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Go Back   SailNet Community > Skills and Seamanship > Seamanship & Navigation
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Seamanship & Navigation Forum devoted to seamanship and navigation topics, including paper and electronic charting tools.


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  #1  
Old 03-18-2006
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Tiller or Wheel?

I have sailed mostly on a Hobie 16 and small dinghys. All of which have tiller steering. I am moving up to a Hunter 25 or comparable boat in a year or so. My ultimate plan is to move up to a liveaboard/cruiser in about ten years. Is it my best bet to stay with the tiller steering or should I switch to the wheel steering now due to my future plans? Or is it just prefference?
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Old 03-18-2006
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In the 25 foot range, most of what you'll find will be tillers. The main difference between a wheel and tiller, is you get less feedback through the wheel. Plus, that's just one more thing to go wrong. That said, it really does come down to preference. I don't really think it will make that much difference when you move up in size.
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Old 03-18-2006
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Under 30 feet and probably, for most, under 35 feet, tiller is fine. There is a point where you need some mechanical advantage. You will develop better skills, and have more responsive sailing with a tiller. If you start cruising longer distances, I think a wheel is easier, auto pilots are handy and a wheel set up allows you to put other electronics right where you want them.

Larry
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Old 03-18-2006
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Tiller or Wheel

After a lifetime with tillers it only took about 3 days to adjust to a wheel. At first it seems backward, after 5 years on boats with nothing but wheels I sailed a dockmates tiller boat and it felt backward again. You adjust.
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Old 03-18-2006
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Tiller any time you can!!!!

The REAL difference is with a tiller you can sit up high on the coaming and with a well balanced helm you will be primarily pulling on the tiller (extension) mostly to keep course. Sitting on the coaming has the strategic advantage of being able to see the forward sails better. With a wheel, either you get your vision trapped by being down low or by the mast and if you try to sit on the coaming, the usual corrections are by 'pushing' the top of the wheel ... which is VERY tiring.

A tiller usually means a 'well balanced rudder' ....
With the sometimes HUGE forces generated by 'unbalanced' rudders, you NEED a wheel to overcome those forces.

Gimme a tiller (with a matched balanced rudder) any day of the week.
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Old 03-18-2006
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I have a Rival 32 and it has a tiller. It seems that a number of older British built boats all have tillers. It is interesting to note that a lot of the current single handed round the world race boats are tillers. That says a lot. For me, I prefer a tiller over a wheel, except when in reverse, I could never get it right. My wife prefers the wheel, it is similar to the car.
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Old 03-19-2006
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I have had a tiller for over 25 years and finally got a boat with a wheel last year. I like the wheel better. True, a tiller gives you a better feel and if you race, that would be an advantage. For cruising, which is what I do, I think the wheel offers more advantages. The tiller takes up a lot of room in the cockpit when underway - add an auto pilot and it is another thing to get in the way. If you are steering manually, I find my neck gets stiff after a long time on the tiller. You sit facing midship and have to turn your head looking forward - that gets to me after a long stint at the helm. On a wheel you don't have that problem.

I have found adjusting to the wheel no problem, except when sailing wing and wing. On that tack, with a tiller, one justs points the tiller at the offending sail to correct, while one must correct opposite the offending sail with a wheel.
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Old 03-28-2006
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I prefer tillers as they give you much more feedback on the boat's steering and trim. You might want to note that some of the largest racing boats are tiller steered, not wheel steered.

Tillers are far simpler, less likely to fail, and easier to repair. They are also easier to rig with wind vanes and autopilots in many cases.

Also, the design of most tiller steered boats has a much better balanced rudder.

Tillers do take up a fair amount of cockpit space, but so do wheels. Wheels can also block access across the cockpit when going forward or aft. Tillers, when not in use, can be tipped up and then leave the cockpit essentially clear, most steering wheels can't be moved out of the way.

If you're going to be living aboard and sailing long distances, there's a good chance that you'll be spending far less time at the tiller, using some sort of self-steering mechanism.
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Old 04-01-2006
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Both have their strong and weak points, most of which have been pointed out by previous posts. For 12 years or so we ran 2 boats, a 24 ft racer with a tiller and a 40 foot racer/cruiser with a 60" wheel. Switching back and forth became second nature after a while. While I don't really have a strong preference as far as the actual steering is concerned, I did find that a cockpit that is designed around a good wheel installation offers more variety in comfortable seated/standing steering positions for extended trips (i.e. 6 - 8 hour days).
The wheel-steered boat had a chain and cable/quadrant setup and was just 1 turn lock-to-lock so it was very responsive and direct with reasonable feel. The large diameter allowed the helmsman to sit well outboard with good sightlines for waves and action on deck. The small "McGregor" wheels you see in smaller boats don't make much sense to me - lacking mechanical advantage and keep the driver in the middle of the boat. In those cases a tiller would be a vast improvement.
Our current 35' boat has a wheel with rod and lever connections, and nearly two turns lock to lock, does not have as much "feel" as the old one. Wheel vs tiller was not part of our decision-making when shopping for this last boat. Other factors were more important to us.
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