Rudders and Wheels

Nowadays, steering a boat doesn't require much thought; the boat goes where you turn the wheel. Those of us who use an outboard motor know that steering with a tiller is not like steering a car. You want the rudder to point the way you want to go, which means pointing the tiller in the opposite direction. After the invention of the ship's wheel about 1703, the transition from rudder orders to wheel orders was not without difficulty, and sometimes resulted in tragedy.

Confusion about steering might have played a part in history's most famous passenger ship disaster. The rudder that directed Titanic weighed 100 tons and needed two engines of its own to move it.


The rudder of RMS TItanic The rudder of RMS TItanic


Once the officer of the watch spotted the iceberg, he gave the command "Hard-a-starboard," meaning that the wheel be turned to port, which would turn the tiller to starboard, sending the rudder to port and steering Titanic to the port side of the iceberg. Rumor has it that the quartermaster, trained under rudder orders, turned the wheel to starboard instead. By the time the mistake was noticed, a mere two minutes later, it was too late for Titanic to avoid the iceberg.



Happily, the stakes are much lower for most of us. Today's boater can choose from many different styles of steering wheels, and we're happy to bring them all to you at prices you'll love.

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