Everything You Need to Know about the Steering Wheel on a Boat

what is the boat steering wheel called

Last updated on November 12, 2022

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The steering wheel on a boat is an essential part of operating the vessel. It helps the captain navigate by controlling the rudder, which in turn steers the boat. While it may seem like a simple task, turning the wheel can be quite challenging, especially in rough waters. In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at the steering wheel and how it works.

The Basics of the Steering Wheel

The steering wheel on a boat is also known as the helm. It is located at the stern (back) of the boat, and it is used to control the rudder. The rudder is a flat piece of wood or metal that is attached to the back of the boat and helps to steer it. The helm is connected to the rudder via ropes or chains, which are called "tiller lines."

Turning the steering wheel turns the tiller lines, which in turn move the rudder. The rudder is what actually steers the boat. Moving the helm to the right, for example, will cause the boat to turn to the right. Of course, turning the helm is not always so simple. Depending on the type of boat and how it is designed, turning the helm may require quite a bit of strength. In some cases, two people may be needed to turn the wheel.

In addition, wind and waves can make turning the helm quite difficult. If you are having trouble steering your boat, you may need to use your body weight to help you turn the wheel. Just be sure to hold on tight so you don't fall overboard!

The Reason Behind Why are Boat Steering Wheels on the Right

The exact reason why boat steering wheels are on the right side is unknown. However, there are a few theories that offer possible explanations.

One theory suggests that the right-hand side was chosen because it is the natural position for most people when rowing a boat. This would have made it easier to transition to using a steering wheel when boats began to be powered by engines.

Another theory points to the fact that many early boats were powered by windmills, which were mounted on the right side of the vessel. This would have made it natural to place the steering wheel on the opposite side, to balance out the weight of the windmill.

Regardless of the reason, the right hand side has become standard for boat steering wheels, and most people today wouldn't have it any other way.

Do Steering Wheels in Boat and Car Work in the Same Way?

While both boats and cars have steering wheels, the way they work is actually quite different. In a car, the steering wheel is connected to the front wheels via a series of mechanical parts. When you turn the steering wheel, it sets the front wheels in motion, and the car turns.

In a boat, on the other hand, the steering wheel is connected to a rudder. The rudder is a flat panel that's mounted at the back of the boat, and it's used to control the direction of the boat.

When you turn the steering wheel, it moves the rudder, and this causes the boat to change direction.

As you can see, while both boats and cars have steering wheels, they serve different purposes and work in different ways.

Frequently asked questions

What is the steering wheel on a pirate ship?

The steering wheel on a pirate ship is called the helm. The helm is located at the back of the ship, and it is used to steer the ship in the desired direction. In order to turn the ship, the helmsman must crank the wheel in the appropriate direction.

The rudder, which is located beneath the waterline, is connected to the helm and is used to actually steer the ship. The helmsman must be careful not to turn the wheel too quickly, as this can cause the rudder to become damaged or even break off completely.

Cranking the wheel too slowly can also be problematic, as it can cause the ship to lose steering control.

Thus, it is important for the helmsman to maintain a steady pace when turning the wheel.

What does a ship steering wheel symbolize?

A ship's steering wheel is one of the most iconic symbols of the maritime world. For centuries, it has been a symbol of power, freedom, and exploration. It is no wonder that so many sailors have chosen to get tattooed with images of steering wheels.

For many, the steering wheel symbolizes the opportunity to chart their own course in life and to explore the world beyond the horizon. It is a reminder that, no matter what storms we may face, we always have the power to steer our own ship.

Whether we are navigating rough waters or calm seas, the steering wheel is a reminder that we are always in control of our destiny.

Why does the steering wheel of ships have spikes?

To the untrained eye, the steering wheel of a ship may appear to be nothing more than a simple piece of equipment. However, upon closer inspection, one will notice that the wheel is covered in spikes.

These spikes are actually there for a very practical purpose- they help to prevent the wheel from slipping out of a captain's hands in rough seas. The spikes provide extra grip, ensuring that the captain can maintain control even when the waves are crashing against the ship.

In addition to providing extra grip, the spikes also help to dissipate heat, making it easier for captains to keep a firm grip on the wheel even in hot weather.

As a result, the next time you see a ship's steering wheel, take a closer look- you may be surprised by what you find.


The steering wheel on a boat plays an essential role in navigating the vessel. By understanding how it works and how to use it effectively, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable boating experience for all involved. Thanks for reading!

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