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What are the pros and cons regarding hydraulic steering for sailboats? For example, can you feel the force on the rudder as you would with mechanical steering?

Thank you.

Ted
 

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Much of the "feel" is missing in hydraulic steering. I have used it on a boat with twin stations; that prevents marking a king spoke as well.
 

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Courtney the Dancer
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As Jack said there is almost no feedback with hydraulic steering. The plus is that there are no cables/chains to route which makes installation relatively easy and installation of a below deck autopilot is easy. You get used to the lack of feedback, it's not a deal killer for me. Our boat has both cable (cockpit) and hydraulic (inside station, there is a valve to turn to activate/deactivate), I prefer the cable for sailing but like both systems.
 

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Master Mariner
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Of course, a failure in a hydraulic steering system would probably be unheralded and quite immediate, whereas with proper inspection, a failure on a cable system might be avoided.
I really like "feeling" the helm and wouldn't go hydraulic unless there just wasn't another cost effective route on a boat under 60 feet. If you are going with hydraulic, do install a rudder angle indicator.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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jrd22,

Ooooh you have both? That's awesome. I would love to have that. Get the feel at the upper helm (where you sail from anyway) and the added redundancy of both systems and the hydraulic at the lower station. Nice....

I have hydraulic on my new boat, and I think I'm going to miss the feedback that cable steering gives you. Though on the trial sail I didn't find it too different from sailing a raceboat with a really large wheel where the "feel" is diminished so much by the mechanical advantage.

MedSailor
 

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Sure, there's less in your hands, but that does not eliminate feedback. You do have the response of the boat, the lift of the rail, visual movements of rounding up or falling off, apparent wind, the hull to the wave...... Hydraulic steering requires you to use all the tools in the box, not just the tiller in your hands. For many it might take some time to adjust if they've not been using all the input.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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Sure, there's less in your hands, but that does not eliminate feedback. You do have the response of the boat, the lift of the rail, visual movements of rounding up or falling off, apparent wind, the hull to the wave...... Hydraulic steering requires you to use all the tools in the box, not just the tiller in your hands. For many it might take some time to adjust if they've not been using all the input.
A good point about all the inputs. I'm looking forward to the change, in a way, because it will force me to use other inputs. Kind of like the trick of sailing blindfolded to get the "feel" of the boat.

Sailing blindfolded, with hydraulic steering, now THAT would be a trick!

MedSailor
 

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I've got hydraulics on my boat and I hate it - HATE IT. Numb, insensitive, slow - it has NO redeeming features, The only reason for using it on a boat is necessity - center cockpit, clearance issues, rudder loads too high for manual (in which case something else is wrong) and so forth.

In case you missed my point - IT SUCKS! BIG TIME!

Don't buy a boat with it - I'll never have another one.
 

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I've got hydraulics on my boat and I hate it - HATE IT. Numb, insensitive, slow - it has NO redeeming features, The only reason for using it on a boat is necessity ...........
I'll agree with much of what you say, although I'm far less passionate about the issue. I don't agree with the "slow" statement. The transfer of energy by hydraulic pressure is no slower than the mechanical linkage. I suppose that the "slow" that you refer to might be the time it takes a helmsman, without good anticipation, to interpret the need to correct steerage. A redeeming feature that you are not recognzing is power. Far less effort is required at the helm and this also means that there is far less mechanical effort required for an auto piloting device.

I totally agree with the "numb & insensitive" to the hands.
 

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Slow is 3 1/2 turns lock to lock on a 30 footer - 1/2 or one turn would be lots.

I'm passionate about it because I have it on my boat.

Never again.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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Absolutely.
My boat doesn't have one and it's TOP of my list to install.

During the trial sail, the broker (who is a powerboat guy) was asked if there was a rudder position indicator by me. "Yeah, that mark on the spoke is the middle." A marked spoke? It's 6 turns each way lock to lock..... Yeah.....

MedSailor
 

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Slow is 3 1/2 turns lock to lock on a 30 footer - 1/2 or one turn would be lots.

I'm passionate about it because I have it on my boat.

Never again.
I think the 3 & 1/2 turns is a function of the gearing from the wheel to the hydraulic pump and the rate that fluid is pumped. This is not an exclusive trait of hydraulic steering. Cable steering can also be designed to have more or fewer turns to complete the full action of the rudder.

The "passion" is relative too,- I don't have anything that is not on my boat.
 

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The best thing about hydraulic steering is the ease of engaging an autopilot. Can't think of any other reasons to have it. Six turns lock to lock??? easiest fix is to increase the size of the pump . Rudder indicator a must have in close quarters.
 

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Closet Powerboater
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The best thing about hydraulic steering is the ease of engaging an autopilot. Can't think of any other reasons to have it. Six turns lock to lock??? easiest fix is to increase the size of the pump . Rudder indicator a must have in close quarters.
There's also a knob on the pedestal that says "more turns/less turns". It may have something to do with it. ;) I'll investigate further when I get my pedestal put back together.

MedSailor
 

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6 turns??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????
 

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Closet Powerboater
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Maybe it was 3 or 4. I don't recall. My last boat had cable steering and it was 1.5 turns each way. This one was more but appears adjustable.
 

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Full-time Liveaboard
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My boat has Jefa rack & pinion for the wheel but hydraulic for the auto pilot. I like it because the wheel is sold and smooth but the auto pilot doesn't have to work as hard.
 

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Courtney the Dancer
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I think the reference to "slow" might be that most hydraulic helm pumps require 5 full turns lock to lock vs. mechanical steering norm of 2.
 

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Hello All, from a newbie here. My 1977 Bayliner Buccaneer 325 has been at the dock for two years as I have been, slowly, restoring her. Had to swing her around recently to install my new port lights. What a mess! 3.5 turns each way from center to lock with SeaStar hydraulic steering. I've been through every system on this boat, I thought. Just discovered today that it has Auto Pilot, with the pump, etc.., hidden deep in the bowels. Now I am a bit leery about relying on a 25 y/o system and am considering changing to a simple cable arrangement. BTW, not new on experience, power boat wise. 100 ton Masters. Just new to the sailboat thing. Any thoughts? Aside from the usual Buccaneer Baylitter comments. :)
 
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