Should I replace my tiller?


Sep 12, 2019
Catalina, Hobbie 22, 16 Windycrest
I was hoping to restore my old tiller. Watched numerous videos but after sanding I have cracks and a part that feels like drift wood. I do tend to underestimate wood's strength but I rather not have a tiller snap in half.
They do have a product on the market called penetrating epoxy that could possibly help me pull this off. Curious what the salty sailors know.

May 24, 2004
CC 30 South Florida
Don't take any chances and replace it now. You never know when you are going to get caught in bad weather and the extra pressure on that tiller will be what it may cause to crack it right at the worst moment leaving you without steering. Once we had to baby a creaking tiller home under small craft warnings conditions for a tense 3 hours crossing. Three days later in calm waters the tiller broke. I'm certain the 22' boat would have capsized under the gusting 25 knots wind and 5 to 6 feet waves. That tiller had cracked 2 years earlier and had been repaired.
Jul 7, 2004
Hunter 30T Cheney, KS
Looks a lot like mine when I replaced with a laminated one from IdaSailor.
I don't think the epoxy products restore the structural strength that you need in a rudder

edit: tiller, not rudder :(
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Apr 8, 2011
Hunter 36 Deale, MD
Agree with replacing it immediately. If you want to restore it, put it on a wall after you get it looking pretty again. I had a tiller delaminate while sailing on a Catalina 27, at which point we immediately ended the sail and motored home. Its too important of an item to have any hint of an issue. Also, I recommend a spare tiller - we always had a shortie with us that we used when cruising with the tillerpilot on for long periods, which gave us more cockpit space. It was always a handy backup if needed, but with substantially less leverage than the longer standard tiller.
Jan 1, 2006
Slickcraft 26 Greenport, NY
That looks like White Oak which is prone to cracking like that - I think from drying. You’ll never sand them out. Since the force of steering is favorable with the grain of the wood it might be OK. It can still have structural strength. But you’d probably be happier with a nicely laminated and finished new one.
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I love the beauty of old wood. If it is consistent with the look you want on your boat. Then you are just looking at a way of renewing and strengthening the tiller. I have used West Systems epoxy with their clear hardener. It is designed for table tops. It dries clear. Using it with a couple of sheets of glass to cover the wood and provide strength to the wood, might be an acceptable way to keep the old and revitalize it at the same time. It would take some coats and a bit of sanding. but you have all winter to play in the shop.

After I finished with the glass I would coat the tiller with 5-6 layers of varnish. Epoxy does not have any UV protection so it would be best to get a good urethane spar varnish to help protect your work.

Pictures and let us know how it comes out.
May 4, 2018
Catalina 25 SV Colorado
Go sail without your tiller and see if your comfortable without one, because fixing that ole tiller is what you'll be doing in your future sailing.
Jun 25, 2004
Corsair F24 Mk1 003 San Francisco Bay, CA
Here's a close up. the phrase that comes to mind when i look at this is "rotten to the core."



Sep 12, 2019
Catalina, Hobbie 22, 16 Windycrest
yeah, that's junk. wall hanger, nothing more.
Its a fire poker now. The good peeps here led me to greener, newer, tiller pastures. She's pretty but at 5 months old Im already seeing a haze and I have had a cover on her. Too old of a cover or did I varnish wrong?