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I'm sure this debate has come up a number of times on the board, but let me steer the discussion onto a slightly different tack.

A couple of weeks ago I made the mistake of going aboard a couple of my dock-neighbours' boats. One was a Nonsuch 30 and the other was a Mirage 30. Up until that point I was very satisfied with the space on my boat (a Nash 26 - which has a very large cabin for boat of her length). Once aboard the bigger vessels I was immediately infected with twofootitis (fourfootitis in this case).

I began to fantasize about the features that my new, bigger boat would have. I remember when I first started looking at boats it seemed to be the consensus that the tiller was the way to go. I asked my experienced neighbour for his opinion on tiller vs wheel. He made some excellent points regarding the benefits of a wheel and almost had me sold on the concept. To re-inforce his point he called across to another experienced sailor on the dock and asked his opinion. The second sailor was equally eloquent in his support of the tiller. I'll have to do some more research on the subject.

Last weekend I noticed a benefit, that had not been mentioned, of using a tiller.

I was motoring in very calm waters with the gentleman from whom I had bought the boat. I offered him a shot at the helm, which he happily took.

I noticed that Hardy had placed the tiller between his legs in order to control it and keep his hands free for other, more important matters. This was a technique that I use and find to be effective. What I didn't realize (because I'm slow) is just how phallic the tiller looks as it thrusts out from the crotchal area.

Of course the mind starts to wander and I thought of an alternative to the 'auto'-helm.

Hardy didn't seem to mind either....

<embed width="448" height="361" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" wmode="transparent" src="http://s493.photobucket.com/flash/player.swf?file=http://vid493.photobucket.com/albums/rr293/Tresquewel/tillerpilot.flv"></embed>
 

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I think wheel boats are the best and my wife thinks tiller boats are best. We are both right.
 

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snake charmer, cat herder
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ti9ller is fine---my 41 uses wheel and has hydraulic steering an dweighs in at 28000 pounds. tiller is not the steering mechanism of choice. try it some time lol..i have saile d36 gaff rigged sloop with tiller---appropriate for the boat---whatever you have onboard is probably appropriate for that boat....whheel in a small boatis ssuperfluous and silly as it takes uop too much room and the boart is much mpore easily sailed with tiller. a wheel in a 25 catalina or coronado is silly looking and unnecessary---just a s a tiller in a 4`1 formosa would also be inappropriate----too difficult to keep with shorthanded sailing......
 

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Tiller takes up more room in the cockpit and can hit people's knees when you need to turn. You can lock down a wheel to free your hands. The learning curve for a tiller is higher than a wheel (there's really no learning curve for a wheel since it works like a car), so if having a newbie steer is easier with a wheel.
 

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Phallic considerations aside, steering with the tiller between the legs is only good for calm or motoring conditions, at best. You really have far less ability to make course adjustments than might be required. Could border on a safety issue. For that matter, a wheel has a lock to free up the hands, but isn't nearly as sexy as the Phallic Tiller option.

What I categorically reject is the concept that the helmsman can "feel" the boat better with a tiller. If you wait to feel the boat with the tiller, it's way too late. With properly developed boat-feel, the combination of sound, feel of the wind, and boat motion will allow a good helmsman to predict the boat's motion and anticipate corrective action. I've seen people without boat-feel; they steer pretty ragged courses, especially off the wind. Just my $0.02.

Johnshasteen is correct - both are equally valid. It's personal preference. Doesn't matter to a good helmsman. Up to about 28', I like a tiller. Above that, a wheel.
 

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Both will work but after several decades of sailing and racing I have a very strong preference for a tiller. A well balanced boat can be easily steered up to at least the 36-40 foot range. Many of the huge ocean racers such as the Open 60 etc. still use a tiller due to it's advantages.

Some boats are simply designed for a wheel due to the placement of the rudder post etc. Now I have maybe 2 % of my time at a wheel, generaly racing on other peoples boats but I do feel strongly that you can feel and respond to course corrections, wave actions etc faster than with a wheel. Obviuosly others may have other opinions.

