Wheel to Tiller conversion concerns

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  • 16 Apr 2018 20:00
    Reply # 6101563 on 4286270

    I'm dusting this off because I'm dropping the rudder this weekend.

    The rudder and rudder shaft are in good condition - no play, corrosion, weeping from the rudder, creaking under force, et cetera.  But of course, the rudder shaft is now about 18 inches too short.  

    To accept an emergency tiller, the top 3 inches of the shaft is machined into a square cross section with the diagonals equal to the shaft's diameter.  It's possible that it's even made of monel like most of the critical components on the boat. 

    I've got several ideas on how to extend this thing - but all of them feel uniformed and too clever by half.

    What's a recommended rudder shaft stretching method?

  • 04 Jun 2017 20:50
    Reply # 4879665 on 4286270

    Thank you Arne, for the information about the Maxi - very useful.  And I agree about starting too many projects.  My mistake was to toss the old gear - it would have been better to grease it and keep it for a season to try.  Now the thought of spending about 5000NOK (500 GBP, 600USD) on something that I may replace upsets me.  But I do agree - it would be the most sensible move to get afloat before the end of the summer.  I am still aiming for sometime in August, although I could see that extending to September!

    David - The table support that Arne mentioned is a glass fibre moulding in the centre of the cockpit.  I have a length of 25mm prop shaft, that would make an ideal axle.  By putting the quadrant on the axle through a slot in the floor inside the moulding, I reckoned it could be made fairly waterproof.  If I make the quadrants from ply, I have pretty much everything else lying around at home, apart from the line, some new blocks and something to fix a tiller to the axle.  I have not costed it yet, and time is an issue, bearing in mind my determination to be afloat.  But I do like the idea; like many posters here, I prefer a tiller, and the use of an extension would give scope for the helmsman to use more of that vast cockpit, including the shelter of the forward part.  Something to think more about over the next few days as I see how other things are progressing.

    Thank you both!


  • 04 Jun 2017 10:17
    Reply # 4879138 on 4286270
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    I have sailed the Maxi 95, partly as a racing crew and partly as a skipper, from Iceland to Norway. The helm steering worked well and the rudder was efficient, so I see nothing wrong with replacing it with a new wheel system with the same gearing. The Maxi also obeyed the rudder very well for tight harbour manoeuvres, both forward and astern. I felt like an expert in her from day one. One thing we seriously liked, was the folding table in front of the wheel. Not only was it fine for dining in the cockpit, but it also let one brace oneself against it in a seaway. Without it, the cockpit will be so wide that one might be tossed around.

    If you plan to get in some sailing time, this summer, I must warn against starting too many projects at a time. Norwegian summers are not that long, you know...

    Good luck!


  • 04 Jun 2017 09:44
    Reply # 4879134 on 4286270

    Interesting, and worthy of consideration. I helped Mike Richey to get the Jester replica ready for its first OSTAR, helping to sort the problem with an extremely bad run of cables forward to the whipstaff that made it almost unsteerable. If you have a clean run, it might be feasible. 

    Thinking aloud:

    The tiller can act as a tiller, or as a "wheel with one spoke", depending on the arrangement of the quadrants. Personal preference comes in here. 

    The quadrants and lines are inside the boat, but the tiller must emerge in the cockpit (unlike Jester, where it was all inside). If the tiller quadrant is below the pivot, and the rudder quadrant is forward of the rudder shaft, the tiller would act like a tiller, not a one-spoke wheel, and the pivot point could be at cockpit sole level, which would give the least problems with waterproofing (rubber bellows?).

    The tiller need not be vertical (whipstaff), but might be horizontal or inclined? The mechanism would be the same.

  • 04 Jun 2017 07:53
    Reply # 4879061 on 4286270

    I am going to jump on this topic with a related question.  The old Teleflex steering on my Maxi conversion was well past its best, so has been thrown out and I am pondering a replacement.  A direct tiller replacement is not really possible with the centre cockpit and rudder angle, unless I try and replace the whole rudder.

