The advice given on this site is based upon individual or quoted experience, yours may differ.
The Officers, Staff and members of this site only provide information based upon the concept that anyone utilizing this information does so at their own risk and holds harmless all contributors to this site.
I had a pretty good test of the tiller clutch last weekend. During my 11 mile ocean delivery from Mission Bay to the start line of the Around the Coronados race I used the clutch extensively. This was an early morning motor sail in calm winds and fairly large seas on the aft quarter (5 feet). The device worked very well. It is so easy to flick on and off. The boat is hyper sensitive to even a 1/8 inch move of the tiller. The trick is to carefully set the boat on course. Get the tiller very stable in your hand. Then click the lever. In many cases, the boat would hold a good course for 5 to 10 minutes. A simple squeeze of the lever allows a minute tiller adjustment. Once inside San Diego harbor, the device worked even better. I did not use the autopilot at all on the delivery, nor did I ever feel a need to do so.
During the race we were quite busy and very competitive. For the 15 mile run out to the island we did not have the line even hooked up. I like how quick and easy it is to disconnect and put away, and how quick and easy it is to set up when you want it. I was trimming and doing foredeck and my friend was at the helm most of the way over.
After rounding the island, we were in very rough seas and complex, shifting winds coming off the lee of the island. Shortly after we blew out of the lee, we went up with my reaching spinnaker. After the hoist, I took the helm. I quickly ran the control line and hooked up the tiller clutch. This would be about the toughest conditions you could test in. Rough seas on the beam, winds about 10 knots on the beam, spinnaker up, in a competitive race. My crew was hiking out so I was helming and trimming.
Now there is no way the autopilot could have steered in these conditions and kept the spinnaker full. Locking the tiller did not steer the boat to a competitive race level, either. I found I could lock the tiller for a few seconds while trimming without a serious course change. This gave me a way to let go, just for a couple of seconds, and attend to a task like trimming the guy. I definitely liked having the device hooked up when short handed in the cockpit.
After the race, the next day I headed home 11 miles upwind. Once again motor sailing, this time in winds about 15 knots, right on the nose, with seas about 3 feet on the port nose (about 11 o’clock). I had the main reefed. I did not use the autopilot at all on the way home. It was easy to hook up the tiller clutch, and easy to steer with it disengaged. The tiller clutch when disengaged adds a slight friction to the tiller, nothing too noticeable. In these conditions, it was hard for the boat to hold a course for long with the tiller clutch engaged. Every minute or so a wave would knock the bow to leeward and the wind would take the boat down. I adjusted the tiller for a slight curving course to windward, and the boat would hold course for a couple of minutes. What I found was, rather than sitting and steering the whole way home, I would slightly adjust the tiller every few minutes. This allowed me to clean up the boat, eat lunch, shake out the reef, look around and relax all while steering a reasonable course.
I did not use the autopilot the entire weekend except when flaking the main single handed while motoring back to the slip in the crowded harbor. And I mainly did this to make sure the autopilot would not get tangled up on the clutch line.
First of all I do an lot of extensive single hand sailing, on the order of 170 days at sea per year and about 2000 miles sailed per year. I do this nearly every day. I have been doing so for 5 years, so I have most sailing tasks down to a perfected routine. I can even set, gybe and douse my spinnakers single handed. I sail in Southern California ocean waters – so generally mild winds and moderate seas, but since I sail year round I can, and do, see some big wind and big sea days. I race and cruise. I do have a boat nearly perfectly balanced and as completely set up for single handing as any you will see. I have all lines led to the cockpit (19 lines) and have an old, but functional, tiller pilot. The tiller pilot has, at times, failed me and I’ve always wanted a good backup. Once, I was about 100 miles from home, 40 miles offshore and about 20 miles from my destination for the night when I caught a fish. During the fight, I stepped on the autopilot cable, breaking it. I didn’t really have the option of continuing on without the autopilot. So I hove to and did a repair, soldering and fixing wires far from land. Since then I have wanted a viable backup.