I personably love sitting out to weather with a tiller extension in my hand and a nice fast trip up wind.

Gary
 

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I sailed S.F. Bay for nearly 2 decades in up to 50+knots on all points of sail. I steered the boat constantly gybing, tacking, or going steady on one point of sail with the tiller between my knees single-handing. It is a huge advantage to have a tiller that will fit betwen your knees, so your hands are free.......i2f
 

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Tillers are the best if youre interested in good sail trim and keeping the boat in the groove. Sitting to the side of a tiller allows one to visualize the luff of the jib/genoa more easily for separation and stagnation stalls,etc.; being stuck behind the wheel you will never appreciate nor see fully how the sails are 'working'.
Tillers are less tiring, especially when beating due to the ergonomics ... *pulling* a tiller so that the rudder is ~4 degrees off to lee will allow the KEEL to 'lift to weather' on a well trimmed boat; with a wheel you have to PUSH the wheel to do the same thing and that becomes VERY tiring due to the ergonomics.

Rudder shape and design is very important in matching a rudder to a tiller as the rudder should be a 'balanced' rudder so that the loads on the tiller dont become overwhelming when turning; Barn door rudders, rudders with skegs, etc. NEED a wheel to overcome the mechanical (DIS)advantage that requires a much greater force to turn the rudder when at speed. You dont want a tiller on a full keeled boat with a non-balanced or skeg hung rudder.

Wheels are needed for badly designed (with respect to 'balance") rudders.

Tiller Pilots are about 1/5 the cost of an autopilot attached to wheel steering.
 

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If you have wheel steering then you should have an emergency tiller. With proper planning you would have one.
Now those of you who do have an emergency tiller, in case your wheel system breaks down, have you ever taken it out and tried it? Do you know where it fits? Does it go through a deck plate on the back deck? Is there anything mounted in the way of the Emergency tiller, fouling it so you can't use it? Well? Have you ever done an emergency steering drill? Should you?

The above is food for thought. Is your brain hungry?? Also do the Emergency Steering drill at the dock first to ensure that everything works, even before you take your boat out to try it out on open waters.
 

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Baosun Sir,

Yes I have sir, and the e-tiller sir..... needs a wee bit of shortening, or I have to throw away the dink....sir....NO SIR my brain is not hungry....It's starving SIR..:D i2f
 

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Splashed
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As others have done, I would argue that a well balanced boat up to around 60 foot should have a tiller. Above that you need the mechanical advantage of wheel-steering. Hal Roth sailed American Flag, his 50' with a tiller twice around the world alone. Unless your boat is not well balanced you don't need the wheel. A wheel may have other advantages, but even the best new systems - while coming close - do not give you the simplicity and response of a tiller.
 

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Tillers are the best if youre interested in good sail trim and keeping the boat in the groove. Sitting to the side of a tiller allows one to visualize the luff of the jib/genoa more easily for separation and stagnation stalls,etc.; being stuck behind the wheel you will never appreciate nor see fully how the sails are 'working'.
All of which can be done just as well with a wheel. The only time I stand behind my wheel on this or my previous 2 wheeled boats is when I'm motoring out of the marina area. Unless... you count my avatar pictures here when myself and another Nauticat were sailing in circles around each other for Photo Ops ;) When I'm sailing I'm sitting on the lee side looking under the genoa for lobster traps and checking the sails for trim because although my wife is with me I basically sail single handed.The only people I see "stuck" driving behind the wheel are the ones with real crews that are helping with all the things you mentioned above. The rest of us are looking, seeing, and feeling all the things a tillered sailor would...... unless I just get lazy.... :rolleyes:
 

