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A melon with a dream...
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Discussion Starter #1
First, I am NOT wishing to open up a can of worms/debate about which is better... tiller or wheel. Opinions vary. I have been reading "Thoughts, Tips, Techniques and Tactics for Singlehanded Sailing," by Andrew Evans and he strongly recommends a tiller for a singlehander. The boats I have sailed on (as crew) in the past have been wheel-steered. My current boat, a Columbia 28' which I haven't had out much yet, is tiller-steered. (I purchased it because the price was right.) My intuition is that I just really prefer a wheel. Hopefully this Fall I will be stepping up to a 32'-35' boat but before I do I would like to hear what singlehanders have to say about the two options. Which do you prefer and why?
 

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I like tillers on boats small enough to use them efficiently. And, there is no simpler auto-pilot than one built for a tiller like the old AutoHelm 800. I installed one on my Cape Dory 25D in about 20 minutes and to this day, it is still the easiest to use AP i ever owned.
 
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HANUMAN
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Does not matter. A good autopilot will make all the difference in the world. Tiller pilots are much easier to install and much less expensive.

I like having a wheel but one gets much more feedback on how the boat is sailing with a tiller. This can be helpful in hinting to the single handed sailor that it might be time to reef. Sooner is generally safer and easier, especially single handed.

Docking single handed with a tiller you will know EXACTLY were the rudder is pointed. This helps in understanding how the wind/current are effecting the boat.

All that being said, I like a wheel more than a tiller because I often have non-sailing friends with me. It's easier to give them the helm and I get to play with the sail trim or do other stuff that needs to be done. A tiller just confuses the land lubbers :)

JMHO YMMV
 

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Not gonna join the debate either, but if you end up with a wheel, remember that you do not have to sit behind it when single-handing. You may find that sitting astride the wheel on the windward (high) side gives you just as good access to the forward part of the cockpit as a tiller does. Maybe better, since you can leave the wheel for a few seconds to tend to things, especially if you have a wheel brake or (even better) autopilot.

Having your genoa sheet winches on the coaming near the wheel is also a big plus. I do not have that, but I do have a couple of clam cleats on the coaming that work in mild conditions for my small boat.

I only singlehand a couple times a year, and always in rather protected waters, so my comments should be taken with a grain of salt.
 

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Quirky
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I think it's not going to matter too much for the average single hander. A wheel may be more comfortable. You get pulleys and things to help with the load. But you get a little more feedback with how balanced your sails are with a tiller.
It's a personal preference. I can steer with my toe on the wheel. With a tiler, I can hook my heel over it and steer.

If you were doing a solo around the world trip, I'd lean towards tiller since, should your windvane and autopilot fail, you can rig the sail to the tiller for some windvane-ish action.
 
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Autopilot aside, I prefer to single handle with a wheel because if I need to run forward to do something or go below real quick, I can tighten the wheel lock and not veer way off course. Im sure you can rig something to hold the tiller in place too though.
 

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A melon with a dream...
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Discussion Starter #7
I appreciate the responses. I think it mostly just comes down to what feels right. For me I think that means a wheel. I plan to head offshore and will do so on a boat that has an emergency tiller in case everything else breaks. I can appreciate the notion that a tiller gives more direct feedback, but I guess I just prefer a wheel. And I suppose there isn't that golden piece of information or advice that is likely to change that. I do appreciate hearing peoples' responses, however. Thanks again!
 

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A melon with a dream...
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Discussion Starter #8
Autopilot aside, I prefer to single handle with a wheel because if I need to run forward to do something or go below real quick, I can tighten the wheel lock and not veer way off course. Im sure you can rig something to hold the tiller in place too though.
This is my feeling also. Just flip on the wheel brake really quick, run and do whatever you need to do, and come right back. Much simpler and quicker than tying off a tiller. This is, of course, if you don't have the auto-pilot set up in either scenario.
 

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I vote for the wheel also, for the reason given above - just tighten up the wheel brake to leave the helm for a bit. In fact, my boat will sail itself upwind for minutes at a time with the wheel brake set, and downwind for at least a little while. I singlehand all the time and rarely use the autopilot. You certainly can rig something with a tiller, I did when I had a tiller boat, but I didn't think it was quite as convenient.
 

