Testing a Westerly made Emergency Tiller on an Oceanranger by Gerard Versluis

The emergency tiller lives in the cockpit locker and has never come out since we bought Ginger 12 years ago. This autumn, WOA member Robert Jones and I were sailing with Ginger on sheltered water when we got the idea to test it. As we think that Ginger’s emergency tiller system is common for all wheel steered Westerlys we decided to write an article about our experiences so that other WOA-members can benefit from it.

The emergency tiller system consists of four parts, being:

  • A very heavy steel tiller that connects to the rudderpost extension secured with a M10 bolt.
  • A very heavy steel rudderpost extension.
  • A stainless-steel cap in the after deck that is situated directly above the rudder post.
  • A key to open the stainless cap
    Installing the emergency tiller is very easy:
  • Slide the mattress to the side to get access to the hole above the rudder post.
  • Unscrew to remove the stainless-steel cap in the afterdeck with the
  • Drop the rudderpost extension onto the rudderpost.
  • Connect the tiller to the rudderpost extension and secure using the M10-bolt.
  • If necessary, undo the autopilot and steering cables

If your boat has wheel steering, I advise the following:

  • Check that the emergency tiller is aboard (or has it disappeared over time?).
  • Check that you have the key that required to open the stainless-steel cap. On Ginger it was missing, I replaced it with a homemade key
    using a piece of scrap wood and two simple 5mm bolts and nuts.
  • Check the stainless-steel cap opened easily. Perhaps it requires greasing? Does the O-ring need replacement?
  • Have a wing nut welded on the head of the bolt used to secure the tiller to the rudderpost extension. This will avoid the need for a spanner in a, perhaps, stressful situation.
  • Check the emergency tiller is long enough. Consider adding some insulation or grip tape at the spot where you hold it as steel can become very cold and slippery.

And, most importantly, install the system on a calm day while tied to a pontoon, to check it all fits. If all looks well do a test sail to find out how it feels to use an emergency tiller. We were amazed at how light and smoothly the steering system operated both when using engine or under sail. Since we did not disconnect the autopilot or wheel cables this must also mean that the whole autopilot and wheel steering system was checked for low friction. Conversely, should you find that steering with the tiller is heavy then it may be necessary to disconnect the steering cables and/or autopilot. Thus, you can determine if the friction is in the rudder itself, the cable and wheel system or the autopilot. Fix that issue and write about it as an article for this great magazine!