Stupid steering wheel!

Well, last weekend I decide to right a wrong on Turtle Chaser by aligning all the steering components. Why you ask? Good question…I mean, does it really matter? Not usually when you have a regular, round wheel. However, recently we purchased a Lewmar folding wheel to replace the stock wheel. The folding wheel allows for easier maneuvering in the cockpit when anchored, moored or docked.

Now our version of the Lewmar wheels have a small key that aligns the wheel with the steering column. On a normal, round wheel, where the key is doesn’t matter because the wheel has no ‘top’. The ‘top’ is simply where the wheel rests when the rudder is straight. Now, let’s say that we have a wheel that really does have a ‘top’. When the wheel is folded, you want the folded portions on the sides so the wheel looks like an hourglass. Not having the rudder, steering column and wheel aligned will leave the rudder turned when the wheel is set properly for folding. Having your rudder turned when at anchor or moored will cause the boat to swing in the current…not good if you want to be still.

The Beneteau steering consists of a steering column with a toothed cog. A chain goes around the cog and attaches to a cable that goes down through a set of pulleys, through a tensioning box and around the quadrant. Simple right? I mean, all I have to do is to release the tension and lift the chain off the cog to move it. Well, no. Our steering system was lacking the all important tensioning box. In order to get everything aligned I had to remove the cable from the chain, – an easy thing to do as the chain has a removable link at each end – rotate the steering column, put the chain back on and reattach the cable. Of course, all of this while keeping the rudder aligned straight. The thing they don’t mention is that the cable is still under tension! I only spent about 2 1/2 hours trying to get the chain and cable end realigned! Sheesh! Take my advise and don’t try this at home! I eventually got everything aligned so the wheel will sit correctly while the rudder remains straight. If only the gang at Beneteau had been thoughtful enough to make sure it was all aligned at the factory.