While you''re still just thinking about it, is the cockpit really big enough to fit the size wheel you''d need? (How big a wheel would be required to deliver the same amount of leverage that the tiller gives you now?) You may decide to keep the tiller if it would take a 6'' wheel. Even a smaller wheel will cut off some access to the back end of the cockpit. Will the crew still be able to work the winches? You may have to move/add compasses and instruments for the new helm position as well. I remember the Peterson 34 as being quick and pretty. With her racing heritage, she''s also likely to be adversely affected by the weight of the wheel and helmsman if you put them aft. Reinforcing the cockpit or other areas to take a wheel setup will also add weight and may be difficult. If I had a tiller on my boat (a J/36) I might simply tilt it up to the backstay and invite people over to party, instead of thinking about an expensive wheel that is full of finely machined metal parts that can (and do) break.
I converted my Pearson 10M from a tiller to wheel,(Edson. They provided all the correct parts, drawings, directions etc. Talk with one of the Keanes at Edson. I did it over the winter season and had no problems. Expect to pay about $2,000. My mate and I are sorry we did not do it sooner - much easier and more comfortable for her.
I had tillers for a long time and finally we have a C&C 35-1 which has a wheel. I really don''t like to steer and find the wheel far superior. We had autopilots on all the boats and used them 99% of the time.
You should step back and look at the Peterson 34 from the aspect of a boat that will mature with you. While it is suitable for racing will it be so if you decide to cruise in terms of draft and comfort.
The next consideration is what the wheel will do to the cockpit in terms of the traveller. I would not be concerned about the weight of the wheel or the weight of the helmsman. This is a 34'' boat not a dingy.
So if the boat fit''s all of your needs present and future then yes get a wheel. If not then look for another boat with one.
I like boats that have a real good PHRF and your Peterson does. This and the 34'' length are a real good start as far as I am concered.
Another alternative is to get a tiller pilot if you don''t already have one. This is why I put up with the tiller so long. I never used the tiller except in the harbor.
Mike and I differ as to the effect of weight aft in the cockpit of the Peterson 34. For cruising, yes, it''s a 34'' boat that weighs about 9 or 10 tons all told, and the effect will be neglibible. Racing, weight placement WILL make a difference. The relatively light-hulled boat is very narrow in the bows - much like a huge Laser, and though the beam is carried aft pretty far, it does taper towards the stern more than many newer designs. This provides less support for additional weight aft, and may be another reason the boat was built (and designed?) with a tiller.
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