Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: New England USA
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Tiller vs. Wheel
Tiler vs wheel is a tough one...best answer is "It depends".
As Whoosh pointed out, the design has a lot to do with it. A poorly "balanced" design can hide that a little better with a wheel than a tiller. Cost is also an aspect to concider. You will find that as the boat gets bigger, the ones with a tiller are less expensive. I think many people are afraid of larger boats with tillers. Less of a market for them.
You also have the fact that as the size and displacement of the boat increases, so do the potential loads, necessitating a longer lever (tiller) and you have something that is taking up a good deal of "swing space" in the cockpit. When motoring, propwash can put a great deal of steady torque on the tiller, tiring the skipper if an extended period of motoring is required to get somewhere.
I have sailed on boats as large as 42'' with a tiller, and as I said, a well balanced design is the key there. But in a blow, we would go 1/2 hour stints at the stick to prevent fatigue.
My 37'' sloop has a tiller, is an especially well balanced design, and a joy to sail. I do go out on the race course from time to time, and I think the tiller gives me an edge driving to weather. I also get a kick out of watching some "experienced" sailors eyes go wide when they take the "stick" for the first time on a large boat.
But I damaged my left rotator cuff when I "had to" get somehwere on a cruise, with no wind, and my tiller pilot went on the blink. The steady heavy "helm" from the prop wash on the rudder did me in. (I now have a back-up tiller pilot just in case)
At the dock, or at anchor, I flip the tiller up and out of the way and get a nice uncluttered cockpit. With a wheel, Edson makes a quick release knob that does the same thing.
You also have less to worry about with a tiller, no cables or linkages or anything else to maintain. Less complexity means less to have "Murphy" meddle with. Also less weight in the stern. But wieght can be addresed with the newer composite systems that Edson has on the market.