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Old 11-18-2013, 07:02 PM   #1
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Steering wheel solutions?

There are likely others who, like me, have the need to abandon the helm from time to time but can't justify a full blown auto-pilot. I wonder whether there might not be creative solutions others have come up with to secure the helm for a quick trip below.

I did get responses when I posted this on the Albin site but the issue is really one of general trawlery application.
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Old 11-18-2013, 07:15 PM   #2
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Put transmission in neutral and engine at idle, when there are no immediate threats.
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Old 11-18-2013, 07:32 PM   #3
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Put transmission in neutral and engine at idle, when there are not immediate threats.
Yup.
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Old 11-18-2013, 07:32 PM   #4
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That's what I have to do now, but not satisfactory if I want to continue on a longish cruise but get a break from the helm. Even on a motorcycle you can get a throttle lock to relieve the throttle hand. When I sailed back in the day it was very helpful to have the use of the wheel tensioner, so I don't understand why power boaters are content to do without something similar.
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Old 11-18-2013, 07:38 PM   #5
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That's why it's best to have someone else on-board to take control when one is "distracted/occupied."
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Old 11-18-2013, 08:07 PM   #6
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With all due respect, look at the "blunder" thread. You might find a way to secure the wheel but then you might be tempted to go below. Then if you fell, tripped, attend another urgency, you will go motoring off into the sunset and we will be reading about you on another thread... But then again, I am impugning your seamanship and don't mean to be offensive; I love an autopilot... Have you tried a bungy cord?
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Old 11-18-2013, 08:34 PM   #7
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There are likely others who, like me, have the need to abandon the helm from time to time but can't justify a full blown auto-pilot. I wonder whether there might not be creative solutions others have come up with to secure the helm for a quick trip below.

I did get responses when I posted this on the Albin site but the issue is really one of general trawlery application.
Even with autopilot..trips below are still a timing thing...at your speed...what will you run into first if the moment you leave the wheel you head straight for that object???...of if possible...another vessel enters the picture and ignores you totally....how long would you have anyway???

If your vessel wanders off course quickly...then only an autopilot is gonna cut it...unless you just have a loose wheel and some sort of fractioning device or rod with a couple clamps on it would fix it quickly.
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Old 11-18-2013, 10:11 PM   #8
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When I bought my boat an autopilot wasn't on the list of must-haves, but the boat of choice happened to have a 30 year old Autohelm 2000. Now I couldn't live without it.

Idling the boat in neutral in a rough sea, when the boat rolls with the swell on the beam isn't fun, and can be dangerous.

A second hand autopilot such as mine can be picked up on ebay for a couple hundred bucks, and is easy to install. Mine only follows a simple direct heading, and comes with a remote control (on a 20 ft lead) allowing me to laze on the bow making heading adjustments as necessary.

Buy and install a cheap one. You'll never regret it.
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Old 11-18-2013, 11:56 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sunset View Post
That's what I have to do now, but not satisfactory if I want to continue on a longish cruise but get a break from the helm. Even on a motorcycle you can get a throttle lock to relieve the throttle hand. When I sailed back in the day it was very helpful to have the use of the wheel tensioner, so I don't understand why power boaters are content to do without something similar.
The difference is that on a motorcycle you can set the throttle control to maintain speed, but there are two differences between that and a boat. The first is that on a motorcycle you're not going to leave the driver's seat to go take a leak or grab a sandwich. Secondly, the autopilot does not control the speed, it controls the direction the boat is pointed.

Also, with your comment on sailing...there's a big difference between having a wheel tensioner to control the wheel while you're sitting there and setting an autopilot to go below.

As was mentioned already, the ONLY safe way to go below for any reason is to have some take over the helm for you. Or put it in neutral until you get back.
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Old 11-19-2013, 12:11 AM   #10
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Otto (Auto Nav) steers my boat the majority of time.



Allowing the opportunity for checking charts and, not shown, looking out.

