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Wheel vs tiller for single handed boating


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I have found my dream boat. It is a 40ft Dutch Barge operated with a wheel and no tiller. I’d be wanting to use it to continuously cruise.

 

At the moment I am on a small narrowboat which I find fine to operate single-handedly, but I’m worried about having a wheelhouse, especially in things like locks where you have to jump on and off really quickly. 

 

Also about having no weed hatch. 

 

Is it best to stick to canal-designed narrowboats in the UK or is Dutch Barge doable on your own?

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One presumes it has a decent width side deck and the wheelhouse has doors that you can clip open. Much depends upon your skill and where you put your lines. I can't see  a Dutch barge being blown away from the bank like a small narrowboat would. Apartf rom in high winds and higher river flows I can't say I had to jump on or ff really quickly.

 

The old working boats did not have weed hatches and used a pole or a pole and hook to clear prop fouls.

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19 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

One presumes it has a decent width side deck and the wheelhouse has doors that you can clip open. Much depends upon your skill and where you put your lines. I can't see  a Dutch barge being blown away from the bank like a small narrowboat would. Apartf rom in high winds and higher river flows I can't say I had to jump on or ff really quickly.

 

The old working boats did not have weed hatches and used a pole or a pole and hook to clear prop fouls.

Decent side decks yes, but looks like only exit from wheelhouse is at the stern and not the sides (Still yet to her in person so this is just based on images)

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15 minutes ago, Tony Brooks said:

One presumes it has a decent width side deck and the wheelhouse has doors that you can clip open. Much depends upon your skill and where you put your lines. I can't see  a Dutch barge being blown away from the bank like a small narrowboat would. Apartf rom in high winds and higher river flows I can't say I had to jump on or ff really quickly.

 

The old working boats did not have weed hatches and used a pole or a pole and hook to clear prop fouls.

On the other hand old working boats didn't encounter plastic coal sacks, poly rope, tyres and clothes made of synthetic materials on a daily basis. The odd dead sheep, cow, dog or even person was nothing in comparison 🙄 

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15 minutes ago, Slim said:

On the other hand old working boats didn't encounter plastic coal sacks, poly rope, tyres and clothes made of synthetic materials on a daily basis. 

 

Many of them didn't have a propeller so it wouldn't have mattered!

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21 minutes ago, Slim said:

On the other hand old working boats didn't encounter plastic coal sacks, poly rope, tyres and clothes made of synthetic materials on a daily basis. The odd dead sheep, cow, dog or even person was nothing in comparison 🙄 

I have boated on ex working boats without a weedhatch for 30 years. In that time there have of course been a number of prop fouls, but very few that couldn't be dealt with using a short shaft with a hook on the end.

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27 minutes ago, David Mack said:

I have boated on ex working boats without a weedhatch for 30 years. In that time there have of course been a number of prop fouls, but very few that couldn't be dealt with using a short shaft with a hook on the end.

But you wernt trying to work under the arse end of a wide beam Dutch barge, your prop is only 3' 6" from the bank  

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3 minutes ago, ditchcrawler said:

But you wernt trying to work under the arse end of a wide beam Dutch barge, your prop is only 3' 6" from the bank  

True, although it's always easier working with the pole if the boat is 3-4 feet out from the bank. So a wider barge, with a sloping hull rather than a flat counter might be no more difficult.

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3 hours ago, Tony Brooks said:

The old working boats did not have weed hatches and used a pole or a pole and hook to clear prop fouls.

 

From "A Canal People" Longden/ Rolt

Clearing the blades.jpg

Edited by Ray T
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A tiller is always going to be more direct and potentially easier for slow, close quarters handling than a wheel. I'd suggest taking it for a "test drive" if you're really interested in it and the owner has no objections.

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8 hours ago, WillSallow said:

I have found my dream boat. It is a 40ft Dutch Barge operated with a wheel and no tiller. I’d be wanting to use it to continuously cruise.

 

At the moment I am on a small narrowboat which I find fine to operate single-handedly, but I’m worried about having a wheelhouse, especially in things like locks where you have to jump on and off really quickly. 

 

Also about having no weed hatch. 

 

Is it best to stick to canal-designed narrowboats in the UK or is Dutch Barge doable on your own?

 

Having just hired a 48ft wheel steered  GRP cruiser I was reminded about imprecise a wheel steered boat is.

 

Along with not always knowing which direction the rudder was pointing. (In the absence of a rudder position indicator).

 

The wheel house (canopy) also made it difficult to impossible to get ashore quickly.

 

Such a set up would not be my choice if boating alone.

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Steering from a wheelhouse is fine, especially when it's raining and you see all those standing at their tillers  getting soaked 🤭

  • Greenie 1
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Having both I'd suggest that a tiller is better for slow moving canal craft as you get maximum rudder movement quickly.

For faster River, or Sea going craft a hydraulic rudder & wheel is much superior.

 

Horses for courses.

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20 hours ago, Loddon said:

Steering from a wheelhouse is fine, especially when it's raining and you see all those standing at their tillers  getting soaked 🤭

 

Except you can't work a lock from inside your wheelhouse so someone's got to go outside and get soaked. As I'm single handed that would be me so no point in the wheelhouse. I'm more of a fair weather boater anyway, I see the "keeners" out there in all weathers and that's fine if that's what they want to do. Personally I'd rather be warm and dry. If I must move in the rain I just don the motorbike waterproofs.

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Wheel steering just takes a bit of getting used to. After 5 years I've got quite nifty with the wheel on my own (,lightweight, small) boat and found it was quite transferable when I had a go on on a notoriously deep drafted, heavy slow narrowboat. Never found a situation where there was something I couldn't do because of a wheel.

 

Oh and with weed hatches, I don't have one either, waders are occasionally useful on the BCN (not as foul as it may seem)

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  • 2 weeks later...

I've seen quite a few Dutch barges where the wheelhouse is collapsible (with varying degrees of effort depending on design). I know some that habitually collapse it for each cruise - perhaps this one can too?

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  • 2 weeks later...

Late to this but FWIW it depends a lot on the wheel mechanism. I've got a NB with tiller, so about 1 second from full starboard to full port, and a share in a smallish barge with very heavy wheel steering - seven turns from one lock to opposite, perhaps 10 seconds minimum. It's difficult, and (despite what Tony says above) the barge gets taken much more readily by wind than the NB - the wheelhouse acts like a sail. If the wheel is hydraulically assisted I'd not worry so much. I would not be at all happy single-handing our barge (not helped by lack of a bow-thruster).

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You don't say what style of Dutch barge it is, only that it is 40'. Motorised ex-sailing craft like aaks or tjalks are generally more problematic than something designed as a motor vessel, but my biggest reservation is having a wheelhouse with the only access at the stern rather than each side. It does mean access to gear and throttle controls is difficult when you are working the lines, which might make single handed boating slightly more awkward than it could be.

 

Tam

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On 19/05/2022 at 12:09, Tony Brooks said:

The old working boats did not have weed hatches and used a pole or a pole and hook to clear prop fouls.

 

Very true, but having helped operate an ex-working boat in the 1960's, I can well remember the many occassions when one of the crew had to get into the water to remove larger obstructions. Fortunately that job never fell to me as my job was to replace the prop shaft shear pin, which inevitablly did it's job when a significant obstruction occurred. The difficulties we had re-starting the hot engine meant that I had to climb down into the engine hole and replace the pin with the engine still running!!

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  • 3 weeks later...

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