    The easiest solution would be to replace like with like, but it is a known weak spot on the Maxis, and has over three turns lock to lock, which I would imagine (I did not sail the boat with the bermudan rig) means that there is constant movement of the wheel with the wind abaft the beam.  Replacing it with kit from Edson or Lewmar is also possible, but will be pretty pricey, although the existing table support/wheel mounting will save the price of the pedestal itself.  

    I had wondered about using a vertical tiller or whip staff system, linked to the rudder with modern no stretch lines, using a quadrant at each end.  By a bizarrely fortunate set of circumstances, the lines could run cleanly, requiring just two blocks each side. My thinking is that this will give the advantages of the tiller (for steering, rather than simplicity) without requiring compromises.  Any thoughts, or suggestions for the practicalities?

  • 07 May 2017 13:31
    Reply # 4818898 on 4286270

    Hi Peter. 

    Thank you for the information. The setup you describe sounds extremely strong: I'm guessing that you have a spade rudder rather than a skeg hung like mine, which should require a less bomb-proof construction. 

    The existing rudder post simply ends 1 foot above the hull, with no support. All the forces are taken by the foot and hull bearings, so there is little structural demand, except for what I will put in it with that new tiller.  Those added forces should be taken up by the bushing/bearing at the cockpit sole point, I think. 

    Last modified: 09 May 2017 03:57 | Anonymous member
  • 06 May 2017 07:38
    Reply # 4817627 on 4793589
    Scott Dufour wrote:

    Next question:

    Is there any reason I shouldn't make the rudder tube out of white 2" PVC pipe?   I was thinking of going with preformed fiberglass tube, but that's quite a bit more pricey.

    Actually - it's tough to find good info about using this kind of pipe on marine applications.  What's the general consensus about incorporating it into various applications, fiberglassed  and epoxied in to various places?  I've used in successfully in smaller boats, but they are all trailer sailors and don't spend all that much time on the water. 

    No, do not make rudder tube out of cheap stuff. there are a lot of very strong forces working on a rudder on our boats we buy in grp handrail which is about 2-inch pipe very strong, we then rub down the outside of the tube to give it a good key we then make a four sided box leaving one side off. so we have a U shape we fill this with epoxy (thickened with silica and T Cell. lay the pipe in leave some overhang for shaping put the top of U shape on this now is a very strong assembly and being square will epoxy into the boat and can be easily braced with a bulkhead etc going right up to deck height

    for bearings, you can form some epoxy in a jug, let it set and then with a large pipe hole cutter cut out a circle to fit the tube and then with a smaller cutter a hole to fit your shaft epoxy into tube jobs done

    I have tiller steering for the boat in the workshop at the moment I like the feel of a tiller corrections are instant and you can go hard over so much quicker. lashing the helm is easy and any self-steering is cheaper  and easier to fit

    Last modified: 06 May 2017 07:45 | Anonymous member
  • 02 May 2017 15:10
    Reply # 4801734 on 4286270

    David Webb,

    Thank you for the advice.  I think you probably used Schedule 80 PVC - usually grey.  Schedule 40 is the typically white pipe, used for general mid-pressure applications.  Schedule 20 is for dust collection.

    It's one of the rare instances in US units where the larger numbers actually mean larger.

    I didn't know about the slight swelling PVC undergoes- that's good info.


  • 02 May 2017 09:53
    Reply # 4795278 on 4286270

    Hi Scott,

    I have used high pressure PVC pipe(schedule 20 if I remember correctly) for several applications on various boats. I find that in an extreme structural situation such as a rudder tube then scuff up the outside of the tube and fiberglass reinforce it  as you suggest. Be aware that PVC is slightly hydrophilic and will expand over time when immersed in water. I would recommend using a separate bearing top and bottom of non hydrophilic material to prevent this causing a problem with binding on the rudder shaft.


  • 01 May 2017 17:00
    Reply # 4793823 on 4286270

    As always, great information.  Thank you.

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