The sailboat tiller is steering wheel of the boat. However there is alot more than meets the eye with this piece of equipment. The tiller is attached to the rudder and they both swing together.
However most of the time in most modern dinghies there is something called a tiller extension involved, which allows the tiller to be lengthened in order to hold the tiller when hiking, trapezing or just sitting forward in order to get the stern of the boat out of the water.
The sailboat tiller is not actually required to sail the boat. It is very possible to sail the boat without a tiller, because of the boat's hydrodynamic tendencies, however that is for another article.
In order to utilise the tiller you must place it in one of three places. Either away from you, towards you or centred. When the tiller is pushed away from you the boat will always head to windward. When the tiller is pulled towards you, the boat will always bear away from the wind. When the tiller is centred it will stay in a straight direction, unless the boat moves from a hydrodynamic force such as waves or heel.
The tiller extension also makes the tiller more manouevreable as if you just used the tiller, you would have to push it out the boat and move yourself. However with a tiller extension you don't have to move and just push the tiller extension and then the tiller will move.
The tiller is usually made out of a piece of plastic or wood (depending on the boat design) and is attached to a rudder by sliding it into a hole on the rudder. The tiller extension is usually removable and placed at the very end of the tiller.
This piece of equipment makes turning the boat onto a different course very easy, but you shouldn't overuse the tiller by pushing all the way over the edge, because the boat will stop. Only push it to the edge of the boat at most. It is highly recommended that you use as little tiller as possible during all steering manoeuvres and instead use your weight to change the hydrodynamic forces on the boat.
Return from Sailboat Tiller to Parts of a Sailing Ship
Return from Sailboat Tiller to Started Sailing