boat back on track. In contrast, my Monitor has a wide control range, being able to turn the wheel well in excess of 360 degrees, and it can handle some serious changes in conditions.

I suspect that the sheet-to-wheel system would work about as well as my friend's aux rudder system.
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Old 15-02-2017, 14:37   #6
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

Quote:
My first and gut reaction, since I haven't seen it done on a boat with a wheel, is that the wheel needs to travel more than the tiller, too much to make it work......
Any sheet to tiller system is NOT designed to make sharp, dramatic turns of the boat. Rather, the systems are designed to make small, 5-10 degree turns to match normal fluctuations in wind direction or to offset normal wave movements. If you watch my video on this topic you can see that the tiller only moves small amounts to keep the boat straight in the water.

And second, the reason why I mention using the middle of the bottom spoke is that the very outside of the wheel requires a large horizontal movement to get small rudder turning. But the middle of the spoke only requires a small amount of horizontal movement to move the rudder. It is closer to the movement of a tiller.
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Old 15-02-2017, 15:07   #7
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

Great video thanks for making that
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Old 15-02-2017, 15:21   #8
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pirate Re: Self-steering with wheels?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Foolish View Post

And second, the reason why I mention using the middle of the bottom spoke is that the very outside of the wheel requires a large horizontal movement to get small rudder turning. But the middle of the spoke only requires a small amount of horizontal movement to move the rudder. It is closer to the movement of a tiller.
You would need a permanent fitting of some kind.. a U fitting either side of the spoke but to be honest I doubt it would work.. steering a course with any kind of sea/waves takes more than a 1/4 turn each way of the wheel to stay on course.. but hey.. its not my wheel.
And from my mental visualisation you won't get a full 1/4 turn at the centre.
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Old 15-02-2017, 15:44   #9
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

I have not tried it (yet), but the trick for achieving more than 1/4 turn of the wheel is to install a grooved disk to the wheel and wrap the control line around a few wraps before anchoring. Wrap the surgical tubing the same fasion but in the opposite direction, thus when the control line is pulled, the line un-wraps while the surgical tubing wraps tighter.

A handy, large diameter source for such a device is a bicycle wheel. One could stack two together -one for the control line and one for the surgical tubing- if there was a problem with the two fouling each other.

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Old 15-02-2017, 17:31   #10
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

The problem is that with sheet/tiller type control, there is rather little travel available in the sheet to effect the steering. Thus, using a bike wheel or other large diameter device will again not give one much rotation of the wheel. Unless it is a boat with very sensitive steering, I doubt if this scheme will work well.

Another approach, used by many who use vanes on wheel steered boats is to rig an auxiliary tiller for use with the vane. This could be adapted from one's emergency tiller (you do have such on your wheel steered boat,, don't you?), or be purpose built. However you fit the tiller, that is what you would use for your sheet/tiller self steering setup.

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Old 15-02-2017, 20:08   #11
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

Jim,

The lack of sheet travel can be worked around with a block and tackle working in reverse. Friction from all the various blocks then becomes the real problem.

Naturally, the friction of the wheel steering itself adds to the problem, hence a tiller will always work better a wheel.

For my fathers one and only offshore venture aboard Panope (Neah Bay to San Francisco), he unbolted the wheel steering and installed a temporary tiller. A traditional sheet-to-tiller steering lash-up then worked perfectly.

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Old 15-02-2017, 21:33   #12
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

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Jim,

The lack of sheet travel can be worked around with a block and tackle working in reverse. Friction from all the various blocks then becomes the real problem.

Naturally, the friction of the wheel steering itself adds to the problem, hence a tiller will always work better a wheel.

For my fathers one and only offshore venture aboard Panope (Neah Bay to San Francisco), he unbolted the wheel steering and installed a temporary tiller. A traditional sheet-to-tiller steering lash-up then worked perfectly.

Steve
Steve, when our Autohelm 2000 died on the way back from Hawaii in 1983, I podged together a sheet to tiller rig that did indeed involve a "fool's tackle" like you describe. Only a two to one disadvantage, but the frictional losses were quite high... and that was driving a tiller! By the time you add in the losses inherent in a wheel system, one incorporating drums for the driving lines... well, I really doubt if it could be made to work on many boats.

BTW, while that method served us to sail the remaining 2000 miles to the Golden Gate, it required a lot of tending as conditions varied. BEtter than sitting clutching the tiller full time, but not really great. Consequently, when we set out three years later in our "new" cruising boat (IOR one tonner) I designed and built an auxiliary rudder wind vane system... no more sheet/tiller for us!

Jim
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Old 15-02-2017, 22:34   #13
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

The other thing about disengaging the wheel and connecting the emergency tiller is that they can be really short since there is no room in the cockpit for them! Depends on the boat of course.
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Old 16-02-2017, 00:02   #14
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

There was a 34 foot ferro ketch at my yacht club a few years ago that had a Fleming wind vane driving the wheel steering via a fairly small diameter drum on the face of the wheel. The owner was an excellent sailor (and a bush pilot, so a pretty squared away guy) and he said it worked brilliantly. I believe him but I never had a chance to go out on the boat so I don't know how heavy or balanced the wheel steering felt in normal conditions.

So it can work, but on our heavy old tub I am pretty sure such an arrangment could not be made to work.

Matt
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Old 16-02-2017, 00:12   #15
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Re: Self-steering with wheels?

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There was a 34 foot ferro ketch at my yacht club a few years ago that had a Fleming wind vane driving the wheel steering via a fairly small diameter drum on the face of the wheel. The owner was an excellent sailor (and a bush pilot, so a pretty squared away guy) and he said it worked brilliantly. I believe him but I never had a chance to go out on the boat so I don't know how heavy or balanced the wheel steering felt in normal conditions.

So it can work, but on our heavy old tub I am pretty sure such an arrangment could not be made to work.

Matt
Would that have been one of these?
www.flemingselfsteer.com/products/
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