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For some boring medical reasons arising from osteoarthritis in my neck, I was told by a doctor (also a sailor) that if I wanted to keep saiing and stop aggravating the condition, I should find a boat with a wheel. (The ergonomics need not be explored here.) So I went looking for a C&C 27 specifically with a wheel. I'd been racing dinghies and small keelboats and had never owned a wheeled boat. I know and like tillers, but I like the wheel in the 27 for a number of reasons.
1. It frees up a lot of cockpit space otherwise occupied by the tiller.
2. It puts the steering as well as the mainsheet and traveller all close at hand in the middle/rear of the cockpit. And when steering from the lee side, the genoa winch is right in front of me and is easy to get to for trim ajustments.
3. I can pass off steering duties quickly when mucking with sheets. My wife just extends a hand to the wheel (she likes to sit to windward in the stern corner) and holds it while I play with the genoa or whatever.
4. As per comment of others, I don't generally stand behind the wheel, except when under power and sometimes when going downwind. Otherwise I sit to either side of the wheel. (If you visit my cruising blog and follow the "About Sweetwater Cruising" link, there's a picture of me steering in the normal off-to-the-side position.)
5. I know people have blamed bad rudders for bad tiller steering, but some boats have 'em, and the early 27 is one of them. The sweeping scimitar rudder can be a handful with a tiller. The wheel tames it. (I still think of equipping the boat with a custom spade rudder, but it's not an imperative.)

The disadvantage of the wheel is that I have no clue how to attach an emergency tiller. The rudder post head emerges from the cockpit floor aft of the wheel, and the boat does have a casting for an emergency tiller, but neither nor I nor any other owner in the boat's 38-year history has figured out how an actual tiller could be mounted in an emergency and operated without also chopping down the wheel binnacle with a fireaxe. My solution is to pay careful attention to steering maintenance and hope for the best.
 

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I have a Viking 33 with a tiller, and would never switch to a wheel. A tiller, ideally with an extender, with the helm up on the coaming looking at the jib telltales or ticklers, is able to react with small, precise movements and to sail more efficiently.

The mechanical forces mean that this is not the case beyond 40 feet in most situations. I find it telling, however, that most long-distance race boats even in the Open 60 class still sport dual tillers. I also have a coach-house-mounted traveller; steering with my legs allows me to work it and the mainsheet solo. Lastly, it gets weight out of the end of the boat, and allows me to dock easily because I can clamber to the sidedeck a lot faster than from behind a big wheel.

On our 41-footer, I have two helms, inside the pilothouse and outside in a "sailing helm footwell" (this is a little 24 inch destroyer wheel). Both are linked via beefy hydraulics to a ram that moves a transom-hung rudder of a good size. Intriguingly, I can easily bypass the hydraulics and can steer with a tiller. I've tried it, and while more work than my 33-footer, it's not impossible, and gives an entirely separate means of steering that is far more robust than the token "emergency tiller" on most wheel boats. Mating the windvane to this tiller steering is more sensible and accessible than an elaborate under-deck mating to the hydraulics.

Now, for all that, I don't object to wheels, and freely admit that I enjoy mine, particularly as it's a heavy beast to put about. But I do see them as a convenience and as a compromise, rather than a way to sail better. For reasons of feel, reasons of servicing and reasons of boat operation, I prefer tiller. People sitting in my cockpit aren't sitting: they are helping to work the winches, and consequently aren't in the way at all.

Did I mention that I don't have "passengers", just "crew"? If you aren't working, go lay on the foredeck until I yell "skirt!".

When at dock, the tiller goes vertical (lashed on a wavy day!) and I guarantee I have more room than if I had a wheel.
 

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Splashed
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When at dock, the tiller goes vertical (lashed on a wavy day!) and I guarantee I have more room than if I had a wheel.
To me that is the core of it:
When We're sailing We're sailing, and so need to focus on saling ability instead of cosiness - and when we're anchored we provide the most free space by having a tiller :)
I've owned boats with a wheel, and would not hesitate to buy one again, but honestly, it's not the wheel nor the tiller that made the vast difference?
 

