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Hunter 260: Tiller Versus Wheel

Tedd

.
Jul 25, 2013
281
Macgregor 26S near Vancouver, BC
I'm shopping for a Hunter 260. My wife has a strong preference for a wheel because she finds the tiller forces on our current boat (Mac 26S) a bit too much. Would tiller forces on a 260 be more, less, or about the same? Is a wheel better in that regard?

I think I want a wheel, too, but I've never sailed with one. I'm interested in your thoughts about pros and cons, especially with respect to the 260.
 

Dave Groshong

SBO Staff
Staff member
Jan 25, 2007
1,685
Catalina 22 Seattle
Jun 25, 2004
1,062
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
I can’t comment on the balance of the helm on a Mac 26s from personal experience, but it has a reputation as a sailboat that Can be tuned and trimmed so that the helm is balanced.

if you have the rig tuned properly, the sails trimmed properly and good sails, it doesn’t take much strength to manage a tiller on most half decently designed 26 footers, including a Hunter 260. It’s not at all clear that a wheel will require a lot less effort if the sail trim and rig tune is Wrong.

I’m a petite woman, and I can handle a tiller on most boats if I trim the sails and tune the rig, assuming the sails aren’t baggy.
 
Jan 8, 2015
352
MacGregor 26S, Goman Express 30 Kerr Reservoir
I'm shopping for a Hunter 260.
I think I want a wheel, too, but I've never sailed with one. I'm interested in your thoughts about pros and cons, especially with respect to the 260.
I too had a 26S that was a bear to handle when the wind came up. I bought a Ida sailor balanced rudder and it made all the difference in the world. It was like adding power steering to the boat!
They build the rudder with a little more surface area forward of the pivot point which helps the rudder turn itself when the tiller is away from center. I'm sure they make a model for the Hunter 260 as well.

Also, when I bought a 30 foot boat, I wanted it to have a wheel so I could sail like the big boys. That was a mistake that I can't change. My opinion is that the wheel takes up too much of the cockpit space. Whether sailing or at anchor, it is always in the way of moving about the cockpit.
 
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Tedd

.
Jul 25, 2013
281
Macgregor 26S near Vancouver, BC
I've heard it said before that a wheel takes up too much space in the cockpit, but I find that difficult to understand. The tiller sweeps a huge arc across the cockpit that has to be kept clear when under sail (or motoring). Surely, that's bigger than the space taken up by the wheel? Or is it more a case that the wheel is in the way when not under sail? It's certainly convenient to be able to tilt the tiller up out of the way when not in use.

One particularly annoying problem with the Mac is that it's really difficult to access anything in the aft lazarette while under sail (or motoring) because the tiller is in the way. We work around that by not keeping anything there that might be needed when the tiller is in use, but that puts a pretty severe limit on how that space can be used. It's particularly annoying in the case of the aft anchor.

We're still learning how to trim the boat to reduce tiller forces, and that process will continue with the new boat. But it's not so much static tiller force that's the issue. My wife is reasonably fit and strong, for a woman in her 70s, but she spends a lot of time at the helm and, after a few hours, even quite light tiller forces become a problem for her.
 
Last edited:
Jun 8, 2004
8,307
-na -NA Anywhere USA
I can respond as that question was proposed to me during design. First the 260 was offered both in tiller and wheel. The tiller goes opposite the way the turns. Many like to turn the wheel because if you turn the wheel to the right , boat goes to the right.
Secondly everyone has to shift positions when the tiller goes across the cockpit while
everyone can remain seated when the wheel is used.
Third you can add a wheel brake.
Fourth, you can add a pedestal guard with a display for electronics and a pedestal table.
Most of the 260’s left from Hunter with wheel steering
 
Last edited:

Tedd

.
Jul 25, 2013
281
Macgregor 26S near Vancouver, BC
Those are all good points, @Crazy Dave Condon , except the "turn right to go right" thing never made sense to me. I guess I automatically see it from the point of view of the rudder. I have tried riding a bicycle with my arms crossed, though--perhaps that's what it's like for people who get confused about a tiller?

