Safety Tiller Project

On traditional boats, the back deck is often quite a small space to stand and steer . The same applies to a “semi-trad” stern, of which Old Nick is an example.

We chose a semi-trad stern for Old Nick because we like the more sociable space it affords, when family and friends join us on board. We can also eat out there in summer, which is something we are really looking forward to.

The semi-trad stern is also handy for keeping the boys inboard – useful for rivers and locks, where you would really rather they did not fall in. The picture below shows them right where they shouldn’t be. Too near the prop!

Our semi-trad stern

There is a very useful description of the three types of narrowboat stern here.

With both trad and semi-trad, the arc of the tiller, which is to say the path of the tiller from full port to full starboard, encompasses pretty much the full standing space on the stern deck – see the graphic below.

It’s rare that you need to use the full arc but in an emergency you very well might. It is very rare, but it has been known that a crew member (someone not actually steering the boat) has been knocked off the stern deck by the tiller. It can also make manoeuvring a little tricky some times – especially for the larger -framed person (like me).

A while back we hired a boat with a semi-trad stern which had a “safety tiller”. It was hinged half way along its length, so that you could fold it up, thus increasing space to move around at the stern.

We had completely forgotten it’s very existence until our next door neighbour, Roy Smith, who has another Ortomarine boat (there are quite a few of us at Droitwich Spa Marina) called “Here We Go Again, showed us his. it’s a great piece of kit and we decided that we definitely wanted one for Old Nick.

There are a couple of ways to do it. You can either buy a complete new tiller with the hinge already fitted or fit a hinge to your existing tiller, although neither are actually that easy to come by.

You can buy a full brass hinged “safety tiller” from P.R.O Cast in Retford, Notts, for between £140 to £160, depending upon the length required. Click here to go to their website. They also do a chrome one, which is about £20 dearer and which can be seen here.

We decide to re-use the tiller we already had by cutting it and inserting a hinge, which we sourced from Midland Chandlers for the princely sum of £72.40. At the time of writing they are out of stock on line, but the Preston Brook and Braunston stores both have one.

Paul made the cut with help from Ortomarine, and inserted the hinge and bingo! We have a safety tiller! We are very pleased with the outcome and use it a lot already. Something to consider?

Our safety tiller

6 Replies to “Safety Tiller Project”

    1. Definitely in daily use. I use it when getting crew off the stern, getting the dogs off in a bridge hole, when moored temporarily to increase space, to change the side from which I’m steering. It’s like anything – if you haven’t got something you don’t miss it, if you have, you use it.

  1. I got it – thanks! Not so much use it when steering but more for getting around on the stern.

  2. Or you could just do the semi-trad equivalent of ‘standing in the hatches’. In other words, stand inside the back doors so the tiller swings behind you.

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