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Tiller Extension Advice Wanted


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My 31ft Nantucket has tiller steering. A previous owner must have had an extension as there are holes in the tiller for one, but there was no extension when I bought it. I'm trying to decide what sort of extension/fitting to get. In my racing dinghy days (many years ago), I've use various extensions and my favourite was the bendy plastic universal joint type like the Ronstan below, but I'm not sure how suitable that type will be for a bigger boat. My boat has the rudder post right at the front of the rudder - while it is well balanced in most conditions, the helm is heavy in a following sea so I suspect something a little more heavy-duty would be needed. Can anyone offer suggestions - both what to avoid and what works well?

image.png.625121551802165e5e71ab8b30f2e46a.png

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The type of extension in your picture is typically used with a dinghy or smaller keel boats.  Without knowing much about your specific boat you're probably going to want a more robust tiller extension.  Spinlock has probably the most common and better extensions with two different options for the tiller-extension joint.  

The handle itself is available in either an "EA" version or "EJ" version and for the joint you can go with either the "diablo" which is similar to your picture but much bigger (like a windsurfer universal joint) or a full swivel joint.  Both joints work well, comes down to personal preference.  After using the diablo I switched back to the swivel joint.  Just my personal preference, many people prefer the diablo.  I like the swivel because if I need to take my hands off the extension for a few seconds it stays where I left it.

Spinlock links:

https://www.spinlock.co.uk/en-us/categories/tiller-extensions/product_groups/ea-and-ej-tiller-extension

https://www.spinlock.co.uk/en-us/categories/control/product_groups/e-joint-1

https://www.spinlock.co.uk/en-us/categories/control/product_groups/e-diabolo-1

 

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Hi Alan

 

Can I suggest either of the following?

 

https://www.deckhardware.com.au/universal-joint-with-base-plate-fixing

https://www.deckhardware.com.au/bolt-t-ext-universal-joint

 

Phil

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21 minutes ago, Phil said:

Thanks Phil. I'm toying with the idea of making my own extension and these look like good solid universal joints. The bolt one looks like it needs a bearing washer above the tiller... is that right?

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13 minutes ago, alanfw said:

Thanks Phil. I'm toying with the idea of making my own extension and these look like good solid universal joints. The bolt one looks like it needs a bearing washer above the tiller... is that right?

Would certainly assist.

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my favorite bit of gear on the boat is this Forespar extension. It stays where you put it. anybody who has had the displeasure of dealing with an extension flopping around can appreciate how great it is to have a 'place-able' extension.

I think if you make your own, you could accomplish this. Its really just a couple of nylon washers and some tight bolts that do the trick. There is one other nice feature though - in the coaming you can see a socket for the tiller head - its a tiller lock. super convenient.

image.png.984fb6ca14977ec8a6f7f49792145c10.png

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1 hour ago, floater said:

my favorite bit of gear on the boat is this Forespar extension. It stays where you put it. anybody who has had the displeasure of dealing with an extension flopping around can appreciate how great it is to have a 'place-able' extension.

To each their own...  For small keelboat racing I like the rubber universals that don't bind no matter how or where you twist them.  The only time kraSh's extension isn't in my hands is when I need them for something else, and then the extension's either under my ass or the tiller's between my legs!  So it's never "flopping around".  I use Viadana's #50-04 elastomer universal - it gives 360 degree unlimited motion and it's cheap so I replace every year.

Of course none of this is relative to the OP's question.  For bigger boats with heavier loads I'm a Spinlock convert - their pivot bearing is strong, elegant, and effective.

Cheers!

 

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spinlock-ea-ej-replacement-pivot-housing.jpg

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We’ve had a Forespar tiller extension for 20+ years that extends out/in with a twist 2 lock/unlock.  The ball at the end a is nice size, like the pic of the Forespar above- for 2 fingers and thumb it’s perfect for my hand, , not slippery or sticky, or the foam (which feels nice soft & grippy) and even is a bit warm in cold weather, or cool in hot- don’t know how they did that) for two hands even.  We have the one that attaches / unattaches to the tiller with a plunger, which is nice, so we can put it away easily (like all the time).  It’s never popped out on it’s own, and I put it on and take it off all the time when we’re sailing or motoring, like when you want to steer with your legs, or sit next to the tiller, it’s nice to take it off.  When I take it off, the pin can be set at 90 degrees so it doesn’t roll around in the cockpit.  It’s great to leave it in the cabin between sails so it doesn’t weather. The ball is rubbery enough so if I lay it down on the non skid in really light weather it will stay put if there aren’t any waves, which is weird, but nice.  YMMV

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8 minutes ago, Amati said:

We’ve had a Forespar tiller extension for 20+ years that extends out/in with a twist 2 lock/unlock.  The ball at the end a is nice size, like the pic of the Forespar above- for 2 fingers and thumb it’s perfect for my hand, , not slippery or sticky, or the foam (which feels nice soft & grippy) and even is a bit warm in cold weather, or cool in hot- don’t know how they did that) for two hands even.  We have the one that attaches / unattaches to the tiller with a plunger, which is nice, so we can put it away easily (like all the time).  It’s never popped out on it’s own, and I put it on and take it off all the time when we’re sailing or motoring, like when you want to steer with your legs, or sit next to the tiller, it’s nice to take it off.  When I take it off, the pin can be set at 90 degrees so it doesn’t roll around in the cockpit.  It’s great to leave it in the cabin between sails so it doesn’t weather. The ball is rubbery enough so if I lay it down on the non skid in really light weather it will stay put if there aren’t any waves, which is weird, but nice.  YMMV

agree about the comfort of the extension - also, the extension itself is pretty ingenious as its simple and intuitive to lengthen or lessen its length with just one hand. one thing I discovered about the 'sta-fast' extension is that it doesn't need a clip to snap down onto the tiller for storage. because it just stays where you put it, it will sit there nicely right on top of the tiller (backwards and retracted). its really pretty great - in ways I hadn't guessed before I bought it.

