Monday, September 4, 2017

An Improved Steering System For the Outboard

When I launched Autarkia last October it was under pressure and duress imposed by the city to get her off the property.  Hence some things were rushed and one of them was the steering system for the motor.  I had to be able to power her from the boat launch into the harbour a few hundred yards away.  So I rigged this very simple tiller bar to the motor that worked rather well.  Well enough in fact, that I used it once again to take her out and test out the off center board this summer.  What I noticed though, was I zigged sometimes instead of zagging.  You see, with this setup you moved the tiller bar left to go left and visa versa.  Makes sense when you think about it, but quite counter-intuitive for someone used to tiller steering with an outboard motor or a rudder.  Another drawback was that you couldn't let go without it wanting to change course.

Here is the original setup.   the tiller bar was hinged at the edge of the deck and in the pic the motor is turned all the way for a right turn, with the top of the tiller bar pushed all the way to the right.  The linkage to the motor was with some aluminum bar and a ball end.

So I finally pulled that out a couple of weeks ago and replaced it with this:

The steering shaft is 5/8" keyway bar stock I got at Princess Auto, along with two bearing blocks; one for the top and one to go through the deck.  The upper support was made with some ABS plastic I had, mounted and bedded to the cabin bulkhead with aluminum angle and SS bolts.  I parceled and served the shaft with tarred seine line and will varnish it.  Also I have yet to make a a boot for the bottom end to protect the bearing.

I made the steering crank with some steel bar stock and had it welded to a weld-on hub - also from Princess Auto.  The knob was cut out from a 3/4" piece of HDPE plastic I had.  I simply used a hole saw to get the round shape.  I chucked it into a dril and sanded the edge a bit.  It now spins on a 1/4" SS bolt.

The bottom end of the shaft has two more weld-on hubs spaced a couple of inches apart, over which I was able to very snugly fit a piece of heater hose.  It made a dandy drum.  Poly rope and bearinged  garage door pulleys complete the arrangement.  Since the photo was taken I tweaked the placement of two of the guide pulleys.  That piece of white PVC pipe is a tunnel for the fuel line running from the deck box housing the tank down to the motor.  I store no flammable liquids inside the boat.

Here is the starboard side.  The burlap bags are filled with 2x4 cutoffs for the wood stove.

I fed the rope through pex pipe fittings in the sides of the motor well and bedded them in with polyurethane caulking.  Also, I smeared lithium grease on the rope where it passes through the fairleads.

I haven't taken her out yet, but have run her tied to the dock at all power settings.  The motor turns from lock to lock with a little over two turns of the crank.  It is as smooth as butter.  The motor also stays put when you let go.  I am quite happy with it and when it breaks it will be easy and fast to fix.

The Mate approves!


  1. It's a nifty looking crank but... "two turns of the crank"? When the well is covered, is there some indicator of the motor attitude or do you just have to know?

    1. It goes from side to side pretty quick so I think that I would intuit where the motor is pointing. I'll have it out tooling around some over the next little while so I should get a feel for it. If I think I need to see the motor though I can always put in a window for the motor cover... I have lots of plexi kicking around. Thanks Paintedjaguar!

    2. Seems you're having lots of fun now you're actually on the water. Congrats. Just curious... how is it you have all these nice bits of sheet plastic lying around? And where would one go to buy such in small quantities?

  2. Looks good to me, but I don't know squat about motors (sailing or boatbuilding either). Mine had the tensioning nut busted when I got it and when I tried it out a couple weeks ago, I found it stayed pretty straight by itself. In reverse, not so much.