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A melon with a dream...
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Discussion Starter #11
easier than reaching down and tightening up the wheel brake. just click the lever




Funny you should mention this... I actually have one for my boat that I haven't installed yet. I am going to see how I like it. I'm not sure about having another line in the cockpit to trip over though. Of course they run aft, but simply being there creates a possible situation for a tangle. I tend to prefer less lines over all. We shall see. At any rate, it will be a solution for the time being while I have this boat.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 

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First, I am NOT wishing to open up a can of worms/debate about which is better... tiller or wheel. Opinions vary. I have been reading "Thoughts, Tips, Techniques and Tactics for Singlehanded Sailing," by Andrew Evans and he strongly recommends a tiller for a singlehander. The boats I have sailed on (as crew) in the past have been wheel-steered. My current boat, a Columbia 28' which I haven't had out much yet, is tiller-steered. (I purchased it because the price was right.) My intuition is that I just really prefer a wheel. Hopefully this Fall I will be stepping up to a 32'-35' boat but before I do I would like to hear what singlehanders have to say about the two options. Which do you prefer and why?
On a wheel steered boat it is important that you can reach the important sail controls from the wheel.
Remember that you normally won't sit behind the wheel but rather on one side.
I can sail my boat 38 feet wheel steering alone, can even pull in a reef or two without using the autopilot.
 

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Freedom isn't free
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I find it fascinating that the best "plus" for wheel steering by most is the wheel brake...

As noted the tiller clutch is similar, but they don't mention that it's a PITA when you don't need it (lift the tiller with it).

My 2 most recent boats were performance oriented, and the traveler was just in front of the skipper... my solution for "quick bow work" was always a bungee, to the traveler around the tiller, and back.

HOWEVER, a tiller pilot is an awesome upgrade, and the bungee, AND the wheel brake are really not great solutions.

For single handing, which I do a lot (nearly always), the tiller pilot is really a huge bonus.
Wheel will take away some feel from the boat, but I've never found it so bad as others seem to indicate.

Also indicating rudder angle for a wheel, can be done by marking the wheel as well.

The biggest issue single handing with a wheel is the need to be out in front (or to the side) of the wheel to handle sheets/lines. Some boats are better setup for it (with controls lead aft to the pilot seat) than others. With that regard my next boat I was hoping to stay away from boats with travelers on the coach roof. I'd prefer a traveler in front of the wheel, with winches within reach of the helm. If you look at the standard layouts of the J28, Tartan 3000 versus say the Catalina 27, Beneteau 285, wheel, you'll see what I mean. Some layouts are just easier to single hand than others (granted some of this can be changed easily)...
 

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Personal preference for the most part. A solid autopilot is the most important issue for a single hander, imo. However, you must always consider what you will do when it craps out, and it will. Control lines are almost always within reach of a tiller, sometimes within reach of a wheel. Often a function of where the primary winches are mounted. The mainsheet is easier to relocate.
 

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Chastened
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Whether or not you need automated steering depends on the length, frequency and complexity of your singlehanded operations.

If you're daysailing or running jib and main on longer sails, Evan Andrews' rope/bungee/surgical tubing contraption is more than adequate.

If you're spending extended time on the foredeck and flying a symmetric kite solo, a powered auto pilot is better. It gets even better if you tie in wind instruments and GPS to it. Even the ST1000/2000 support this capability.

Although Raymarine's instruction manual states that the tiller pilots do not steer well DDW, I find that it does a fair job if you dial down the gain a little bit so that it doesn't overreact when a swell lifts the stern.

As far as wheel vs. tiller- I don't know why you even asked the question. You've already made up your mind and no one is going to offer an opinion that would change it.
 

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Sea Sprite 23 #110 (20)
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I find it fascinating that the best "plus" for wheel steering by most is the wheel brake...

As noted the tiller clutch is similar, but they don't mention that it's a PITA when you don't need it (lift the tiller with it).
It does depend on how you have it set up. My tiller is rather low, so the ropes are actually above it's arc.. makes it easy to flip up and out of the way. I would post some pics, but my Sprite is in pieces getting a complete refit
 

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Remember, the way you set up your boat for singlehanding is not entirely about how you get things done under normal conditions. It's about how you get to shore, if you fall and break an arm, or a stay let's go, etc.
 

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Barquito
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Second the opinion that some wheels look really hard to get out from behind. At the other extreem, there is a boat in my yard that has the wheel snugged up near the companion way. Would be a PITA getting in and out, but, you could almost steer the boat from within the cabin!
 

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I really like tillers. There is nothing like the feedback you get from a tiller, you can almost sail with your eyes closed.

That said, I don't know what he limits are but have always felt that beyond a certain size, you probably want a wheel for mechanical advantage. Steering my friend's 54 foot boat in a gale with a wheel, I've needed to plant both feet in a wide stance, and continually correct to keep a good angle not to bury the bow. It takes some strength, even with a wheel.

I know yea, you can balance the boat and make the rudder feather light, but beyond a certain size, in rapidly chaining conditions as you ride up and down into the valley's between waves, does this still work?
 
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