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I use two types of tiller extensions on my Lumbo 32 depending on my sailing mode:

Around buoys/short course - telescopic light wand type in carbon and foam grip. Great for light touch.

Coastal/Offshore - telescopic carbon  with large "D" shape handle for minimizing wrist fatigue on the long legs.

Both pop in and out easily with a push pin. Both weigh nearly nothing.

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19 hours ago, Irrational 14 said:

I use two types of tiller extensions on my Lumbo 32 depending on my sailing mode:

Around buoys/short course - telescopic light wand type in carbon and foam grip. Great for light touch.

Coastal/Offshore - telescopic carbon  with large "D" shape handle for minimizing wrist fatigue on the long legs.

Both pop in and out easily with a push pin. Both weigh nearly nothing.

Is that the Spinlock? Easy removal is a big plus. 

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I get why you would want a removable extension if you've got one with a big handle. But a telescoping extension - without an oversize handle - doesn't need to be removed as it can be kept right on the tiller itself. Obviously a handy place to keep it.

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11 hours ago, floater said:

I get why you would want a removable extension if you've got one with a big handle. But a telescoping extension - without an oversize handle - doesn't need to be removed as it can be kept right on the tiller itself. Obviously a handy place to keep it.

Given that the boat is out in the sun all day every day, I imagine the grip wouldn't last long, but I have no experience to go by. I thought it would be preferable to stow it below with the autohelm.

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47 minutes ago, alanfw said:

Given that the boat is out in the sun all day every day, I imagine the grip wouldn't last long, but I have no experience to go by. I thought it would be preferable to stow it below with the autohelm.

you've definitely got to keep it out of the sun - but it is typical to have a tiller cover for that (as most tillers are varnished) - which fits easily enough over the collapsed extension as well.

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I've been using this U-joint. https://www.amazon.com/Nautos-HPN474-Universal-Flexible-Tiller/dp/B071JZC6RM

So far it has lasted longer than harken or ronstan, plus has the rope core. The ronstan u-joints seem to last about year, maybe two. I do keep a cover on the tiller and extension. 

I have a 33ft boat and prefer feel of the light weight ronstan telescoping extensions, but most of our sailing is light air. In heavy air reaching/ downwind for hours on end, I could see the ergonomic benefit of using a D-handle style. I would consider having both for your boat. You can get a ronstan telescoping for under $100 and non-telescoping ones even cheaper. 

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14 hours ago, floater said:

you've definitely got to keep it out of the sun - but it is typical to have a tiller cover for that (as most tillers are varnished) - which fits easily enough over the collapsed extension as well.

The whole point a rubber universal is to keep the extension upright and weightless. when you tack/jibe/drop it, it stays within reach. You don't want to store it in a bent position. It will fatigue faster and loose its stiffness.

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36 minutes ago, Irrational 14 said:

The whole point a rubber universal is to keep the extension upright and weightless. when you tack/jibe/drop it, it stays within reach. You don't want to store it in a bent position. It will fatigue faster and loose its stiffness.

agree. having a weightless extension so - very - cool. Please see my photo above for Forespar's solution.

and the other point I'd like to make: The fact that this extension is both weightless, and it telescopes, and it can be set in any position - effectively means that the primary motivation for a removable extension is obviated (at least in the case of the average sloop).

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On 12/6/2021 at 1:27 PM, alanfw said:

My 31ft Nantucket has tiller steering. A previous owner must have had an extension as there are holes in the tiller for one, but there was no extension when I bought it. I'm trying to decide what sort of extension/fitting to get. In my racing dinghy days (many years ago), I've use various extensions and my favourite was the bendy plastic universal joint type like the Ronstan below, but I'm not sure how suitable that type will be for a bigger boat. My boat has the rudder post right at the front of the rudder - while it is well balanced in most conditions, the helm is heavy in a following sea so I suspect something a little more heavy-duty would be needed. Can anyone offer suggestions - both what to avoid and what works well?

image.png.625121551802165e5e71ab8b30f2e46a.png

The rubber joints are good for quite a while but I know at least one person that has fallen overboard from a failure, if you replace them annually you will never have an issue. Most people leave them on for years, I think they are ok for about 5 so annually is very conservative.

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On 12/6/2021 at 11:45 AM, psycho tiller said:

The type of extension in your picture is typically used with a dinghy or smaller keel boats.  Without knowing much about your specific boat you're probably going to want a more robust tiller extension

I have a thirty footer.   Ronstan dinghy extension works just fine.  If you're halling that hard on the extension you have other problems.

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