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A couple comments:
1. The 60-footers mentioned with a tiller I believe are singlehanded. Volvo 70s are crewed and have twin wheels. Cockpit layout and crew working space dictate that solution.
2. There's nothing wrong with cosiness. Some of us have crew who can do sailtrim stuff. Some of us are getting old and creaky and don't, but want to keep sailing. My wife has terrible arthritis in her finger joints and has gradually had to give up line handling. She steers when we're anchoring or leaving an anchorage, does the nav and lookout duties, deploys and retrieves fenders etc., and it's left to me to steer most of the time and trim sails pretty well all of the time. About the only sail trimming she does is release the leeward genoa sheet for me when we're tacking. The wheel arrangement (a necessity, not a choice for me) works. Tillers work for other people. As I said, I came out of dinghy and small keelboat racing, and had always steered with a tiller. I still like them for the feedback, but in my particular situation, the wheel was a necessity, and it has worked to my advantage.
3. Agree about cockpit space and tillers. Other C&C27s just flip the tiller up. Some with the old scimitar swept rudder like mine can even turn the rudder 180 (which I can't because of stoppers on the quadrant), which allows safe Mediterranean stern-to docking. I think a tiller when at anchor probably affords more cockpit space. A wheel when sailing probably takes up less. Most C&C 27s racing have tillers, and their mainsheet traveler is on the bridgedeck, which impedes companionway access and makes the front end of the cockpit a little crowded. (Other 27 owners, and there are about 1,000 of them, may differ.)
3. An important point when deciding wheel or tiller should be: how are you going to sail? If you imagine doing singlehanding or shorthanded sailing some or all of the time, how does the helm relate to the sheet positions? Valiente likes his tiller because he's close to the mainsheet on the cabintop. I dislike boats with wheels that have this arrangement because the helmsperson is too far away from the main to deal with it. I sailed on a J/34C this summer and was impressed by how well organized that design was for single/shorthanded. The mainsheet and traveller were right back at the wheel binnacle, and genoa winches were also close at hand. It was like I was still in my 27. Too few keelboats over 30 feet with a wheel pay attention to this. The owner did race the boat, but he made a point of saying how much he appreciated the arrangement of wheel and sheets because he could singlehand that way.
Other issues to consider are sightlines to and location of nav devices and engine controls and gauges. Think of the total package.
 

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"Think of the total package"...good advice.

Yes, I was referring to the single-handed Open 60s.

I was also assuming that there were no special health or mobility issues that precluded having a tiller. My preference is for a tiller, but I wouldn't stop sailing if I had to use a wheel. Our new boat would be exhausting to steer with only tiller all the time...but windvanes don't get easily fatigued.

Because end of boom sheeting is better in most senses, I am considering bringing the traveller off the coachhouse and into a recessed track on the bridgedeck...i.e. deliberately putting an obstacle in front of the companionway! This is because I dont' go below much when underway, and because I am interested in installing a rope vang (there's nothing at the moment) to control the twist in the leech.

Again, a thoughtfully designed wheel helm has this covered with a traveller directly in front of the binnacle, spanning the cockpit. I've sailed that a number of times, and it's fine. I tend to steer from the low side, however, because I like to see the sail set, so the only time I'm standing behind the wheel is while I'm docking!
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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This is my reply from an earlier discussion. Most of these points have been touched on,