Yesterday evening winds were about 10 to 15 and seas about 4 feet at very close interval. I put on my big 155% jib (which is overpowered at 12 knots) and full main. The boat was intentionally set up on the verge of being slightly overpowered in the gusts. I left the tiller pilot in storage and hooked up the Tiller Clutch.
Single Hand Tacking out of the Harbor
The main channel at Mission Bay is narrow. Winds were on the nose, and there is a crane and barge doing work further constricting the channel. So the situation called for many sharp, quick tacks to get out of the bay. With the Tiller Clutch I was able to really improve my tacking. What I did was put the tiller over for a easy tack, then engage the clutch. As the boat came around, I first cut the genoa sheet, then shifted the lazy sheet to the winch. As the boom crossed the boat I reached back and gave the Tiller Clutch a squeeze, centering the tiller, then relocking it. I then sheeted in and winched the new genoa sheet home. After that I returned to hand steering. This worked faster and better than any “auto tack” on the tiller pilot and much cleaner than my usual single handed technique of just putting the tiller down and letting it flop about while I worked the sheets (which always results in overshooting the tack).
Sailing upwind in a bumpy ocean
Once out of the harbor, I tested the Tiller Clutch on all points of sailing. Hard on the wind, it was possible to easily get the boat to self-steer. If a wave or gust pushed the bow up, the jib would slightly luff and it would come down. If the bow fell off, it wasn’t long before a wave or gust would push it up again. The boat yawed through about 20 degrees, but would stay on course.
Close reaching in rough seas the boat would still self steer, but not as well. Yawing was wider. Tiller corrections were needed about every few minutes.
Beam reaching into the swell the boat would not self steer at all. Tiller Clutch was useful for a few seconds at a time.
When it was time to turn for home I used the Tiller Clutch to gybe the boat through a gentle curve, using the same basic method as when tacking. This let me take my hands off the tiller to sheet the main and get the jib over.
On the way back home I was on a broad reach down swell with 4 to 5 footers on the aft quarter and winds still around 10 knots. Boat speed was around 5 knots. The boat would not self steer at all. She would surf at times and big swells would just knock the bow 45 degrees off course. Nothing would bring her back on course but hand steering. I’m sure my autopilot would have been yawing all over the ocean as well. Of course this is a fin keel, spade rudder boat.
Once in the harbor, I set the Tiller Clutch to get the nav lights on and to prepare for dropping sails. In the calmer waters I started the engine, dropped the jib all without touching the tiller (no roller furling on my boat). I made a slight tiller adjustment and got the engine in gear, main down and flaked. I made another slight adjustment and sailed into my marina basin, got fenders deployed and dock lines ready. I then disconnected the Tiller Clutch and put the line away for another day.
I sailed the whole evening without the autopilot and frankly never needed it.
The Tiller Clutch is a new device on the market. It's inventor read my comments in a Sailnet discussion about self-steering devices, and contacted me, offering to send me one for free if I would use it with "no strings attached," and give him my thoughts about it, good or bad. He did not ask that I recommend it to anyone else, and I didn't offer to do so. Since my present boat has a wheel, I couldn't use it, but I suggested that he offer it to Jim, who I knew would give it a thoughtful test.
I have no interest in it in any way, other than the interest every sailor has in sailing stuff generally, but I liked what I could see about it, from the photos and the inventor's description of it. Although it's a simple device, it appears to be a step above the other similar devices I've seen, in terms of ease of use.
If you're thinking about buying a self steering device, you should consider it. The inventor has a website, where you can order one, but I just tried to find it by googling "tiller clutch," and it didn't come up. If I can find the website again, I'll post it for anyone who's interested.
IMO not as good as the tiller tamer. Not only can I engage or disengage it very quickly, I can apply a little or a lot of tension to the pulley for various situations. A very cool thing when you require minute adjustments to set a course. $28.99 at Defender.
