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Old 03-28-2013
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Going to a smaller wheel?

Hi All, I just bought my first "big boat," a Beneteau 361, and the wheel gives very little clearance to get around it. I was thinking of getting a lewmar folding wheel. Is there any reason why I couldn't/shouldn't get a smaller wheel? The existing wheel is 40" or 42", and lewmar sells 30" and 36" folding wheels. FYI, I've never owned a boat with a wheel.

Thanks so much!
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: Going to a smaller wheel?

I would not change the wheel to a smaller wheel. Well designed wheels (especially on larger volume boats like a 361 where there is a chance for prototyping and testing) are sized for the anticipated steering forces and to be within easy ergonomic reach from a seated position. A 20%-30% smaller wheel will noticeably increase the load that you feel on the wheel which will be more tiring and will make it harder to make small adjustments.

I would suggest that you sail with the existing wheel for a season. In practice, it may not be as bad as you think. When I bought my boat it came with a very large wheel that had tight clearance to the cockpit sides and for your toes. I considered putting a smaller wheel on the boat, but as soon as I lived with the wheel for a while, I realized that it was not a problem at all, and it had great feel when sailing.

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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: Going to a smaller wheel?

I've thought about that, too. I have a 42 foot boat, and I've never been in any weather that I couldn't turn the wheel with one finger. I'm not sure I need as much leverage as my huge wheel provides.
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Old 03-28-2013
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Re: Going to a smaller wheel?

Since you are accustomed to tillers, rather than wheels, consider the effect on your arms/shoulders on a long beat if you reduced that length of your tiller by 30% (ignoring for the moment the inability to sit to windward or leeward to see your head sail--or under it--and actually reach the wheel). Beneteau does not size a wheel without forethought. The folding wheel has merit in an anchorage but the smaller diameter would be unwise underway IMHO... (You could experiment with the effect of a smaller wheel by bolting a couple of lengths of 1x2 between the spokes at the radius you propose and attempting to handle the boat gripping these rather than the rim of the wheel. You'll see what I mean.)
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Last edited by svHyLyte; 03-28-2013 at 12:33 PM. Reason: Addendum
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Re: Going to a smaller wheel?

It will greatly add to steering effort, the wheel is part of the mechanical advantage of the system. I've never been tempted to reduce the wheel size, sometimes wished for a larger one.
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Re: Going to a smaller wheel?

The folding wheel might be an option while at dock or the hook.
It is very simple to remove as well, but a pain to store.
Would not want to reduce anything while underway.
I know exactly what you mean, make getting to the BBQ a real pain.
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Re: Going to a smaller wheel?

Remember at anchor you can take the wheel off all together and get it out of the way. A lot cheaper then getting a folding one which may fold at the wrong time. It's real nice sitting low to watch the slot or high and be comfy. If you don't like crawling around the wheel -get a bigger boat(grin).
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Re: Going to a smaller wheel?

The other aspect of a larger wheel is the ability to have good sight lines forward when sitting well out towards the rail.. a smaller wheel pulls you into the cockpit where you may not be as able to see jib telltales, waves coming, debris etc.

Nothing looks more ridiculous (IMO) than a large cockpit well and a tiny wheel...

Personally I don't have a big issue with having to step over/around a wheel, and they can all be pulled when not sailing, some have installed pins on the rail to store the wheel off the pedestal. Folding wheels work well but they're expensive beasties...
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Re: Going to a smaller wheel?

try steering with you hand on the spokes at the 36" dia. this will give you an idea what it would feel like if you go to a smaller wheel. going from a 40" to a 36" is the same as moving your hand 8" from the end of a 40" tiller.
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Going to a smaller wheel?

Thanks all. That answers my question. I suspected the force needed to steer would make my idea prohibitive. I'll probably still get the folding wheel, but of the same size.
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