Right now is a great time to inspect your steering system. Sure your boat is in the water and, hopefully, you're using as often as possible, but that's one of the reasons why you want to inspect this important aspect of your boat's equipment. Don't wait until the fall, or until Murphy’s Law strikes, to check the condition of the steering system. A sailboat without its steering is like an out-of-control animal.
It’s not difficult to inspect a steering system. It takes an hour or so to do a thorough job. And mechanical aptitude is not the number-one credential. The most important tool you need are your eyes: If it doesn't look right, many times it isn't, and if you're not sure, you can always call the manufacturer of your steering system. If you don't have the time to do the inspection yourself, have a boatyard or dock worker do it for you, or ask a sailing buddy to help you in exchange for helping him or her.
Generally, inspecting your boat's steering system is easy and straightforward. In fact, many people find that the most difficult part of the job is cleaning out the sail lockers in order to access the steering. But, hey, it's also a good time to see if your emergency tiller is still there and to make sure it still fits.
I'm including an 11-point checklist below that will steer you through the process. While it was created by Edson, it will work for most brands and types of steering. (The numbers I've included in parentheses are Edson part numbers.)
Steering System Checklist
1. Steering wheel/shaft
After you've read the above list, I recommend that you print it out and take it with you to your boat.
Will Keene is president of The Edson Corp. He adds that if the manufacturer of your steering system is no longer in business, contact Edson, at (508) 995-9711 or by fax at (800) 338-5021 for assistance and direction.
Steering System Spring Checkup by Tom Wood
Emergency Steering by John Kretschmer
Changing Steering Systems by Dan Dickison
SailNet Store Section: Steering and Controls