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Old 04-11-2017, 12:49   #1
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Wheel to tiller conversion?

I am looking at purchasing a 30-35 ft boat for live aboard in Florida and cruising the Caribbean. Most boats In the size have Wheel steering and I would greatly prefer a tiller for the simplicity, feel, cockpit space, cheaper autopilots, sheet to tiller steering and such. I grew up sailing dinghies and racing a Santa Cruz 27 and just like the feel of a tiller for holding a course. Its much more automatic and natural to me.

Has anyone converted a wheel to tiller before? If so what would the cost be and the work required? It would seem like a easy job but there may be complications I'm not aware of. I would be doing all the work myself.

Id imagine it would be slightly more complicated if the shift and throttle levers are on the pedestal.

Haven't been able to find anyone who's done this and explained the process on the web. Everyone seems to go the other way!
Any help would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 04-11-2017, 12:58   #2
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

I know a few who have done it. Most conversions were not difficult, but it differs from boat to boat. You basically need to extend the rudder post up to fit a tiller on it and create rudder stops, which you can often repurpose the quadrant for. Controls are easy to relocate if the are teleflex.
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Old 04-11-2017, 14:25   #3
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

Coverted my boat to tiller steering. It was easy to do and should have done it the day I bought the boat and saved myself the aggravation of dealing with the stupid wheel. Biggest expense was the tiller head from Edson, something like $500. It's a really nice piece of boat bling and is adjustable for tiller angle which I haven't seen on other tiller heads. Having said that, you can find tiller heads regularly on ebay for under $200. Bought one to do a fix on another boat that I won't be using if you are interested. The machining ran around $200, the bronze rods less than $200, the plastic upper bearing/deck seal less than $50 and a little bit of resin and glass to glass in the old emergency tiller and the wheel pedestal pukas. Had a tiller made by Rudder Craft Sailboats Parts and Supply for something less than $150. Used tillers Also can often be found in ebay for a bit less. You should be able to do it for under $1200 and considerably if you can locate a suitable used tiller head. PM me with your email address if you'd like some photos. Haven't figured out how to post photos on this site.

Used a length of bronze 1 1/2" ID by 2 1/8" OD hollow rod. It didn't quite fit over the 1 1/2" rudder stock so had to have it machined. Cross bolted that to the rudder shaft. Had the top end of the hollow rod machined to fit a short piece of 1 1/2" solid rod that extended above deck to take the rudder head. Had that piece machined for a keyway for the rudder head and cross drilled to lock it into the hollow rod at the other end, Bought a 2" high by 6" square block of slippery plastic and had 1 1/2" hole bored into it at the angle of the shaft. Bolted that to cockpit sole to act as a bearing for the extended rudder shaft, cover the Puka for the old emergency tiller access and as deck/shaft seal. Bought the same tiller head from Edson as Sailing Whimsy.com which was the most expensive part of the conversion.

The owner of Whimsy, another Pearson 35, also did a conversion. He did a really nice write up with photos but I can't find where it's at, might have been on this site or Pearson 35 Sailboat | Pearson 35 Sailboat.
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Old 04-11-2017, 15:05   #4
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

Aloha Peter,
Glad to know I'm not the only one who has a strong dislike of wheels on sailboats! Funny coincidence I actually live in Waikoloa. Are you currently in Kona? Id be id be interested in checking out your work out in person and talking to you about the process if its not too much hassle for you. If you're not available its no problem at all.

Ill send a pm with my email. Those those pictures would be awesome.
Thanks,
Logan
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Old 05-11-2017, 09:26   #5
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
Coverted my boat to tiller steering. It was easy to do and should have done it the day I bought the boat and saved myself the aggravation of dealing with the stupid wheel. Biggest expense was the tiller head from Edson, something like $500. It's a really nice piece of boat bling and is adjustable for tiller angle which I haven't seen on other tiller heads. Having said that, you can find tiller heads regularly on ebay for under $200. Bought one to do a fix on another boat that I won't be using if you are interested. The machining ran around $200, the bronze rods less than $200, the plastic upper bearing/deck seal less than $50 and a little bit of resin and glass to glass in the old emergency tiller and the wheel pedestal pukas. Had a tiller made by Rudder Craft Sailboats Parts and Supply for something less than $150. Used tillers Also can often be found in ebay for a bit less. You should be able to do it for under $1200 and considerably if you can locate a suitable used tiller head. PM me with your email address if you'd like some photos. Haven't figured out how to post photos on this site.

Used a length of bronze 1 1/2" ID by 2 1/8" OD hollow rod. It didn't quite fit over the 1 1/2" rudder stock so had to have it machined. Cross bolted that to the rudder shaft. Had the top end of the hollow rod machined to fit a short piece of 1 1/2" solid rod that extended above deck to take the rudder head. Had that piece machined for a keyway for the rudder head and cross drilled to lock it into the hollow rod at the other end, Bought a 2" high by 6" square block of slippery plastic and had 1 1/2" hole bored into it at the angle of the shaft. Bolted that to cockpit sole to act as a bearing for the extended rudder shaft, cover the Puka for the old emergency tiller access and as deck/shaft seal. Bought the same tiller head from Edson as Sailing Whimsy.com which was the most expensive part of the conversion.

