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post #1 of 27 Old 08-21-2009 Thread Starter
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Tiller vs wheel

I'm sure this debate has come up a number of times on the board, but let me steer the discussion onto a slightly different tack.

A couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of going aboard a couple of my dock-neighbours' boats. One was a Nonsuch 30 and the other was a Mirage 30. Up until that point I was very satisfied with the space on my boat (a Nash 26 - which has a very large cabin for boat of her length). Once aboard the bigger vessels I was immediately infected with twofootitis (fourfootitis in this case).

I began to fantasize about the features that my new, bigger boat would have. I remember when I first started looking at boats it seemed to be the consensus that the tiller was the way to go. I asked my experienced neighbour for his opinion on tiller vs wheel. He made some excellent points regarding the benefits of a wheel and almost had me sold on the concept. To re-inforce his point he called across to another experienced sailor on the dock and asked his opinion. The second sailor was equally eloquent in his support of the tiller. I'll have to do some more research on the subject.

Last weekend I noticed a benefit, that had not been mentioned, of using a tiller.

I was motoring in very calm waters with the gentleman from whom I had bought the boat. I offered him a shot at the helm, which he happily took.

I noticed that Hardy had placed the tiller between his legs in order to control it and keep his hands free for other, more important matters. This was a technique that I use and find to be effective. What I didn't realize (because I'm slow) is just how phallic the tiller looks as it thrusts out from the crotchal area.

Of course the mind starts to wander and I thought of an alternative to the 'auto'-helm.

Hardy didn't seem to mind either....


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Southern Georgian Bay

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever. - Jacques Yves Cousteau
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post #2 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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I think wheel boats are the best and my wife thinks tiller boats are best. We are both right.

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post #3 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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ti9ller is fine---my 41 uses wheel and has hydraulic steering an dweighs in at 28000 pounds. tiller is not the steering mechanism of choice. try it some time lol..i have saile d36 gaff rigged sloop with tiller---appropriate for the boat---whatever you have onboard is probably appropriate for that boat....whheel in a small boatis ssuperfluous and silly as it takes uop too much room and the boart is much mpore easily sailed with tiller. a wheel in a 25 catalina or coronado is silly looking and unnecessary---just a s a tiller in a 4`1 formosa would also be inappropriate----too difficult to keep with shorthanded sailing......

Last edited by zeehag; 08-21-2009 at 10:18 AM. Reason: boatkat duzent speel gud
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post #4 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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Tiller takes up more room in the cockpit and can hit people's knees when you need to turn. You can lock down a wheel to free your hands. The learning curve for a tiller is higher than a wheel (there's really no learning curve for a wheel since it works like a car), so if having a newbie steer is easier with a wheel.
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post #5 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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Phallic considerations aside, steering with the tiller between the legs is only good for calm or motoring conditions, at best. You really have far less ability to make course adjustments than might be required. Could border on a safety issue. For that matter, a wheel has a lock to free up the hands, but isn't nearly as sexy as the Phallic Tiller option.

What I categorically reject is the concept that the helmsman can "feel" the boat better with a tiller. If you wait to feel the boat with the tiller, it's way too late. With properly developed boat-feel, the combination of sound, feel of the wind, and boat motion will allow a good helmsman to predict the boat's motion and anticipate corrective action. I've seen people without boat-feel; they steer pretty ragged courses, especially off the wind. Just my $0.02.

Johnshasteen is correct - both are equally valid. It's personal preference. Doesn't matter to a good helmsman. Up to about 28', I like a tiller. Above that, a wheel.

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post #6 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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Forget the wheel or tiller I would like to purchase the Helmslady.
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post #7 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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Both will work but after several decades of sailing and racing I have a very strong preference for a tiller. A well balanced boat can be easily steered up to at least the 36-40 foot range. Many of the huge ocean racers such as the Open 60 etc. still use a tiller due to it's advantages.

Some boats are simply designed for a wheel due to the placement of the rudder post etc. Now I have maybe 2 % of my time at a wheel, generaly racing on other peoples boats but I do feel strongly that you can feel and respond to course corrections, wave actions etc faster than with a wheel. Obviuosly others may have other opinions.

I personably love sitting out to weather with a tiller extension in my hand and a nice fast trip up wind.

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post #8 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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I sailed S.F. Bay for nearly 2 decades in up to 50+knots on all points of sail. I steered the boat constantly gybing, tacking, or going steady on one point of sail with the tiller between my knees single-handing. It is a huge advantage to have a tiller that will fit betwen your knees, so your hands are free.......i2f

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post #9 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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Tillers are the best if youre interested in good sail trim and keeping the boat in the groove. Sitting to the side of a tiller allows one to visualize the luff of the jib/genoa more easily for separation and stagnation stalls,etc.; being stuck behind the wheel you will never appreciate nor see fully how the sails are 'working'.
Tillers are less tiring, especially when beating due to the ergonomics ... *pulling* a tiller so that the rudder is ~4 degrees off to lee will allow the KEEL to 'lift to weather' on a well trimmed boat; with a wheel you have to PUSH the wheel to do the same thing and that becomes VERY tiring due to the ergonomics.

Rudder shape and design is very important in matching a rudder to a tiller as the rudder should be a 'balanced' rudder so that the loads on the tiller dont become overwhelming when turning; Barn door rudders, rudders with skegs, etc. NEED a wheel to overcome the mechanical (DIS)advantage that requires a much greater force to turn the rudder when at speed. You dont want a tiller on a full keeled boat with a non-balanced or skeg hung rudder.

Wheels are needed for badly designed (with respect to 'balance") rudders.

Tiller Pilots are about 1/5 the cost of an autopilot attached to wheel steering.
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post #10 of 27 Old 08-21-2009
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If you have wheel steering then you should have an emergency tiller. With proper planning you would have one.
Now those of you who do have an emergency tiller, in case your wheel system breaks down, have you ever taken it out and tried it? Do you know where it fits? Does it go through a deck plate on the back deck? Is there anything mounted in the way of the Emergency tiller, fouling it so you can't use it? Well? Have you ever done an emergency steering drill? Should you?

The above is food for thought. Is your brain hungry?? Also do the Emergency Steering drill at the dock first to ensure that everything works, even before you take your boat out to try it out on open waters.

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Last edited by Boasun; 08-21-2009 at 01:02 PM.
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