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Don't call me a "senior"!
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I don't understand why the steering wheels on sailboats need to be so large.
So you can sit on the windward side and steer. The large diameter also give you the leverage to steer with minimal effort.
 

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So you can sit on the windward side and steer. The large diameter also give you the leverage to steer with minimal effort.
I agree about widward sitting and better visibility, but I do not agree about leverage. One can achieve same leverage with either a larger wheel or larger gear ratio to steering quadrant.
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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I agree about widward sitting and better visibility, but I do not agree about leverage. One can achieve same leverage with either a larger wheel or larger gear ratio to steering quadrant.
While it is possible to achieve the same leverage by increasing the gear ratio, it comes at the price of greater friction. While the whole sight lines issue is certainly a major factor, The idea about large wheels for cruising boats is to minimize the frictional losses while maintaining a light helm so as to not wear out the helmsman, or the autopilot.
Jeff
 
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An amplification of JeffH's comments:

Another quite important factor for simplicity of 'leverage' as provided by the common large wheel system is that such a system is whats known as 'overhauling' ... meaning that when the boat is moving forward, when the wheel is 'released' by the helmsman, the wheel will automatically return back to center and the boat will come close to sailing in a straight line --- all by itself.
The same 'overhauling' design is found on automobiles: force the wheel to make the turn, release pressure on the steering wheel and the forward motion of the vehicle automatically returns the wheel to near 'dead center'. Imagine if you had to always 'actively' steer an automobile for both steering wheel directions - into the turn and then back to center !!!!

In contrast, with a complex gear/lever system that has great 'mechanical advantage' as needed by a 'small' wheel youll find that youll have to FORCE such a (small) wheel back to its centered position and with an accompanied reduction of feedback you'll hardly ever know where the boat is now heading without constant visual clues. A blind man can easily steer a boat with an overhauling steering system; virtually impossible for that blind man to do with non-overhauling steering!!!! With non-overhauling steering (high mechanical advantage/small wheel) sailing at night becomes an extremely tiring 'struggle' even if the input forces on the steering system are small.
Inotherwords, with a non-overhauling system, one must 'actively' steer the boat in both directions: steering to new course and then actively steering the wheel back to center - for TWICE the work! Many 'cruising' boats from the 80's and early 90s with high mechanical advantage ('rack and pinion', etc.) and 'small' wheel steering are like this - a royal PITA to steer, especially at night. Additionally, such 'high mechanical advantage' systems do not provide much 'feedback' to the helmsman and even with minimal force needed to turn the wheel, the AMOUNT of constant 'active' steering needed is extra-tiring.

Rx: dont steer a sailboat as if youre driving a bus. Get out from behind that wheel and sit your butt on the cap rail to watch the jib's leading edge luff shape. The bigger the wheel, the further away from the boat's center line you can sit ... so you can easily watch for that all important 'luff break' on the jib.

;-)
 

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Rx: dont steer a sailboat as if youre driving a bus. Get out from behind that wheel and sit your butt on the cap rail to watch the jib's leading edge luff shape. The bigger the wheel, the further away from the boat's center line you can sit ... so you can easily watch for that all important 'luff break' on the jib.

;-)
Sorry, but that's becoming a heretical notion, today... What, you didn't see that Mega Throne mounted behind the helm on the Seaward 46 at the Annapolis show a while back?

:))



Every year, I'm seeing more and more boats being fitted out with these things... Time to get with the program, Rich... :))



Hard to imagine a more comfortable steering position in a seaway, no?

:)

Sailing comfort is the Helmseat

 

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Our last boat had an 'ego' wheel, and a somewhat unique A frame support pedestal.. We did a lot of upwind sailing and the best seating was outboard, to windward, straddling the wheel with your feet propped on the sides of the pedestal. Loved that set up!

 
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Well Jon, sadly I guess youre correct ... have you ever seen the 'helm station' on a Moxie "Island Hopper" Catamaran? .... complete with a round dining table sized 'window' and located directly behind the mast?

If you havent, imagine steering an 18 wheeled over-the-road Kenworth semi .... with the steering wheel just aft of the friggin RADIATOR. WTF :eek:



 

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I would venture a guess that a significant number of the newer boats, and all the high-priced ocean racing boats, have hydraulic steering, which means the boat could be steered with a joy-stick. My boat has a relatively small wheel, but not hydraulic steering - just a somewhat larger quadrant, which makes it almost feel like power steering at times. Sure, I get some weather helm, but it's not severe.

One of the biggest benefits of the smaller wheel is that no one has to climb over anything to get to the helm. Additionally, when the helm station was installed, it was intentionally installed offset to port so the mast was not always directly in your line of sight.

My helm seat is a very comfortable, pedestal mounted, swivel helm seat that would normally be used on a powerboat. It has padded arm rests, padded back rest, and I added another cushion for the seat to make it even more comfortable, and to raise my height a bit so I could see the compass better. I've spent up to 12 hours behind the wheel in this seat and never had any discomfort at all.



In the not too distant future, I can readily envision the helm seat with a joy-stick handle at the end of the arm-rest and no wheel at all. Makes perfectly good sense to me. :)

Cheers,

Gary :cool:
 

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small wheels use the gears to get the leverage but at the coast of more turns of the wheel to go from lock to lock. most large wheel boats with mechanical steering are only 3/4 turn from lock to lock.
a lot of the new boats are fitting with two smaller wheels because the cockpits are so much wider on the new designs.
 

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.....
a lot of the new boats are fitting with two smaller wheels because the cockpits are so much wider on the new designs.
Once again, to get the helmsperson outboard with good sightlines.. which these super wide cockpits couldn't do with a single wheel anymore - the 'wheel well' would be deeper than the hull itself..

but imagine the single-finger touch of a 12 foot wheel! :p ;)
 

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I don't like wheels that are set in slots. Somehow, something small but important (or messy) will always get in there at the least convenient moment and then you've got to figure out how to get it out again.

But it sounds like I'm the only one who got the memo:

Racing boats DO NOT have large wheels any more! Large wheels went out shortly after chaining the slaves to the oars. Racing boats now have two small wheels, one offset to each side, so the helmsman can always sit high, always reach the wheel, and have less clutter aft.

And a proper helm throne? Come on, guys. Doesn't anyone read their Hammacher Schlemmer catalogue any more? They all come with heated massage rollers these days. That cheap stuff with just plain padding....I don't know, I think you folks have been slumming for too long!
 

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Once again, to get the helmsperson outboard with good sightlines.. which these super wide cockpits couldn't do with a single wheel anymore ..............! :p ;)
Yup; but also too, these 'fat assed' broad-beamers NEED two rudders ... so that when on a decent heel, one rudder is always submerged and not cavitating and totally losing its bite ..... causing the crew to do an instant face-plant onto the deck as the boat instantly snap-pirouettes out of control. :eek:
 

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My wheel is only 20", it's a bit too small IMO, I'd prefer 24", those couple of extra inches would make it just a touch more comfortable to steer from the windward coaming without significantly affecting the ease of getting around it.
 
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