The Steering Wheel Of A Ship: What’s It REALLY Called?

The steering wheel of a ship helps the helmsman to navigate and change directions. But, what is it called? 

The Steering Wheel Of A Ship: What’s It REALLY Called? 1

What’s a ship’s steering wheel called?

The steering wheel of a ship is called the helm. It’s located on the right side of the ship and it’s connected to the rudder. When you turn the steering wheel, it will adjust or control the rudder, resulting in a change of direction for the ship.  

The steering wheel of a ship is one of its most important navigational components on a ship. The steering wheel helps to control the movement and direction of a ship. 

When navigating a ship, the captain will turn the steering wheel either clockwise or anti-clockwise, depending on the direction they want the ship’s wheel to take. 

But, what’s the name of this steering wheel of a ship? What’s the boat steering wheel name and what is the ship’s steering gear system? 

The Name Of A Ship’s Steering Wheel

What is the steering wheel of a ship or a boat called? The steering boat wheel on a ship is known as the helm. 

It’s connected to another component of the ship known as the rudder, through a system of steering chains or ropes called tiller lines. 

When you turn the ship’s steering wheel, it will in turn adjust the tiller lines, which will then turn the rudder.

 And, these movements will make the ship turn or change direction. Simply put, the rudder is the part that actually turns the boat. 

So, if you turn the steering wheel to the left, the ship will move to the right. At the same time, if you turn the steering wheel to the left, then your ship will move to the left.

The right ship steering wheel symbolizes stability and is a significant component of modern ship control.

Alternatives to the Ship Steering Wheel

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Some ships, especially smaller vessels, come with a tiller as opposed to the conventional circular steering wheel. So, what exactly is a tiller chain? A tiller is a long lever, mainly made of wood. 

Just like a boat steering wheel or a boat wheel, the tiller is also used to steer a boat. But unlike the steering wheel, you push the tiller opposite of the direction you want your ship to take. 

For instance, if you want your ship to go to the left, then you will have to push the tiller to the right and vice versa. 

Opting for a tiller instead of the conventional boat steering wheel has some benefits. For instance, a tiller will take up less space in your ship compared to a steering wheel. And, this may explain why it’s mainly used on smaller boats. 

Furthermore, tillers tend to be more accurate and responsive, compared to steering wheels on larger ships, considering they are connected to the ship’s rudder directly. So, any movement that you make on the tiller will deliver an immediate response. 

And, this makes it ideal for fishing or trolling boats. 

Also, tillers come with lesser moving parts, compared to boat steering wheels. Therefore, they are easier and cheaper to maintain. Also, it will be easier and simpler to repair if it breaks. 

Like anything else, tillers also come with their fair share of drawbacks. For instance, tillers demand more physical work, compared to steering wheels. In addition, maneuvering a ship through tight corners at high speeds can be a challenge if you are using a tiller. 

Why the Steering Wheel of a Ship is on the Right Side

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The ship wheel or boat’s wheel of most ships is usually on the right side. 

So, why is this the case? One of the most obvious reasons why the steering wheel is located here is to enable the captain or person manning the helm to operate it using their right hand. 

As you may probably know, over 90% of the world is right-handed. And, this percentage will also apply to most sailors. Therefore, placing the steering wheel on the right side will be naturally comfortable for the majority of ship operators. 

Also, marine guidelines require steering boards to be located on the starboard side of the ship. And, the starboard side is the right side. 

Another theory alludes to the fact that the majority of early boats and ships were powered by windmills. And, these windmills were located on the vessel’s left side. So, placing the steering wheel on the right side would help to balance the weight of the windmill.  

But, regardless of the theory or reason, placing the steering wheel on the right side of the ship has become the standard in the industry and so is the use of components such as the steering gear system. And, it will appear unorthodox if the steering wheel was placed on the left. 

Why Ship Steering Wheels Have Spikes

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If you’ve seen photos of a pirate ship steering wheel or classic pirate ships, you may have noticed that it’s covered in protrusions or spikes all around. 

Usually, a traditional ship steering wheel will have around eight spokes,and a pirate ship shows this. However, they may be more or less, depending on the pirate ship vessel and the wheel on a ship. 

For instance, some may have only six spikes, while others may have as many as 21 spikes, especially the older vessels. And, you may be wondering what’s the purpose of these spikes. 

Well, the spikes that you see on a ship’s helm are there for several reasons. The most obvious reason is that they will help to prevent the help from slipping out of the helmsman’s hands, especially when they are navigating the ship in choppy waters or rough seas. 

These spikes will provide additional grip, thus making sure the helmsman will maintain control of the ship even when powerful waves are crashing against it. 

Also, the spikes that you see on a ship’s helm will help to dispel heat from the steering wheel, thus reducing sweating. Consequently, the helmsman will be able to maintain a firm grip on the helm, even during hot and humid conditions on very long sea voyages.

Besides their practical purpose, the spikes on a ship’s helm also play a secondary role in enhancing its aesthetics. Compared to a vehicle’s steering wheel, a ship’s steering wheel appears more stylish. 

Do Cruise Ships Have Steering Wheels

Cruise ships, modern boats, and other modern water vessels also come with a steering wheel. However, the steering wheel on these vessels is quite small. 

It’s not as big as the one that you will find in older ships or boats. 

The steering wheel on today’s water vessels resembles that of a car. It may be fully circular or a half-wheel, depending on the design. Also, it doesn’t have spikes or spokes on the sides.

Furthermore, the steering wheel in modern ships is rarely used, except during docking. Most ships today come with modern navigational systems, hydraulic system, modern hydraulic steering,  hydraulic steering system, thus eliminating the need to rely on the traditional wheels,and the use of remote control.  

Ship Steering Wheel Vs. Car Steering Wheel

Both ships and cars come with steering wheels. And, this begs the question, do both steering wheels work the same way? Do these steering wheels serve the same purpose?

In most vehicles, the steering wheel is connected to the front wheels. Whenever you turn the steering wheel, it will control the front wheels and the vehicle will turn according to the desired direction. 

On the other hand, a ship’s steering wheel and the wheel on a ship are connected to the rudders. So, whenever you turn the steering wheel, it will adjust the rudders. The rudders will then change the ship’s direction to the desired side or angle. 

Key Takeaways

  • A ship’s wheel plays a key role in navigating it
  • The steering wheel of a ship is known as a helm
  • The steering wheel is usually located on the right side of the boat
  • Modern ships come with smaller, spokeless steering wheels