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post #3 of Old 02-15-2003
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Tiller to wheel conversion costs?

Besides the cost, installing a wheel could mess up your cockpit, especially if it isn''t already designed for a wheel. Is the mainsheet back there, where you''re going to want to be standing? You may have to move it. Can you stand in the cockpit without getting whacked by the boom all the time? You might have to buy a new mainsail to raise the boom a foot or so. (Boy will that mess up the boat''s balance!) Do you like spray in the face? With the tiller you can probably duck behind the cabin for protection; standing or sitting aft behind a wheel, you''ll likely need a dodger. (Another boat unit $ or two $$.) Do you like doing step aerobics? Getting out from behind the wheel to go forward will likely entail stepping up onto the cockpit seat, and then back down into the cockpit. Your mate may also enjoy step aerobics -- a cup of coffee can no longer be handed up to the helmsman, but has to be delivered. (The person at the helm can''t reach forward through the wheel and keep steering at the same time, and can''t really leave the wheel to slide forward to grab anything very easily. To make it easier to steer, the wheel may have to be so big that it''s really difficult to get past. If the wheel isn''t big enough to handle the boat easily, it''s a dangerous situation. On top of that, the wheel takes up space in the cockpit all the time. Most tillers can be hinged up out of the way so there''s lots of room for friends to visit. All in all, a wheel is not a panacea for any boat. There''s a lot more that can go wrong with a wheel than a tiller, too. (I know: we''ve had our steering cables part while surfing in a 25 knot breeze at nine knots on a broad reach. The emergency tiller got us home, though it was too short to handle the boat easily under those conditions -the wheel pedestal keeps it from being long enough...) Besides cables, there are clevis pins and cotter pins that can fall out, sheaves, gears and chains that can go out of alignment causing overrides and jams, cable clamps that can come loose (we''ve had that happen too.) and shackles that can catch and twist things to fatigue them to the breaking point. IMHO that the suggestions above to try the tiller first make a lot of sense, especially in a 28 foot boat.
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