So, which is better? I have a forespar tiller extension with twost lock and a pocket on the port side. It keeps me steady long enough for going to the foredeck and back under sail and just keeps steady under power. I don't do heavy weather or offshore sailing. Do I need more?
I think anyone who sails shorthanded needs some way to get away from the tiller for brief periods of time. The reason why I like this device is because it's the only one I have seen that has a "trigger" that allows you to engage or disengage or adjust it with one finger, without taking your hand off the tiller. I haven't used this device, but have used other types of self steerers that were much more complicated and much less functional. I like the concept of this one.
The two approaches have different benefits. I like my Tiller Tamer for the adjustable tension, but I would also like the quick release and repositioning of the clutch. I guess I can't really justify mounting both on my tiller.
a tiller locking mechanism is a great addition to a autopilot:
pros of the locking mechanism
(1) very quick to engage, disengage - AP takes a minute (2) very quick to single handed tack or gybe (3) boat self steers up wind much better than with an AP (4) great backup to an AP (5) uses no power, can't really break (6) race legal
pros of the AP
(1) maintains precise course (2) better in crowded harbor (3) will steer down wind and off the wind
I used a tiller tamer for about five years. The the sun hardened the nylon pully wheel and it eventualy broke. The clutch looks completely enclosed so this is no longer a problem.
Regarding this item in additon to an auto pilot. The answer is redundancy. Two years ago I was out on a three day cruise and my auto pilot failed. I had to jury rig something to hold the tiller to eat, change sails, anchor, etc.
Both will work great stabilize the tiller when at anchor...another necessity on a sail boat.
Nice setup Jim. i would do the same except I store a 12 gal gas tank where your storage box is located. Something to think about though.
The storage box is really cool and it is one of the most complex wood projects I have made for the boat. It is not square. It matches the shape of the cockpit. It does not block the drains. I have storage in the shelf under for lines - I store extra docklines and the spin sheets there. The 4 compartments on the top solve the eternal problem on a C25 as to where to set a drink down. Also hold my sail ties, handheld VHF and binoculars.
Great use of otherwise wasted space.
Would look great varnished but I selected paint. I made it out of pine.
I used a Tiller Tamer installed by a PO, but I replaced it with a system that allows me to hold the tiller steady and tack single-handed without adjusting or releasing anything.
The Rubber Chicken - when you're too scared to hold the tiller any longer. (Or if you have other things to do on the boat)
I bought 16' of 3/8" brown rubber tubing from the hardware store, folded it 4-fold, tied a nylon cord to each end of the 4' elastic, wrapped the rubber tubes once around the tiller, and attached the cords to the cam cleats installed for the Tiller Tamer on the port and starboard coaming. It stretches much more than shock cords.
Centering the tiller requires pulling the 4 rubber tubes around the tiller in one direction or the other. A bit of practise gets it right.
After centering the tiller, I can tack by simply pushing the tiller with my leg to the side, and when I release it, the tiller swings back to center. The rubber tubing sticks to the varnished wood and to itself quite a lot, so its position does not slip.
Pro's of "The Rubber Chicken" - Cost - $0.50/ft x 16' = $8 for the tubing - Simple - Unbreakable
Con's of "The Rubber Chicken" - Tedious to adjust the centering of the tiller, but that's similar to the Tiller Tamer, or I suppose the Tiller Clutch. Neither is an autopilot or a wind vane that can hold a course.
It would be interesting to see how the Tiller Clutch might be improved by using latex tubing instead of dacron line, except for the center portion that is held steady. Then it would be quickly released as well as needing no adjustment to tack and re-center. Guess I could make one. (Nahhhh, I'll just go sailing, instead!)
Notice: The advice given on this site is based upon individual or quoted experience, yours may differ. The Officers, Staff and members of this site only provide information based upon the concept that anyone utilizing this information does so at their own risk and holds harmless all contributors to this site.