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808state 02-14-2003 09:07 PM

Tiller to wheel conversion costs?
My wife and I are thinking of purchasing a 28'' Columbia with tiller steering. My wife is very partial to buying a boat with a wheel because of weather helm she has experienced on our 18'' dinghy and smaller keelboats. Can anyone tell me what abouts are the costs to convert tiller to wheel? Thanks!!!!

jklewissf 02-15-2003 05:39 AM

Tiller to wheel conversion costs?
Figure it will cost you at least a grand to change to a wheel and probably more like 2 grand when you take everything involved into account.

I would suggest that you sail the boat first and see if it has a helm problem. A lot of boats don''t and a small wheel can be harder to handle than a long tiller when the boat has a strong weather helm. If you install a worm gear steering system the weather helm wont be hard to handle but that sort of steering gear is frequently impossible to install and really costs a lot.

Many times weather helm is caused by a boat that is overcanvased (or improperly tuned). Spending a couple of hundred dollars on a good (i.e., easy to use) reefing system for the main may do you more good than a wheel. Its more a matter of fixing the problem of weather helm in the first place rather than muscling the helm to deal with it. If you use a wheel to hold the rudder off center to compensate for weather helm you are essentially dragging a wide board sideways through the water. That slows you down and stresses the boat.

I had a norsea 27 for 15 years. The boat had a tiller and I was sorry to give that up as I move up to a Tayana 37. The tiller makes autopilots and windvanes easier to install and use, stows out of the way when you are at anchor, and will never surprise you with mechanical problems that could be developing below decks out of sight.

the NorSea would carry a heavy weather helm when over canvassed. I eventually figured that out and put a three point reefing system on the main. At 15 knots I''d put the first reef in, at 20 the second reef would go in. The third was for really heavy weather (35+). As soon as the reef was tied in the boat straightened up, the helm became responsive, and we went faster. The trick is making the reef easy to put in. If its a pain to do you will postpone tying the reef in the sail and either end up doing it when the wind is blowing hard or you will end up sailing around on your ear all the time with a bad weather helm.

Another common cause of weather helm on an otherwise well balanced boat is poor sails. Sails that are stretched and baggy contribute to heeling and helm problems. A nice flat full batten main will frequently resolve weather helm problems.


paulk 02-15-2003 05:43 PM

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.

jbanta 05-07-2003 10:26 PM

Tiller to wheel conversion costs?
I think you covered about everything but one...Steering with a tiller is just more fun than with a wheel. :)

Jeff_H 05-08-2003 03:01 AM

Tiller to wheel conversion costs?
I have to go with Jack on this one. You do not want a install a wheel on a Columbia 28 as a way to overcome weather helm. Weather helm is nature''s way of telling you that you have the boat out of balance. Installing a wheel to over come weather helm is like taking anesthesia to hide the pain, rather than fixing the cause of the pain itself. Weather helm is a symptom of sailing with the mainsail overtrimmed, or the traveler too high, the sails too powered up, carrying too much sail area (both jib and mainsail) or blown out sails. I suggest that the cheapest fix is to take some lessons in sail trim so that you will understand how to properly trim your sails in order to minimize weather helm. Installing a wheel in a boat this small is expensive ($2000-3500 depending on type of wheel system chosen) and can really hurt resale value.


chuckg 05-14-2003 08:46 AM

Tiller to wheel conversion costs?
There are trade offs for sure with wheel steering but room in the cockpit isn''t one of them. Usually having a wheel on a smaller boat opens up the aft portion of the cockpit that used to be sacrificed by the swing of the tiller. Just make sure that you aren''t getting bonked in the head by the traveller or backstay when you are standing where the pedestal wants to be. On my tiller steered boat, I have to ask my passengers to sit forward of the tiller so I won''t whack them every time we tack. Having a pedestal also gives you additional areas to mount items like cockpit tables and navigation aids close to the helmsman. I agree that wheel steering isn''t a cure for excess weather helm and that balancing the sailplan will do more to make your boat steer comfortably than any sort of steering mechanism. Wheel steering may make your wife happier though and if she is happy, the money spent to convert the boat will be very well invested.

chuckg 08-11-2006 04:19 PM

Another plus for wheel steering is for novice sailors operating the boat for the first time. The boat will steer in a more familiar fashion, especially during docking manuvers.

Irwin32 08-11-2006 09:44 PM

I say keep looking for a boat until you find one with a wheel that you like. I have sailed tiller boats for 30 years, but I like a wheel for a cruising/day sailor much better. Racing is different, but it does sound like you would be happier with a wheel, as I am.

Retrofitting has its own set of problems and I think one is better off leaving the boat steering system as installed at the factory for numerous reasons. One would certainly be how to attach below deck blocks for cables in a secure and efficient fashion.

Comments made re weather helm are good ones and a wheel only masks a problem that should be addressed as others have stated.

MBesant 08-12-2006 03:43 PM

I did not read every post to this thread, but I must agree
Do NOT buy this boat if you really want a wheel.
Our first boat had a tiller to wheel conversion. We were novices and really didn't understand how bad that can be. You had to sit on the side to reach the wheel which was installed fwd of the rudder post The engine controls were difficult to reach. It was a gymnastic challenge to move past the wheel to get to the companionway. The bolts were drilled through the scupper drain channels, so water leaked into the engine compartment when it rained, This ruined the starter.
Yes, like your wife, mine wanted a wheel. Better to find a different boat
Marty Besant

sailingdog 08-12-2006 11:41 PM

You do realize that this thread is over three years old.

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