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Old 11-19-2013, 12:41 AM   #11
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Tieing or otherwise securing a wheel in a hydraulic steering system is useless. Unless something is seriously wrong in the system there is no push back from the rudder. You can set the wheel and it and the rudder will stay put. The problem is the currents, wind and the waves are always pushing the vessel one way or another. To boot on my boat, it's small enough, that my own movement from one side to the other is enough to affect the course stability.

In a cable steering system tieing may help but even if the wheel is tied I'll bet you can't trust it for long. The wheel won't move but the boat will be pushed.

Some boats will be better than others of course depending upon hull ,keel and rudder design but the above still stands.
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Old 11-19-2013, 12:43 AM   #12
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As was mentioned already, the ONLY safe way to go below for any reason is to have some take over the helm for you. Or put it in neutral until you get back.
I am out single-handed, probably 50% of the time. In deep open water, miles from shore without a boat in sight, going below for a short time the risk when leaving the helm unattended for a short time is very low. Engine checks still need to be done, toilet breaks, making lunch etc, In rough seas, the risk of moving around the boat while idling in neutral, beam on to the swell is probably higher.

There is no 100% rule. Assess the risk, and make an informed decision on how long you can be away from the helm, based on where you are, and the conditions around you.
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Old 11-19-2013, 06:34 AM   #13
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A sailboat ram rod AP is quite cheap , even new.

The hassle is with a Hyd helm it may or may not go crazy after a while.

For 10-15 min , no sweat , but the lack of a true center , and different leakage going L or R eventually drive it nuts.
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Old 11-19-2013, 07:42 AM   #14
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I think the factors and limitations concerning "Helm Stray" have been more or less covered here. I have tried the bungee thing with mixed success. AusCan's comments encourage me to explore the used ebay route. After all, I have all winter to find something!
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Old 11-19-2013, 08:40 AM   #15
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Check the current thread - "part out or scrap" which shows a functioning AP. Better yet, Bob will sell you the whole boat for a really good price!
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Old 11-19-2013, 08:47 AM   #16
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Save up and install the auto pilot. After a week of cruising , you'll wonder why you waited so long.

Every cruising boat I've owned have had a pilot - I rarely steer by hand. Great for doing navigation, making lunch, etc., etc.

Sunshine has a wheel attached to the hydraulic steering. It was used once, in 2008, during initial sea trials prior to the installation of the fly by wire/auto pilot. We manually steer using the follow up steering of the pilot when not in pilot or nav mode.

I'm not suggesting using our type of system. Check out eBay or Craig's list.
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Old 11-19-2013, 09:37 AM   #17
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Yes, I had AP on the sailboat and it was a delight. Thinking back on it motivates me to go in that direction.
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Old 11-19-2013, 09:50 AM   #18
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Save up and install the auto pilot. After a week of cruising , you'll wonder why you waited so long.
True. I just installed one last spring and it completely changed the boating experience.

THAT SAID... It also will make parts of the trip a little more boring. You'll need to find things to occupy your brain without taking all eyes off your watch.
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Old 11-19-2013, 11:49 AM   #19
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Quote:
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There are likely others who, like me, have the need to abandon the helm from time to time but can't justify a full blown auto-pilot.
Not creative but I did install a cleat just beside my wheel. With a bungee cord, it's almost satisfactory. The bungee allows me to turn the wheel should I spot a crab pot but Seaweed does not track well.

To compensate for that I turn on OpenCpn and aim the screen toward the galley so I can make adjustments as necessary. Yes, of course I check for other boats but the screen lets me confirm that I'm within the channel.

My method would work well if the boat tracked. Seaweed must be steered for the most part which does cause me more than a little consternation. When I ran our 40' boat as a kidlet, my daddy upon coming up to the bridge would check the wake. He believed that a crooked trail meant I'd not steered properly -- and worse, had wasted fuel. So looking at the meandering pathway I leave behind is a bit disheartening.

I didn't know though that autopilots could be had for $200. That's news, and something I'll explore further one day. Running a compass course would be just about perfect. Mostly that's what I do by hand anyway so I'll look further at AP's. Thanks, and good luck!
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Old 11-19-2013, 06:55 PM   #20
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Thanks Janice - love Seaweed btw! I might try the cleat idea until locating an appropriate AP. Cheers!
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