Converting helm back into a tiller

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
For quick and easy with a tiller, I use a Tillerclutch. https://wavefrontmarine.com/. As long as things are pretty well balanced, it will hold the helm long enough to let you move around a bit. A few years later I added in a Raymarine Evo AP that is fully integrated with my other instruments. It took a bit of tweaking to get it set up the way I like it but it's been fine since. "Pro" tip: If you get one of these, make notes on your settings so you can reproduce them after applying updates. The updates will wipe out any user defined settings.
I did a mini review of the TillerClutch here :

 

Slick470

Member III
I did a mini review of the TillerClutch here :

Cool. I'll have to read through your review. It was one of the first things we bought for our boat after we purchased it. We went to the Annapolis sailboat show and ran across their booth back in 2010. The product seemed so much better than the similar devices we've seen for tillers and the designer was very enthusiastic about it at the show. It's been some of the best boat related money we've spent.
 

Stuphoto

Member III
I have a list of what I want on my next boat, and #1 is something in the 30 - 35 foot range.
#2 is Tiller steering.
Which pretty much rules out any Ericson I have look at.

If it isn't too hard to convert them over I may still consider an Ericson.
Although one thing I still hate is that wall or is it a Bulkhead across some boats in that size range.
I like a wide open cockpit.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
I don't know why you'd want a 35-foot boat with a tiller. Don't be distracted by racers, or round-the-worlders, or the lunatics who race singlehanded to Hawaii. They are Special Needs sailors.

Modern wheel steering is a marvel for many cruising reasons. It allows an autopilot, it provides good feel (because it's big enough), and when the cockpit is designed around it, space is maximized.

I believe there is a lingering undue respect for tillers, derived from Westsails and other ancient tubs, a goofy nostalgia not related to experience. I spent many years hanging onto a tiller, then passing it to somebody else, or tying it off when to weather, or rigging the Tillermaster to block the cockpit. It was work. And the bigger the boat, the more the work.

Yes, a tiller affords ultimate control--if you're racing a Farr 40. Just don't ever let go of it! Cruising, however, profits from a wheel. We are just not working every wind shift and wave advantage, which is what tillers are good at.

These are opinions, you say?

Well...maybe. But I've never missed a tiller for an instant on a heavy cruising boat.

farr 40.jpg
 

Stuphoto

Member III
I do respect you in every way Christian and value your knowledge.
At this time I still prefer the KISS rule.
I should mention, my 25' is my first sailboat and I still have lots to learn.
Plus my list will probably change some before my purchase.

When it's time for my third boat I will likely have a whole new list and a wheel may be on it.
 

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
I have a tiller in my E33 ( it was racing boat ), prior to that I sailed all wheel helms ( as member of various sailing clubs ) . For me ( as a single hand / short hand sailer ), the advantages are :
1) it’s fun to steer and I think I can maneuver the boat quicker / tighter in the marina .
2) the tiller tilts up out of the way and leaves the entire cockpit open.
3) mechanically simpler
4 ) can be closer to sheet winches and main sheet while steering ( with arms and legs :)

Disadvantages
1) many guests on the boat will not be comfortable steering your boat . You’ve assumed everyone has steered an outboard motor on a small boat , but this is not true.
2) less autopilot options
3 ) it is physically harder to steer with weather helm .
4 ) minor but my tiller is wood , so needs varnishing.
5 ) a tiller clutch or locking mechanism requires rigging another line across cockpit

if I were buying another 35’ boat today , I’d probably go for a wheel because I think disadvantage 1) and 2) are heavily weighted for me . After 2 years , my wife is still uncomfortable steering, for example. .
 

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Partner
Much, it seems to me, depends upon the sailing characteristics of the boat in question.

I used to own a Catalina 30. It was a great boat in a lot of ways, but frankly I did not care for the way it sailed overall. It had a heavy helm. Though I never sailed one with a tiller (as the earliest iterations had), I'd have to think it would have been a real chore, even though the boat is only 30 feet. The mechanical advantage provided by the wheel was really necessary for that boat. Mine was a Mk-II, with a T-shaped cockpit, so I was able to add a 36" wheel, which helped. I never did like the wheel per se, but it was unquestionably the way to go for that boat and I learned to live with it for the time I had that boat.

On the other hand, certain well-balanced boats, such as a Cal 40 or Loren's O-34, often will sport tillers, and probably for good reason. I also notice that there are some Beneteau models in the 30 to 32 ft. range that came standard with them, even though they are not flat-out racers. But just eyeballing those boats without having actually sailed them, they appear as though they might be fun to sail with one.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Which pretty much rules out any Ericson I have look at.
For the sake of accuracy, the "stock" factory steering on the E-33RH was a tiller, and we used to have one (said to be hull #1) in our club. Also stock on the Olson 911 and Olson 34. Different in the 70's when many Ericson's had stock tillers.

That said, when shopping, we found that most of the Olson's were delivered/built with the wheel option and that was the case for ours too.
The wheel adds cost and maintenance complexity, but does have some advantages also, as others here have found. We initially planned to convert to a tiller, but the cost of extending the rudder shaft and adding a different bearing/fitting at the top just did not fit our budget. The engine controls would have to be replaced, and also the compass.

We accept the benefits and the limitations of the wheel; in the end everything's a compromise anyhow.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
I'm only ranting about larger boats. A 25-- gotta have a tiller. An Olson 34--why not? A Cal 40? Oh spare me the pain.
 

Alan Gomes

Sustaining Partner
On the other hand, certain well-balanced boats, such as a Cal 40 or Loren's O-34, often will sport tillers, and probably for good reason.
"You might expect wheel steering on a boat this size, but the stock Cal 40 came with a big tiller. The boat is well enough balanced to be controlled with a tiller, and many helmsmen prefer it to a wheel, which masks feedback from the rudder and makes sensitive steering more difficult." (https://cal40.com/articles.php)
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Here is the tiller build in a great series on total restoration of a Cal 40. The full series is here. I think anybody with a project boat would profit from watching the whole thing.

 
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Randy Rutledge

Sustaining Member
I just brought PIERUT home today for some love and care.
My wife struggles with the tiller she said she wished we had a wheel (also the tiller takes up most of the cockpit) so out with the tiller and in with a wheel. I was able to pick up all the parts except steering cables, throttle and shifter cables for $250. Now to build the bridge to mount the pedestal on, the E29 has the quadrant above the cockpit sole.

Planning deck freeboard and of course bottom paint along with other cosmetics.
 

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