This is a topic that used to be a frequent topic of discussion on this BB. There are a lot of opinions on this topic but there is no one universally right answer here. My take on this is that tillers have more feel and less friction than a wheel. They are more direct and so allow a quicker response and a more linear response. Because of that it is easier to get higher performance out of a tiller on a smaller boat (say under 40 feet or so).
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They generally have less mechanical advantage than a wheel and so on a boat with large helm loads; a tiller will require more strength to steer. On a modern fin keel/ spade rudder boat, the steering loads tend to be lighter and so the mechanical advantage of a wheel is not as necessary. In the case of a boat with high helm loads, a tiller is more tiring. In the case of a boat that is well balanced, a wheel (because you not only have to move the rudder but also overcome friction) is more tiring.
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I personally like a tiller. I find that by using a tiller extension it is easier to move around and see the trim of the sails, find a comfortable position to sit or adjust course. I find it tiring to have to hold my arm out to reach the wheel rather than to just sit with the tiller extension sitting on my knee. I do a lot of single-handing and strongly prefer the ability to have a tiller extension within my reach almost anywhere in my cockpit.
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I find that it easier to use shock cord to pretension the tiller to hold a course than it is lock off a wheel which can only hold a fixed position rather than flex as the loads increase allowing the boat to “find its own balance”.
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Tillers work well on modern boats up to about 40 feet. Wheels work better on larger boats and heavier boats because the loads are greater. Autopilots used to be better for wheel steered boats but now can be purchased in equal quality for both wheel and tiller steering. Wheels involve a mechanical system, which in my book is just one more thing to maintain and to break. I hate crawling under the cockpit by way of a cramped sail locker, hanging upside down to rerun a steering cable that has jumped the quadrant. That seems to happen less with more modern wheel steering systems but it still happens.
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Tillers seem to be more preferable for coastal cruising while offshore cruisers seem to prefer wheels. Mass production boats seem to show up with wheels these days. Specialized boats seem to show up with tillers.
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Tillers swing through a bigger area of the cockpit but wheels permanently occupy a bigger area of the cockpit and are a pain in the butt to get around. Tiller can be tilted out of the way when you get to port; the binnacle for a wheel can support tables and the like. Binnacles give you something to hold onto in a seaway.
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Some people feel that wheels are more nautical or shippy. Others think that wheels on small boats are an affectation like the guy who wears a captain’s hat.
<O:p</O:p
In the end, it comes down to what you feel most comfortable with. Each has their proponents and advantages.
 

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"Think of the total package"...good advice.


Because end of boom sheeting is better in most senses, I am considering bringing the traveller off the coachhouse and into a recessed track on the bridgedeck...i.e. deliberately putting an obstacle in front of the companionway! This is because I dont' go below much when underway, and because I am interested in installing a rope vang (there's nothing at the moment) to control the twist in the leech.

Again, a thoughtfully designed wheel helm has this covered with a traveller directly in front of the binnacle, spanning the cockpit. I've sailed that a number of times, and it's fine. I tend to steer from the low side, however, because I like to see the sail set, so the only time I'm standing behind the wheel is while I'm docking!
Couple additional points on mainsheet and helm position. Having the sheet at the end of the boom does improve mechanical advantage lever-wise in sheeting downward when going to windward. The negative I deal with when combined with the wheel is that there is a bunch of 4:1 mainsheet sweeping across the cockpit when I gybe, something that doesn't happen on boats where the main is up on the cabin top or right forward at the bridgedeck. (With that much sheet, it's not usually possible to keep it sheeted in and taut all the way through the gybe. The boat is small enough that in less windy conditions you just grab a mittful of 4:1 when partly sheeted in and fling it to the new side. That creates snag-happy slack as it crosses the cockpit.) I'm sure this is why designers have tended to move the mainsheet out of the cockpit on larger designs. My crew has to be on their toes when gybing and I have to be careful that the sheet doesn't try to loop behind my chart plotter mounted on the binnacle and fling the unit into Georgian Bay. The original 27 design with tiller placed the end-boom mainsheet terminus at an oblique angle on the stern rail, but this was a bad arrangement for getting leech tension (and there was no traveler) and owners pretty much eliminated it (in my boat's case by converting to wheel and installing a traveler cross-brace).
My only comment on relocating the mainsheet to the bridgedeck is to do whatever you can to make it non-invasive (recessing as you say is an option). When I got the 27, I considered adding inboard sheeting to the genoa, which otherwise sheets to a block on the toe rail. A friend who is a dedicated 27 racer talked me out of it. The boat already has shrouds set well inboard for decent sheeting angles and points fine, and adding inboard tracks meant drilling risky holes in a balsa core deck and creating a whole bunch of deck clutter I could trip over. I'm highly trip-over conscious. But I digress.
Gotta have a vang. I'd been used to using one in fractional-rig dinghies for bending the rig and flattening the main, but the 27's mast is a 33-foot telephone pole. It helps with leech tension as you say, and most important when off the wind prevents the boom from rising up and down with every gust, spilling drive and costing me a tenth of a knot, which I try to make my wife understand is the absolute end of the world.
 
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