The owner of Whimsy, another Pearson 35, also did a conversion. He did a really nice write up with photos but I can't find where it's at, might have been on this site or Pearson 35 Sailboat | Pearson 35 Sailboat.
well I got interested but all I found was this, on that site
Emergency tiller | Pearson 35 Sailboat

so the relentless search continued and I have this from the Pearson 365 forum

Emergency steering

Emergency tiller questions

some caution on using tillers on skeg/rudder boats while reversing

Voyage of Laelia: Sail and learn
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Old 05-11-2017, 09:30   #6
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

I had similar thoughts when I bought the Swan. A friend advised me to try the wheel for a while. I now love the wheel and wouldn’t consider a tiller for this boat although it was designed to have either depending on the rig.
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Old 05-11-2017, 11:36   #7
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

In converting a Ranger 37 to a Cruising boat, one thing i did was remove the wheel steering, because the wheel was so big, it was impossible to reach the winches without standing up and moving forward, not a safe procedure at sea, most boats have an emergency tiller or should have for sure, so it should not be a big deal, other than that, the engine control will need to be re-done, this should be an off the shelf item, one of the pluses if you are going to fit a self-steering wind vane, is it will work much better.
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Old 05-11-2017, 11:57   #8
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

Voyage of Laelia: Sail and learn

"When I was backing out of the slip, I had the rudder hard over to counteract the prop steering. When I shifted to neutral and tried to move the helm with the boat still coasting in reverse, it was all I could do to budge the tiller. I had to shift into forward and apply moderate throttle to get movement with reasonable exertion level. Given that I don't spend much time in reverse, I could probably live with it. But there is more.

My outing was in fairly light conditions of 5 - 10 kts with the boat moving at up to 4 kts (at least that's what the speedo showed). The helm was distinctly on the heavy side even with careful attention to balancing the sails. Some of that has to do with the short tiller and the rather awkward shoulder high grip on the tiller. But that is only part of the story. There's no getting around the fact that the boat has a big barn door rudder hanging off the skeg with no balancing portion. When the water is moving past it at a good clip, the steering pressures get high."


I think there are real virtues to a tiller, it keeps you under the dodger and perhaps closer to winches, but the warning here is clear. The forces on mid to larger boats are so high that if you have a skeg and rudder you may have to alter it to a balanced rudder, one with 20-25% in front of the shaft. /Or suffer some loss of control due to the effort involved in some instaces

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Old 05-11-2017, 13:14   #9
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

Great idea, done it a few times. Saves weight, you can steer behind a dodger and get protection. Lots of NZ boats have tillers still and they know how to sail over there.
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Old 05-11-2017, 13:26   #10
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

Changing the rudder shaft position in the rudder to get some dynamic balance is probably too expensive. You'd not only have to move the shaft in the rudder but either cut up the skeg to make room for the repositioned rudder shaft or move the pivot point for the rudder in the hull. A possible solution would be to add a forward projection or 'horn' on the bottom of the rudder forward under the skeg. That's a common way to reduce force necessary to move control surfaces on aircraft usually on the horizontal stabilizer/elevator.

The report on increased force in reverse was with the emergency tiller which the guy said was too short/not enough leverage going forward. Would be interesting to know if he ever tried extending the emergency tiller to gain more mechanical advantage. Slipping a piece of pipe over the emergency tiller would be an easy way to find the sweet spot for tiller length.

My boat has a barn door rudder and had no problems in reverse. If you don't restrain the rudder it will go full stop with the water flow over it in reverse but no big thing to control it. Same was true for our old Westsail 32 which had the barn door rudder of all barn door rudders.
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Old 05-11-2017, 16:26   #11
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dougtiff View Post
In converting a Ranger 37 to a Cruising boat, one thing i did was remove the wheel steering, because the wheel was so big, it was impossible to reach the winches without standing up and moving forward, not a safe procedure at sea, most boats have an emergency tiller or should have for sure, so it should not be a big deal, other than that, the engine control will need to be re-done, this should be an off the shelf item, one of the pluses if you are going to fit a self-steering wind vane, is it will work much better.
I am constantly surprised that most American boat no matter how small have wheel steering. Here in the U.K., it is in the main mostly tiller steering. my Rival 34 is tiller steering. Less complicated easy to maintain and you can feel how the boat is sailing.
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Old 05-11-2017, 16:37   #12
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

I did the conversion back to a tiller and never regretted a minute of it

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Old 05-11-2017, 17:11   #13
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

I am planning on putting a tiller back on my boat ... but it's shaping up to be quite a big job ... I see the following tasks being needed:

1) Build a tiller ... Unless I can find someone else with this model boat to copy, I will have to work out the ideal shape/size myself.
2) Extend the rudder post ... unfortunately the stub for the emergency tiller is too short for real use.
3) Seal the rudder post so that it doesn't allow drips through the cockpit floor.
4) Remove the wheel and pedestal.
5) Mount the pedestal compass to the bulkhead.
5a) Re-route the solar-panel wires which currently go through the bulkhead plate that the compass will need.
6) New engine controls, and move them from the pedestal to the cockpit side.
7) New Autopilot ... The old wheelpilot will be going.
8) Move the turning blocks for the wind-vane ... they're bound to be in the wrong place.
9) Install a large hatch in cockpit floor where pedestal used to be ... finally some decent access to the stuffing box and transmission.
10) Be prepared to discover that the plywood in the cockpit floor is damp and needs replacing.
11) Repaint the cockpit.

I should be able to do 1,2,3,5, and possibly 7 before having to commit to tearing out the old steering.
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Old 06-11-2017, 11:52   #14
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Re: Wheel to tiller conversion?

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Originally Posted by Suijin View Post
I know a few who have done it. Most conversions were not difficult, but it differs from boat to boat. You basically need to extend the rudder post up to fit a tiller on it and create rudder stops, which you can often repurpose the quadrant for. Controls are easy to relocate if the are teleflex.


You should have an emergency helm with wheels steering just turn it into a permanent helm.
Cut out the wheel and the cables.

But a wheel is much better once you get the feel of it.
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