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Catalina 250 modification from tiller to wheel steering

Discussion in 'Ask A Catalina Owner' started by jeangeorg, Mar 11, 2018. Add this thread to a FAQ

  1. jeangeorg


    Joined Mar 2, 2018
    14 posts, 3 likes
    Tanzer 22
    CA QC Beaconsfield, QC
    Hello, I am in the market for a less then 15 year old Catalina 250 or Hunter 25.
    I found a reasonably priced Catalina 250 Wing keel with tiller steering.
    Most C250 I have seen have a wheel.
    1) Is it possible to modify the tiller steering to a wheel at a reasonable cost? If yes what are the options ?
    2) Do you think that the tiller might be a better option for this size boat?
    3) On this particular boat, the outboard engine has no controls in the cockpit. (Honda 9.9hp Outboard motor, extra long shaft)
    Can I add wiring to have gear shifting and throttle control in the cockpit, or do I need a different engine for that?
    Thanks for your help.

  2. Pat


    Joined Jun 7, 2004
    1,137 posts, 38 likes
    Oday 272LE
    US Ninnescah Yacht Club, Wichita, Ks.
    I'm certain it is possible, but I would suggest you contact Edson Corporation and discuss with them your desire to change
    to a wheel.....they have a great customer service dept. that should be very familiar with both your boat and your plan to add the wheel. One comment, be rather forceful about speaking with a customer service rep as they are really busy and
    will hesitate to help you...they have local reps which they may try to hook you up with....our rep. is in Missouri (St. Louis) and he is on the road most of the time and not available......but call the factory and they will eventually get you in touch with the right person in their factory...good luck! ..Pat

  3. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,322 posts, 1,208 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    Sure it is possible but why would you? Tiller control on a smaller boat makes lots of sense. You are limited in space. So the cockpit becomes a focal point of space enjoyment. The tiller can be raised out of the way giving you and friends full use of the available space.
    A wheel helm will compromise the space.
    • First there is the binnacle. It must sit somewhere in the middle so that you can stand behind it.
    • Next there is the wheel. It has to be of a size that will allow you to apply the force needed to control the rudder through the wires and pulleys that must run through the boat to the rudder. It sits behind the binnacle. You have to climb around the wheel to get to the steering position.
    • Then there is the necessary binnacle guard so you have something to grab while bouncing about in the sea.
    By the time you get finished your space in the cockpit is half gone.
    Look how tight the space is for this couple.

    Enjoy the tiller. It will be easier to teach folks to sail. When your ready move up to a 30 foot boat where the helm is already installed and the space was designed from the beginning to accommodate a wheeled helm.

    You boat your choice.. My free $0.02.

    Will Gilmore and jwing like this.
  4. Scott T-Bird

    Scott T-Bird

    Joined Oct 26, 2008
    3,187 posts, 345 likes
    Starwind 27
    US Allamuchy Barnegat, NJ
    Tiller steering is better suited to a boat that size than is wheel steering. I would not bother with a conversion for any reason, performance, convenience, or expense. As far as the motor is concerned, I don't know ... but if wheel steering and the convenience of helm controls for your engine is an issue, I would step up in size at least 2' and find a boat that meets your desires ... maybe with an inboard engine, rather than an outboard.

    jwing likes this.
  5. jeangeorg


    Joined Mar 2, 2018
    14 posts, 3 likes
    Tanzer 22
    CA QC Beaconsfield, QC
    I have only sailed for 2 years mostly smaller sailboats with the tiller, plus a 28.5 foot Hunter with a wheel and a 45-foot sun Odyssey with two wheels. I am comfortable with both. With the wheel I find it convenient that I can stay in my position when changing tack and the people sitting left and right of me don't have to move when sailing, the tiller is more responsive. With the tiller I most often need to move from one side of the boat to the other when changing tack. I summary, I have a feeling that more people can sail with me on the boat if I have a wheel instead of a tiller. Am I wrong?
    Actual photo of a Catalina 250 with wheel.

  6. David in Sandusky

    David in Sandusky

    Joined Nov 8, 2007
    1,011 posts, 85 likes
    Hunter 27_75-84
    US Sandusky Harbor Marina, Lake Erie
    First, the tiller is the best way to steer your boat:
    - Feel of the rudder is exquisite.
    - The tiller shows you the exact position of the rudder at all times.
    - The tiller allows use of 100% of the cockpit at anchor/mooring/dock.
    - A properly curved tiller operates above knees, allowing full use of the cockpit underway (see further comments below.)
    - On a boat less than 30 feet, you don’t need the extra leverage a wheel allows.

