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Why Do Sailboats Have Two Steering Wheels? (Explained!)

Sailboats have evolved over the years in various shapes and sizes, but the most eye-catching point is how the manufacturers have used the technologies to fulfill the customer’s expectations. 

Talking about technological advancement in sailboats, you might have noticed that sailboats come with dual steering wheels attached in both the port and starboard on the deck. Yes, you guessed it right; we are here to talk about the actual use of dual steering wheels in sailboats.

Why do sailboats have two steering wheels?

The double wheel on sailboats offers many advantages over the single steering wheel, including having more control in taking sharp turns quickly and smoothly. You can have the scope to steer from the higher side of the deck for better visibility during the rocking motion of the boat at high waves.

The steering mechanism is one of the essential systems in your sailboat because it lets you have direct commands on your boat’s controlling power. The wheel needs to perform its duty with end-to-end perfection to boost up your driving experience.

The boat manufacturers focus not only on their profiting level from mounting modern parts into the boat but also they put importance on customer’s expectation, comfort, and mainly safety.

Based on that, they have produced sailboats with twin steering wheels mounted on both the port and starboard on the sailboats.

Double steering wheels have many benefits, starting from better control to providing the option of switching the steering wheels to move the ship in any direction.

That is why they are assembled in every sailboat to ensure the sailboats are being manufactured in top-notch condition.

Why are there two steering wheels on a sailboat?

The applications of dual steering wheels bring you many benefits and give you the chance to fight until the end against high waves.

Therefore, the sailors need to understand the actual use of the double steering wheel if they want to utilize the benefits that the duel steering wheel offers. 

The double steering wheel is assembled in such different positions on the deck that you can have the option to switch over to any of the wheels in case you need to have control of the vessel properly.

But there are also some other possible reasons why you need to use the twin steering wheel:

Readjusting your position:

Sometimes it might be more comfortable to steer from the starboard side rather than the port side because it gives you more control to head the sailboat in the right directions.

Taking sharp turns:

In some situations,  some sharp turns need to be taken to avoid any damage to your sailboat. The chance of switching to any of the steering wheels located on the starboard side or port side gives more opportunity to take those sharp turns more quickly and smoothly.

Better visibility:

For navigational purposes, the twin steering wheel gives you the chance to see through any obstacles that come your way. For example, if a giant iceberg blocks your view from the starboard side, you can easily switch over to the port side wheel to have a clear view.

Advantages of dual wheels

Modern sailboats now come up with different jumbo sizes, and it becomes tough for the helmsman to control it properly. That is where the twin steering wheel comes into play, and their controllability is more than perfect than a single steering wheel.

But the benefits you get from a double steering wheel doesn’t end there; there are also many other advantages that you get from dual wheels:

Speed up:

The switching of steering wheels gives you better course correction and lets you speed up at the turns.

See both sides:

For sailboats with sail, it is very tough to see both sides of the jib sail, and therefore the dual wheel lets you know the shape of the sail and gives you scope to adjust the sail for gaining the right amount of wind.

Control rudder:

Some sailboats have two rudders, and while turning, one rudder rises above the water. Therefore, the other steering wheel is needed to control the rudder that is beneath the water.

Weight control:

Sometimes racing sailboats need to control or speed by using the helmsman weight.

This is why in double steering wheel sailboats, the helmsman can go in between the port side and starboard side and utilize his weight to control or to speed up the boat.

Ease of task:

The helmsman can use any of the wheels while doing any task that is close to that wheel.

Move easily:

Guests can quickly move on the deck because they don’t have to be bothered by the helmsman as he is busy with the wheel on either the port side or starboard side of the deck.

Single vs dual-wheel boats – Which one is better

Well, it is very tough to separate the sailboats having single or dual-wheel in terms of benefits. Because both of them are best in their way of giving service, but we still have divided them in some points, which are noted down below:

In terms of visibility:

A single wheel doesn’t give you a lot of benefits because single wheels are mainly positioned on the middle part of the boat. That is why you don’t have the scope to move around the deck to have better visibility.

You can switch either on the port side or on the starboard side for better navigation in a double wheel sailboat.

In terms of controlling:

In the case of controlling a single-wheel steering system, it can give you better controllability of the boat, but in high waves, it will be tough to control the boat by steering and standing only in one position.

On the other hand, a double wheel lets you steer on the higher side of the ship during high waves and gives you complete control of the boat.

In terms of taking sharp turns:

The single steering wheel doesn’t let you see clearly during sharp turns and the ship’s hull.

In terms of speeding:

If your boat is made for speed and for covering long distances, then you can rely on double wheel steering without a doubt.

In terms of short excursions:

If your boat is made for short excursions, you can go for single-wheel steering as long as the helmsman will spend a lot of time in control.

In terms of safety:

As we have discussed earlier, a single wheel can not compete with a double wheel in control of the boat during high waves situations, so it must be clear that a dual wheel steering system offers you more safety over a single wheel.

Finally, after the above discussion, it is crystal clear that a double wheel steering system is much better than a single wheel steering mechanism.

Why do sailboats have big steering wheels?

Sailboats having big steering wheels give you more scope to leverage and better controllability on your boat, ensuring ease at driving it.

The small steering wheel needs to be controlled using muscle power and labor by the helmsman. In the case of a bigger steering wheel, you don’t need to use muscle power and also require less turn-on wheel to turn your boat in those sharp turns.

The big steering wheel also helps the helmsman to move the bigger rudder without exerting any effort. Side by side, the helmsman, can reach the bigger wheels easily during emergency turning.

What do you call the steering wheel on a sailboat?

The steering wheel of a ship is the modern method to change the direction of a boat easily. The steering wheel on a sailboat is also referred to as a helm or togetherly known as a steering mechanism.

The steering wheel is also commonly known as the ship’s wheel or the boat’s wheel. However, the name of the steering wheel is different in other types of vessels.

How can you tell if a ship’s wheel is real?

If you plan to buy a ship’s wheel, you need to take some points into your account. There are more fake wheels being sold in the market that have never been tested or used in a ship instead, and they are made for decoration in walls.

Firstly, if you are going for a wooden wheel, you need to check if there are any tops of spokes. Usually, the midship spoke has a cross-cut into it, while the half-turn spoke has one line cut in any way.

You can tell a ship is real by dark spots of thumbs over the wheel and also you can also look for a brass plate because some wooden wheels have a nameplate made of brass or the owner’s name who sold the ship.

How many wheels does a ship have?

The wheels present in a boat depend on the type of boat because some boats only have rows with no wheels.

The amphibious boats come with up to 8 wheels (also with a steering wheel), while the ship with a small deck has a propeller known as “The Boat’s Wheel.”

Mostly the sailboats have only one steering wheel, which is known as the helm.

Why are boat steering wheels on the starboard side?

In ancient times the boats were controlled by using a steering oar. At that time, most of the sailors were right-handed, which is why the steering oars were placed on the right side of the boat.

The sailor began to call the right side the starboard side by combining the two English words “steor” and “bord”.

The steering wheels are assembled on the starboard side because the driver can have better visibility of the coming traffic and puts weight on the right side, making the driver control the boat more easily.

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