Our traveler project ended as an “almost complete” success. As you may recall, our post-installation check ride ended with an unresolved problem: the lower mainsheet block was banging into the steering pedestal. Actually, this was really just one symptom of the larger problem: the fact that the Pearson 10M wasn’t designed for wheel steering.
Like many boats of this era, the pedestal and wheel were added well after the design was complete. The result was a cockpit designed for a tiller with a pedestal shoehorned into place. In our case, the pedestal had been installed at the forward end of the cockpit.
While this had the advantage of placing the helm close to the traveler and winches, it was a little too close making it a major hassle to work the traveler controls around the helm. The pedestal and wheel also blocked access to the cockpit from the companionway and ate up a significant amount of the cockpit space when the boat was tied up. To add insult to injury, the cockpit design limited the size of the wheel so you couldn’t sit on the coaming and steer—the wheel was too small to reach. In short, this installation was not one of the better ones.
I confess to being a wheel-steering kind of guy. Everyone knows that wheel steering takes less effort at the helm. The mechanical advantage of the wheel and quadrant reduce the input required to turn the rudder. If you doubt that then I suggest using your emergency tiller to put the helm hard over while backing up—y
ou’ll become a believer in short order. Wheel steering also makes it easy for novices (guests) to steer—
“Here, it’s just like a car," and off they go. Coastal autopilots are a breeze: you just bolt one to the wheel.
There’s also a whole industry (it seems) building little accessories for your pedestal—
you can mount almost anything to a pedestal, from your cockpit table to a full-blown nav station. Any day now someone will bring a pedestal-mounted BBQ grill to market. And, let’s face it, wheel steering has a “cool” factor built in. Many of us grew up wanting a boat large enough to warrant wheel steering. A wheel meant you had graduated from “small boats.” All in all, wheel steering had everything going for it.
There was just this nagging problem of the installation not delivering the dream. We looked at the problem from every angle. We measured and considered options: move the pedestal further back; use a larger wheel; get one of the spiffy new folding wheels. We talked to the folks at Edson and got copies of various installation schemes. We considered increasing the mechanical advantage. We looked at autopilot setups. In the end, we just couldn’t make it work. The pedestal was a great piece of gear, but it created more problems than it solved in our particular situation. Having crossed the chasm, we began exploring our options for retrofitting a tiller.
The first step was to acquire pictures of the factory setup. Some helpful folks on the Pearson List sent us pictures of their cockpits so we could visualize how the original design would work. Comparing those images to our boat we discovered that the rudderpost had been cut off well below the cockpit sole. We also found that the hole cut for the emergency tiller was quite large (eight inches in diameter) and covered with the largest stainless deckplate any of us had ever seen. This led to multiple trips into the cockpit lockers in order to see how the gear was installed, what would have to come out, and the critical measurements for designing the parts necessary to adapt a tiller head to the modified rudderpost.
Armed with this information, we entered the design phase. Kudos here go to our fellow 10M owner Dan Pfeiffer. Dan swapped e-mails and ideas with us for weeks while we pursued various schemes for designing the necessary adapters. The problem was fourfold. First, the rudderstock ended several inches below the cockpit sole. Second, the top four inches of the rudderstock was squared off to accommodate the emergency tiller. Third, the hole left by the deckplate would have to be filled in. Fourth, the extended rudderspost would need a bearing surface above the cockpit sole—and that bearing had to be in line with the angle created by the intersection of the rudderpost and cockpit sole (which was not 90 degrees).
|"Rejecting a separate design covering the opening and somehow adding a bearing to it, Joel proposed a cover that incorporated the bearing."|
It was at this point that we became acquainted with Joel Santarone of IdaSailor Marine Joel runs a shop in Idaho that specializes in replacement rudders and tillers. He also takes on special projects like ours. We began kicking ideas around with Joel and he quickly built on our existing ideas. Rather than manufacture a rudderpost extension and fit a tillerhead to it, Joel suggested combining the two functions into one part.
He also suggested the same approach for the deckplate and bearing problems. Rejecting a separate design covering the opening and somehow adding a bearing to it, Joel proposed a cover that incorporated the bearing. We went to the boat and took more measurements to determine the approximate angle between the cockpit sole and the rudderpost. Finalizing the design via e-mail, we gave Joel the green light and he began machining the parts.
A week later we received a package from Joel that contained all the parts for our conversion. Because we weren’t absolutely certain of the angle between the cockpit sole and the rudderpost, Joel supplied three deckplate bearings (each with a different angle). He also had machined a combination rudderpost adapter/extension and tillerhead. This fit down over the square section of the rudderpost and was to be secured with four and 3/8 inch setscrews. We really appreciated the small details—
like an O-ring retainer machined into the adapter so we could get a watertight seal between the rudderpost adapter and the new deckplate/bearing. The package also included tillerhead straps and a new custom laminated tiller (which is a thing of beauty).
With our package in hand we rushed to the boat and quickly checked the fit of the parts. Everything seemed to line up perfectly. The next step was to actually start dismantling the existing steering system. That story will have to wait for our next installment.
With a Little Help from My Friends:
Again, we are extremely grateful to the folks below for all their help. If you're thinking of embarking on a similar project, we certainly recommend that you make use of these valuable resources:
Images of Pearsons: http://pearsoninfo.net/index.cfm
Professional Advice on Wheel Steering: http://www.edsonmarine.com (508 995 9711)
Joel Santarone of IdaSailor Marine: http://www.idasailor.com (1-866-400-2204)