    In our experience, once you are sailing, passenger/crew will migrate forward to the bow or windward side for the better view, and chance to spread out. Also, you can helm the boat from the leeward side, as I often do when short tacking in Sandusky Bay. Finally, the Admiral and I have mastered the little dance to swap sides when we tack - it’s just part of sailing! She does it because she prefers the leeward side, and passenger/crew don’t have to move.

    We have an inboard, but I have seen a linkage described on the website to allow your tiller to steer your outboard as well as the rudder. Searching forum files will show it to you.

    Will Gilmore likes this.
  7. TEM58


    Joined Apr 4, 2013
    15 posts, 1 likes
    Catalina 250 K
    US Belton Lake, Belton, TX
    I sought a Cat 250 with tiller steering to avoid giving up space to a wheel. The PO had removed the wheel and all of the associated hardware, and included it with the boat when I purchased it. In three years I haven’t once been tempted to reinstall it. In addition to all the reasons stated above, the angle of the split backstay where it passes over the wheel makes it very cumbersome to move forward from behind the wheel.

    As for the outboard I use the controls on the motor without any issues. Although my Tohatsu motor only pivots one direction because it mounts so far forward in the motor well, several makes of outboard will pivot both ways. Makes maneuvering in tight quarters very easy. I don’t know about the Honda you mentioned.

  8. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,322 posts, 1,208 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    @jeangeorg No you are not wrong.
    It is about how you and how you want to use the boat. All opinions are from the person’s experiences and they may or may not fit you and your needs.
    Always it is your boat and your choice.
    I sailed a number of small boats (27 feet to 11 feet). Some were racing some were just play. All had tillers. All had limited space either in a cabin or in the cockpit. The ability to stand the tiller up helped me to have adequate space for me and my crews when not sailing.
    While sailing I enjoyed being on the lee side of the boat. I got a good back rest. I could use teh boat to help me stand up as I tacked (if needed). And I always found that more of the collision danger came from the lee side. It is easy to get crew to hang on the windward rail and keep watch. I wanted to know what was going on behind the Main and jib sails.
    You need to decide for your self if the work and expense of adding this feature will enhance your boating experience. If you were talking about a boat 30ft or more, then sure go for it. Have you sailed the 250 very much? If so then you may be equipped with the experience to make the decision. If you are new to teh 250, then I encourage you to sail it for a season before you decide to spend the money on the helm change. You may find there are other places you want to change that may have more benefit.
    Your boat your choice. You only have to please yourself. Oh and maybe the significant other who rules your home.... ;)

  9. jeangeorg


    Joined Mar 2, 2018
    14 posts, 3 likes
    Tanzer 22
    CA QC Beaconsfield, QC
    No I have never sailed a Catalina 250. And much of the decision to go with this type of boat that offers some confort for the size is to please the significant other and my two daughters :). Its mostly for day or weekend sailing around the lake and have no plans for racing.
    Yes I agree with all that you have said and had decided that if I got that particular boat I would leave it as is for the 1st season.

    jssailem likes this.
  10. Joe


    Joined Jun 1, 2004
    6,281 posts, 258 likes
    Catalina 27
    US Mission Bay, San Diego
    1) Yes it is possible, but cost prohibitive.... They put the wheels on the newer vessels because they are marketing to the new sailors who don't know any better.... which is.....
    2) the tiller is a much better option for that size boat.... anything under 30 feet really doesn't need a wheel for mechanical advantage.. it's all cosmetic at that level.
    3) Yes, you need to check with Honda for a "remote control package".. this would include a throttle/shift box, linkage and conversion hardware, and... hopefully an electric start harness. If your motor is not electric start with a tiller... you might consider selling it and looking at the Tohatsu electric start, remote control 9.9hp.. a really great sailboat motor.... much lighter weight than the Honda.

    VERY BIG ADVANTAGE..... a tiller pilot is way cheaper than a wheel pilot... My Simrad TP 22 networks to the Vulcan Chartplotter which has a built in AP controller. Very, very cool. It does everything. You want an autopilot.... and a tiller pilot will be 1/3 the cost of your basic wheel pilot.

