Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: New England USA
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Wheel to Tiller
Well, I''ve converted a wheel to a tiller on a 34'' boat, I own a 37'' boat with a tiller, and have sailed a 42'' boat with a tiller.
I would start with a question as to how much helm do you usually carry, is your boat pretty well balanced to begin with? A tiller will let you know pretty quickly you are carrying too much helm. A short tiller would be a bear to deal with. It can also get pretty tiring after a while. A good tiller pilot like the Ray 4000+ GP should do the trick.
The 42'' boat I sailed (raced) on was a Peterson 42'' IOR Two Tonner known back in the late 70''s as "Love Machine" Her tiller was a wopping eight footer! But she was a breeze to sail in all conditions and a real rocket to weather, with a light helm.
My 37'' is an older circa 1976 IOR Heritage One Ton. She is incredibly well balanced, and will sail with no hand on the stick close reaching in 10 - 15 kts. Her tiller is 5 1/2 feet long (a cool all stainless multi-tube affair as well).
The boat I helped convert was a Peterson 34. We had a nice laminated mahogany stick made up that was about 4 1/2 feet in length. We did have a failure at the fitting we had welded for us at the rudder head. It was aluminium (trying to save weight) and wasn''t strong enough. Went with S/S after that and everything was fine.
I would say that you would want to go as long as you could without running into anything, getting a full unobstructed sweep from rail to rail. Don''t worry about it taking up too much room, you will be able to flip it up out of the way when at rest. While wood is pretty, I like the security of a strong peice of metal. A tapered box section of aluminum, or maybe S/S. Unless you are concerned with weight, stay away from composites and other "Bleeding Edge" materials.
You will want to think about a way to take the strain off the tiller when motoring. the torque your prop wash will put on the tiller will really suprise you. A set of bungies or an easily un-cleated line will go a long way to fighting fatigue if you have to use the iron wind for a prolonged period. (So will the tiller pilot, I might add)