I hadn't even considered a wheel brake, but I can see how it would be handy. I tie off my tiller so often that I have the lines permanently attached.
 
Jun 8, 2004
8,307
-na -NA Anywhere USA
It is preference wheel vs. tiller. That is one reason the Hunter 260 sold well. It is a choice to the buyer which direction to go but also folks sitting in the cockpit loved the wheel as they did not have to move on every tack with a wheel vs. a tiller.
 
Apr 11, 2014
88
Hunter 260 Lake Lanier
With the caveat that the only tiller experience I have is on a Hobie, I like the wheel on our 260. I find I'm standing a lot of the time when the winds pickup so the pedestal gives me something else to brace on. Additionally, if I'm in lighter wind and sitting, the helm seat is perfect. Sure, you can sit on one side with a tiller but more bodies on the boat make that harder to do. As far as room at anchor, it's pretty easy to remove it if it's an issue.
 
Jun 8, 2004
8,307
-na -NA Anywhere USA
Actually the year before during the Annapolis sailboat show, Edson was tiring to take apart my Hunter 26 which I installed wheel steering but told them to com back after the show. The hunter reps and Edson listened why I was installing wheel steering
 
Jul 7, 2004
6,994
Hunter 30T Cheney, KS
I can’t comment on the balance of the helm on a Mac 26s from personal experience, but it has a reputation as a sailboat that Can be tuned and trimmed so that the helm is balanced.

if you have the rig tuned properly, the sails trimmed properly and good sails, it doesn’t take much strength to manage a tiller on most half decently designed 26 footers, including a Hunter 260. It’s not at all clear that a wheel will require a lot less effort if the sail trim and rig tune is Wrong.

I’m a petite woman, and I can handle a tiller on most boats if I trim the sails and tune the rig, assuming the sails aren’t baggy.
My thoughts exactly. :thumbup:
My gripe about a tiller on my 26S was how disruptive it could be with a few friends on board when I tacked and changed sides in the cockpit. Like musical chairs sometimes.
 
Aug 26, 2019
22
Hunter 260 Eau Claire
I sailed a Mac26S for 20 years. Loved the boat and loved the tiller and never wanted a wheel. Last summer I bought a 260 with a wheel because the boat was in fantastic shape and an amazing price. Was worried that I would not like the wheel. I was wrong, I love the wheel. I then sailed a friend’s 260 with a tiller. Still love the wheel better. I do not notice diminished cockpit space because of the wheel vs tiller version in a 260. Compared to a Mac the cockpit space is ever better on the 260. I purchased a tiller stick that attaches to the wheel with a quick release (West Marine).This is so I can sit on the stern rail seats and sail the boat. Feels just like a tiller, nowI have the best of both worlds.
 
Aug 26, 2019
22
Hunter 260 Eau Claire
Forgot to mention that my wife loves the wheel far better than the tiller. Very easy for her to be at the helm for long periods of time compared to the Mac. Our Mac was balanced and tuned so the forces on the tiller were not extreme but the difference between the wheel and the tiller was considerable. Remembe, when the Admiral is happy everything is OK on the boat.
 

srimes

.
Jun 9, 2020
190
Macgregor 26D Brookings
I've heard it said before that a wheel takes up too much space in the cockpit, but I find that difficult to understand. The tiller sweeps a huge arc across the cockpit that has to be kept clear when under sail (or motoring). Surely, that's bigger than the space taken up by the wheel? Or is it more a case that the wheel is in the way when not under sail? It's certainly convenient to be able to tilt the tiller up out of the way when not in use.

One particularly annoying problem with the Mac is that it's really difficult to access anything in the aft lazarette while under sail (or motoring) because the tiller is in the way. We work around that by not keeping anything there that might be needed when the tiller is in use, but that puts a pretty severe limit on how that space can be used. It's particularly annoying in the case of the aft anchor.

We're still learning how to trim the boat to reduce tiller forces, and that process will continue with the new boat. But it's not so much static tiller force that's the issue. My wife is reasonably fit and strong, for a woman in her 70s, but she spends a lot of time at the helm and, after a few hours, even quite light tiller forces become a problem for her.
Sounds like you could use an autopilot.
 
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