  11. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,322 posts, 1,208 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    :plus: To what Joe says... you could save a few bucks on boat costs (especially if your sailing grounds initially are local and day based). get a “Tiller Tamer or Tiller Clutch” . These are clever ways of tying the Tiller in one place while you use your hands to do what ever. Sail boats sail in a straigh line (well most of them) if you set the tiller in a straight line and balance the sails so that the boat tracks in the direction of the tiller. :biggrin:
    Folks have sailed long distances by tying the tiller in place and balancing the sails. The Tiller Clutch is just an easy way of doing it and allows you to adjust the tiller by flicking the clutch off and then back on.
    My little 15 foot Montgomery could sail for 30 minutes on a straight course with out touching the sails or the tiller clutch when the wind was right and the water smooth. It was like 30 minutes of zen...
    Moving up a little in the boat bucks arena is the tiller auto pilot mentioned by Joe. Very useful for a solo sailor on multi hour cruises. It is a DIY install project. Some folks get so attached to their AP that they give it a “Crew Name” and speak of it as an essential member on the boat. These are usually folks that have spent long days at sea and have gotten a bit loopy in the process.
    But that is ok... I’m still referring to the AP as the Auto Pilot. But I nearly gave her a name on my October 10 hour sail. We will have to see if she earns it.:)

    Will Gilmore likes this.
  12. Scott T-Bird

    Scott T-Bird

    Joined Oct 26, 2008
    3,187 posts, 345 likes
    Starwind 27
    US Allamuchy Barnegat, NJ
    Joe sums it up perfectly, as usual! :)

  13. Doug4bass


    Joined Jun 9, 2004
    536 posts, 42 likes
    Catalina 385
    US Marquette. Mi
    I wish I had a tiller on my 385.

  14. Spooled Again

    Spooled Again

    Joined Dec 27, 2012
    352 posts, 30 likes
    Precision 22 (Sold), O 240 (Sold), Precision 28
    US Somers Point
    I would agree that you should sail her for a year before you make a decision. I have a 28 foot sailboat with wheel steering. Many would say that she is to small for a wheel. This is my first boat with wheel steering. I personally would not go back to the tiller. I also feel that the tiller takes up just as much space. The exception would be when your docked or anchored. You could raise the tiller out of the way during those times.

    The 250 Catalina has a large cockpit for a 25 foot boat. It also has a designated seating area if a wheel was added. If you decide to go with a wheel I think the engine remote is a must. Easier to control the current engine control arrangement with a tiller.

  15. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    8,114 posts, 1,658 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    kitten 1.jpg

    Last edited: Mar 15, 2018
  16. jssailem


    Joined Oct 22, 2014
    4,322 posts, 1,208 likes
    CAL 35 Cruiser
    US Salem, Moored Port Everett WA
    While I agree that tillers are good on sail boats and in some cases much better that wheel helms.

    I must take exception to the kitten killing. Bad @Jackdaw Very Bad.

    Jackdaw likes this.
  17. Jackdaw


    Joined Nov 8, 2010
    8,114 posts, 1,658 likes
    Beneteau First 36.7 & 260
    US Minneapolis MN & Bayfield WI
    Hey. Don’t shoot me. I’m just the messenger. I’m a cat guy.

    Will Gilmore likes this.
  18. Meriachee


    Joined Aug 1, 2011
    2,286 posts, 542 likes
    Catalina 270
    CA Edmonton, Ab Wabamun - on the orange ball
    He's a Cat guy with a Beneteau. Go figure. :)

  19. Skipper


    Joined Oct 9, 2008
    1,473 posts, 189 likes
    Bristol 29.9
    US Dana Point
    Installing a wheel will be a giant PITA, cost a fortune, and on that boat will just be in the way.

    I sailed a 250 WK for 2 years. There was no problem reaching the motor controls. Electric start so push the button and go. Throttle is right there, almost inside the cockpit. Shifter is on the front of the motor. It's a tilt forward/back shifter - - piece of cake. Lock the motor and steer with the rudder. Or unlock it for vector thrust in tight situations, and steer with the motor like a dinghy. Actually I only needed to do that once.

    BTW that's a fantastic motor for that boat. Ensure it's the "Power Thrust" version, which has a larger diameter, 4 blade, lower pitch prop; lower gearing, and exhaust reliefs.
    Loads of thrust. Great hole shots. Good reverse. Will drive it to hull speed.

    Last edited: Mar 22, 2018 at 10:26 PM
  20. Will Gilmore

    Will Gilmore

    Joined Oct 19, 2017
    1,635 posts, 609 likes
    O'Day 19
    US Littleton, NH Littleton, NH

    No JS, I'm with Jackdaw on this. God holds us for ransum with kittens against all kinds of sins. On second thought, that couldn't be true or we would have no kittens left, so maybe just tiller-to-wheel conversions.

    The cheap way to gain cockpit control for the outboard would be to lock the outboard into position and steer with the tiller. Add a tiller extension to the outboard that reaches the cockpit so you can control the throttle while steering from the cockpit. You can probably make an extension out of PVC that slips on and off and stores easily in a cockpit locker. Be sure to get a prop guard so you don't hit the propeller with the rudder.

    -Will (Dragonfly)

    jssailem likes this.

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