Top Dead CentreBy: Doug Dawson

Positioning the Wheel

‘Top dead centre’ is the position of the wheel that allows you to steer your boat straight with no back and forth movement of the wheel. When the boat is moving straight, your drive(s) or rudder(s) is(are) straight.

Positioning your wheel to steer straightcompensates for and overrides all the torque, prop walk, skeg, rudder size, and other ‘tech stuff.’ You don’t have to worry about any of that. It is all compensated for by locating ‘top dead centre’on your wheel on all drive systems.

Do you understand, and could you explain technically, how your car’s ABS brakes work? Not likely. You just know that your car will stop straight when you stomp on the brake pedal!
The tiller on a sailboat is connected directly to the rudder, as is the handle on a tiller-operated outboard fishing boat. A quick glance will tell you whether it is straight or not. However, when sitting at the wheel on inboards and sterndrivesyou don’t know whether they are straight or not.


Why is it important?

When docking your boat, it is very important to know where ‘top dead centre’ is so that you know exactly where your boat is going to go within the confines of the fairway and slip. When you shift gears within your slip, you want your boat to head in the direction you expect—no surprises, no disappointments.

Here is a simple tip that will help you bring the wheel back to ‘top dead centre’ when docking, so that when you are in neutral and coasting, or when you return to forward, you are going straight ahead, or when you return to reverse, you are going straight back. This is a necessity when docking.


How can you find it?

Here is the easiest and simplest way to find ‘top dead centre’ on your wheel:
• On a perfectly calm day in open water, set both motors at exactly the same rpm, say 800 (If the wind never stops blowing, just aim directly downwind at a landmark)
• Idle toward a landmark on the shoreline
• Adjust the wheel slightly until the boat is tracking perfectly straight
• Mark ‘top dead centre’ of the wheel with a piece of black electrical tape
• Once you have ‘top dead centre’ marked on your wheel, use it to recover your straight ahead direction after executing a tight turn in tight quarters in the harbour or at your slip, rather than counting two and a half turns (or whatever) back from hard over


WheelHow I do it

When I dock a boat, I place my left hand on the wheel at ‘top dead centre’ and never remove it(mentally, duct tape your left hand to the electrical tape spot on the wheel). I run the shift(s) with my right hand and ‘palm’ the wheel with my left hand (not hand over hand). Then my hand is always in the same spot. As I put it, my left hand “remembers” where it has to come back to, to steer straight. It may be one or two full turns, or part of a turn, depending on how many rotations I had previously turned.

When it is windy, I turn the wheel toward the wind one-eighth or one-quarter turn, depending on how windy it is, to counteract the force of the wind to keep going straight (lean into the wind).

On boats with dual helms (flybridge and cabin) with wheels that don't turn at the same time, I leave the wheel centred each time I leave. Then, when I return to that helm, I know I am starting from ‘top dead centre.’ When our grandkids or guests are aboard, I have to check each time because they love to turn the wheel.


Modern WheelNew Idea?

You may think this is a new idea, but far from it. Way before my great, great grandfather was building boats on the Thames in London, England, Captains devised a method of marking ‘top dead centre’ on the wheels of sailing ships, ocean going freighters, and cruise ships.Back then, the wheels were wooden with spokes. One method was to splice a cord donut and pull it tightly over the spoke of the ship’s wheel that was ‘top dead centre.’

In the picture, a cord is wrapped and tied around the top interior spoke. On some ships, that spoke was made of a different coloured wood than all the other spokes. Other ship’s wheels had extra grooves on the top spoke when turned in the lathe. As a result, the helmsman could feel the ‘top dead centre’ spoke. Whoever the helmsman was, he knew which spoke had to be up to be sure the rudder was dead straight and he was steering straight.

You may be more familiar with the dimples on a calculator or a keyboard or phone that let you know your fingers are in the right place.

Today, the wheels on recreational boats are round with no markings. The support bars don’t necessarily mean anything, as far as steering straight is concerned. I have suggested black electrical tape, because to other people it is invisible and disappears. Nobody sees it but you (unless you point it out), not even “the old salty know-it-all from down the dock.”

You may have an idea for something more elaborate to help you instantly identify ‘top dead centre.’ Go for it!

Try it and let me know how much easier docking is for you.

