Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: New England USA
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KISS? or ... why a wheel?
The simplicity of a tiller is one of it''s great advantages. Also, I have found that many wind driven self steering gear work better with a tiller. Probably due to the lower steering resistance that a tiller has as a system compared to a wheel system. My 37'' has a tiller, and as Jeff mentioned, once in port, just lift it out of the way and viola, a bigger cockpit. I have also installed an Autohelm tiller pilot, which helps me do a great deal work single handing with no worries.
One thing that is annoying is the torque steer from the prop wash while under power. Part of the increased "feel" you get with a tiller. It was one of the main reasons I installed the Autohelm, for those days when you have to "make time" with the iron wind.
I have sailed boats as big as 43'' with a tiller, but at that point, the length of the tiller was so great to give you the leverage required, it reduced the overall ability to maneuver.
I learned on a tiller over 35 years ago, and it seems like second nature to me. However, if you are not comfortable "stick steering" wheels might make more sense.
As far as the balance thing is concerned, I don''t think "tiller vs wheel" affects it much. That is more to do with the overall design. How close the end result came to the designers ideal. If all the variables come together just right, wind, waves, trim, hull and rig, the result is that wonderful feeling when "She sails herself".
I wonder though, in this day and age of CAD/CAM and finite element analysis, can the design''s projected "lead" come closer to reality and be less left to chance? But that might be a subject for a different thread.
IMHO, a tiller is what makes sailing different from driving a power boat. It helps me feel more "one" with the boat and sails. I can feel changes in trim, wind, and that elusive balance more readily with a tiller.
All that said, if I was offered a free Swan 45, I wouldn''t turn it down because it didn''t steer with a stick.