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post #1 of 21 Old 07-11-2014 Thread Starter
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Hydraulic steering for sailboat

What are the pros and cons regarding hydraulic steering for sailboats? For example, can you feel the force on the rudder as you would with mechanical steering?

Thank you.

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post #2 of 21 Old 07-11-2014
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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

Much of the "feel" is missing in hydraulic steering. I have used it on a boat with twin stations; that prevents marking a king spoke as well.

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post #3 of 21 Old 07-11-2014
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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

As Jack said there is almost no feedback with hydraulic steering. The plus is that there are no cables/chains to route which makes installation relatively easy and installation of a below deck autopilot is easy. You get used to the lack of feedback, it's not a deal killer for me. Our boat has both cable (cockpit) and hydraulic (inside station, there is a valve to turn to activate/deactivate), I prefer the cable for sailing but like both systems.

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post #4 of 21 Old 07-11-2014
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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

Of course, a failure in a hydraulic steering system would probably be unheralded and quite immediate, whereas with proper inspection, a failure on a cable system might be avoided.
I really like "feeling" the helm and wouldn't go hydraulic unless there just wasn't another cost effective route on a boat under 60 feet. If you are going with hydraulic, do install a rudder angle indicator.

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post #5 of 21 Old 07-11-2014
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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

jrd22,

Ooooh you have both? That's awesome. I would love to have that. Get the feel at the upper helm (where you sail from anyway) and the added redundancy of both systems and the hydraulic at the lower station. Nice....

I have hydraulic on my new boat, and I think I'm going to miss the feedback that cable steering gives you. Though on the trial sail I didn't find it too different from sailing a raceboat with a really large wheel where the "feel" is diminished so much by the mechanical advantage.

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post #6 of 21 Old 07-11-2014
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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

Sure, there's less in your hands, but that does not eliminate feedback. You do have the response of the boat, the lift of the rail, visual movements of rounding up or falling off, apparent wind, the hull to the wave...... Hydraulic steering requires you to use all the tools in the box, not just the tiller in your hands. For many it might take some time to adjust if they've not been using all the input.


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post #7 of 21 Old 07-11-2014
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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

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Originally Posted by CaptainForce View Post
Sure, there's less in your hands, but that does not eliminate feedback. You do have the response of the boat, the lift of the rail, visual movements of rounding up or falling off, apparent wind, the hull to the wave...... Hydraulic steering requires you to use all the tools in the box, not just the tiller in your hands. For many it might take some time to adjust if they've not been using all the input.
A good point about all the inputs. I'm looking forward to the change, in a way, because it will force me to use other inputs. Kind of like the trick of sailing blindfolded to get the "feel" of the boat.

Sailing blindfolded, with hydraulic steering, now THAT would be a trick!

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post #8 of 21 Old 07-11-2014
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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

I've got hydraulics on my boat and I hate it - HATE IT. Numb, insensitive, slow - it has NO redeeming features, The only reason for using it on a boat is necessity - center cockpit, clearance issues, rudder loads too high for manual (in which case something else is wrong) and so forth.

In case you missed my point - IT SUCKS! BIG TIME!

Don't buy a boat with it - I'll never have another one.

I, myself, personally intend to continue being outspoken and opinionated, intolerant of all fanatics, fools and ignoramuses, deeply suspicious of all those who have "found the answer" and on my bad days, downright rude.
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post #9 of 21 Old 07-12-2014
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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

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If you are going with hydraulic, do install a rudder angle indicator.
Absolutely.

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Re: Hydraulic steering for sailboat

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Originally Posted by SloopJonB View Post
I've got hydraulics on my boat and I hate it - HATE IT. Numb, insensitive, slow - it has NO redeeming features, The only reason for using it on a boat is necessity ...........
I'll agree with much of what you say, although I'm far less passionate about the issue. I don't agree with the "slow" statement. The transfer of energy by hydraulic pressure is no slower than the mechanical linkage. I suppose that the "slow" that you refer to might be the time it takes a helmsman, without good anticipation, to interpret the need to correct steerage. A redeeming feature that you are not recognzing is power. Far less effort is required at the helm and this also means that there is far less mechanical effort required for an auto piloting device.

I totally agree with the "numb & insensitive" to the hands.


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