 

Destinations

  • Prev
In the 1920s, a small cove in Canoe Bay was used as a shipping point and safe-haven for rum runners ...
Here’s an update from Caroline Swann with some news for the adventurous types who may be heading to ...
The New Glasgow marina is located about six miles up the East River of Pictou in the heart of the ...
The British Virgins took a huge hit last fall from Irma. Boats were stranded on the shore by the ...
Located about half way between Shediac and the Miramichi on New Brunswick’s Acadian Coast, the town ...
Suddenly the once forsaken city of Hamilton, Ontario is booming for at least two good reasons.
The Salty Dawg Sailing Association (SDSA) invites all sailors to join a cruising rally from the ...
Long popular with New England and St. John area boaters, Passamaquoddy Bay is too often overlooked ...
We did breakfast yesterday in the Greek port of Piraeus, just outside Athens:strong coffee, crisp ...
After much speculation Prince Harry finally popped the question to American actress and longtime ...

 

How to be as Polite as a Canadian at Gulf Island Marine Park Anchorages

Gulf Island Marine ParkStory and photos by Catherine Dook

One summer I sold ice cream and knick-knacks at Montague Harbour Marina. I was standing behind the counter one day, when the phone rang. “There’s a boat at anchor in the middle of the bay that’s been playing loud music for three hours,” complained an irate-sounding male voice. “Can you make them stop?”

“Um, no,” I replied. “The marina has no jurisdiction over the anchorage. Besides, my only weapon is a till.” The man hung up on me.

Now when you think about it, you can understand why the poor fellow was annoyed.

Read more about the Gulf Island Marine Park.....

 

 

 

Lifestyle

  • Prev
Don’t miss this brilliant photo double header
In honour of Launch Day, our POTW this time comes from Wendy Loat in Port Credit. This shot, taken ...
Our favorite, Man-O-War Cay, is home to the Albury Boat Building empire. They have been building ...
On the Easter Weekend, the Sidney North Saanich Yacht Club from Vancouver Island, had its first ...
We were finally able to get a SIM card and data plan on our phone Monday morning. We could now ...
It’s Friday afternoon at the Newport Yacht Club in Stoney Creek, and that can only mean one thing - ...
As things are always better in the Bahamas, especially during Canadian winters, so too are things ...
We were all set with this week’s POTW when a real stunner came in as part of a story on the Blind ...
Have your say. Send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need ...
When I was about ten years old I starting racing sailboats on Cape Cod and the sound of the wind ...
Canadian Yachting Digital May 2018

Boat Reviews

  • Prev
Tactical Custom Boats announces the sale to a North American client of a custom Tactical 77’ – Fast ...
Bruce Elliott is an inventor. And when he sold the technology he developed to build utility poles ...
One often asks of a winning achievement or a fabulous design, could it have possibly been done ...
The latest new model from Cruisers Yachts is the Cantius 42 and this yacht made its debut in the ...
The Sabre 45 Salon Express is new for 2017, making its debut at the Fort Lauderdale International ...
Jeanneau’s newest NC model is the NC 33, and it’s an exciting and innovative inboard cruiser ...
The Four Winns H290OB combines two of the most popular new big boat trends to come up with a great ...
Commodore’s Boats is a full service shipyard with over 50 years of generational history and ...

 

Dufour 412

Dufour 412By: Katherine Stone

One often asks of a winning achievement or a fabulous design, could it have possibly been done better? The engineers at Dufour Yachts and the Felci Yachts Design group asked that question and listened carefully to suggestions from owners of the earlier, award-winning Dufour 410- one of Dufour’s most successful 12-metre boats. Not only did Dufour make the 412 more attractive and modern, but alsoincorporated amenities that are usually only reserved for larger boats.

We sailed the boat on a gusty, chilly, late autumn day out of Whitby, Ontario, on Lake Ontario, and she handled very well in 20 knotbreezes and three- to four-foot swells.

Read more about the Dufour 412.....

 

 

Marine Products

  • Prev
Industry Firsts Include Direct Injection and Integrated Electric Steering System
Verviers, Belgium, 18 May 2018 — Mercury Marine, the world leader in marine propulsion technology, ...
Again, we return to the beginning. We started this column with a look at marine navigation for ...
Ga-Oh (spirit of the winds in Algonquin) creates bags and other items from re-purposed sails.
The 2018 Northwest Boat Travel Guide just arrived. This time of the year is the perfect time for ...
We are all looking to gain a little more time these days, and technology is often the route we ...
While they are no longer a part of the CPS Flare Program, Fogh Boat Supplies and Fogh Marine, both ...
We have all had the experience of heading down below on a nice boat only to encounter an unpleasant ...
Starting from the top. If you partake in any winter activities, you have probably heard that your ...
Last year when this column launched a good deal of time was spent understanding global satellite ...