Tiller v Helm

Sep 7, 2019
Catalina 25 Indian Harbour Beach, FL
I have a Catalina 25 that came with a helm. It takes up a lot of room, is not comfortable in heavy winds, and has created some maintenance issues. My gut tells me to take it out, and just use a tiller. Thoughts?


Mar 11, 2015
Catalina 27 Monroe MI
Not sure I’d go as far as removing an existing helm, but my vote is solidly for the tiller. On my 27 I can sail like a dinghy, sitting on the gunwales with a tiller extension and it makes it great fun. Room in the cockpit is however still an issue due to the tiller swing. On my boat I have a second “sawn off” tiller for cruising days with guest on board.
Jul 7, 2004
Hunter 30T Cheney, KS
Wheel and autohelm for me! Should be good for high wind. You can still sit on the windward side and hold course.
Dec 28, 2015
Laser, Hunter H30 Cherubini Tacoma
Agree. I sit in front of the wheel and trim with my traveller.
Nov 26, 2012
Hunter 34 Berkeley
Given my druthers I like the tiller. Almost a necessity if you single hand. I can stand in the cockpit steering with tiller between my legs and tack the boat operating the sheets with my hands without spilling my martini. Hard to do with a wheel.
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Aug 28, 2006
Bavaria 35E seattle
I second the vote for the tiller, but it does get in the way of the crew when swinging it over. There's just not a perfect answer (unless it's a large boat with twin wheels - but somehow I think that maintenance will be a headache.)
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I like the tiller for a 25 ft boat. Not a lot of force needed to steer. Boat is quick and nimble. Makes sense.

Also because the cockpit is more utilitarian the room for crew is dedicated to being infront of the helm. The skipper or helms person is the only one really dealing with the swing of the tiller. When it is post sailing and skipper/crew are sitting around sharing their experiences the tiller can be raised up and out of the way giving more space to lounge in the cockpit.

On my 35 ft 16,000 lb boat I like the wheel. Solo is no problem with an Auto pilot. It is a second set of hands. I know the experience of tiller between the legs, mainsheet in your teeth while you haul on the jib sheets. That is for a younger person then me.


Jun 1, 2004
Catalina 27 Mission Bay, San Diego
Actually, you shouldn't have much trouble selling the wheel apparatus.... Converting from a tiller to a wheel steered vessel is unusually expensive and there are many uniformed sailors who think it makes their boat look more expensive, or is easier to control... both wrong assumptions. Big boats need wheels because the larger mechanical advantage needed takes up too much space with a tiller. Any boat under 30 feet though, a wheel is not really necessary.
Space wise... remember that the tiller lifts up, out of the way for a clear cockpit, and with an extension you can sit out on the rail and see the telltales while steering, and you're adding ballast also.

If you plan to sell the boat in the near future, re installing the wheel system will allow for a higher asking price.... don't ask me why... it's a desirable feature for beginner, inexperienced sailboat shoppers .....
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Dec 5, 2015
Oday 272LE Louisville, KY
It all depends on where you sail. I changed an Oday 25 to a wheel many years ago because I sail on a river that is only 1 mile wide with barge traffic, jet skis, and other traffic. It was easier to single hand because I could simple use the wheel brake and attend to things. I now sail a 27' boat with a wheel and I would not buy a boat that did not have one. If I were on a large open body of water without frequent tacking, then I would probably go for a tiller.


Jul 25, 2013
Between Boats near Vancouver, BC
My preference is a tiller but our next boat will probably have a wheel because my wife, who spends a lot of time at the helm, finds the tiller too tiring.


Jun 29, 2014
S2 7.3 Fond du Lac
On a 25' boat I would want a tiller. However, I would not convert a boat with a wheel to a tiller or vice versa-too much effort and expense for what I feel is minimal return.

Your boat your choice, if you do convert it please do a write up on it here with pictures.
Sep 15, 2013
Catalina 270 Baltimore
I have had both. The tiller provides more room in the cockpit and may be better for single handing with the exception that it requires constant attention. You can at least leave a wheel alone long enough to make an adjustment. With a tiller you would lose control of your boat unless you had an auto pilot or tender. A 25 footer is really small for a helm though.
Aug 1, 2011
Catalina 270 255 Wabamun. Welcome to the marina
Removal of the binnacle takes away the mounts for instrumentation, toy and drink holders, a thing to grab when the boat suddenly moves, and leaves a great gaping hole where it was. Not to mention the redesign of the steering gear, and attachment points for the new appendage.
We actually went the other way, and replaced the factory wheel with a larger folding Lewmar job, that makes sitting outboard and steering way easier and more comfortable. No going back from here!
Oct 26, 2008
Catalina 320 Barnegat, NJ
Your boat is probably better suited for a tiller. That said, converting it is probably not simple and won't be worth it. You probably would be better off selling your boat and finding another that is set up the way you prefer. I often sit in front of the wheel and steer from my seat on one side or the other. With a larger diameter wheel, I could also sit on the coaming and steer from in front of the wheel. You might even find a tiller arm attachment to the wheel that allows you to steer from a position on the side. I don't know what maintenance issues you have had. I have had no issues with mine for 15 years. If you want autopilot, I would guess that a wheel pilot on the wheel would be less intrusive than a tiller pilot, but I wouldn't know for sure. The choice of wheel pilots has diminished. I have a Simrad WP-30 that functions very well. I don't find myself tied down behind the wheel. It is awkward to get around it, though … especially when the bimini is installed.
Sep 7, 2019
Catalina 25 Indian Harbour Beach, FL
Thank you for all the responses! Although I prefer the simplicity of a tiller, I'll probably leave the wheel in place and not worry about covering up the hole after I remove it. Either way, my most important options are in place - 6 cup holders - a necessity in Florida!