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Middle Bay Sailing: Sheet-To-Tiller Steering

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Sitting at the helm for long stretches of time
isn’t my favorite thing to do while sailing longer distances. In fact, when I have a guest on board, I give away the helm as soon as possible. I’d much rather be mobile and adjust sails, take photos, and generally not be tied to the tiller. However, electronic tiller pilots aren’t very effective for steering under sail – weather helm easily overpowers them, or overtakes their ability to make corrections quickly.

They are good for steering under power, though. I don’t want to spend $5-6k on a windvane self-steering unit – especially since most of my sailing is in the Chesapeake – seems like overkill if I’m not going to cross an ocean (no plans for that!). So, sheet-to-tiller seems like the best alternative. I’ve always conceived it of being too complicated, or not effective on every point of sail, but I changed my perspective recently when I read the phrase “. . . every sailboat can be made to steer itself.” Hmmm. . .

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