Moderated Discussion Areas
  ContinuousWave: Whaler Repairs/Mods
  Pulley Steering

Post New Topic  Post Reply
search | FAQ | profile | register | author help

Author Topic:   Pulley Steering
rli posted 09-22-2002 02:33 PM ET (US)   Profile for rli   Send Email to rli  
I have recently acquired a 1974 Boston Whaler 13. It came to me "disasembled" and I would like to restore the original wire rope and pulley steering. I think I have all of the parts but don't know how to put it all back together. The only photos I have seen are of modern Teleflex cable installations. Does anyone have a diagram or photograph of the original steering system? Thanks for your help.


Dick E posted 09-22-2002 11:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick E  Send Email to Dick E     
A tragic accident a few years ago happened at a local lake. Husband,wife and child were in a boat not a Whaler,but with pulley cable steering.All were wearing life jackets.Cable broke,all were thrown out of the boat. Boat circled ran over and killed the guy's wife in front of his child.

Teleflex is a huge impovement over the cable/pulley system.There are some new addtions to boats the are SAFER and people should not go back to the orginal equipment.
My $.02
Dick E

Brent posted 09-23-2002 12:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for Brent  Send Email to Brent     
Suicidal tendencies. Go with the teleflex. You will need the special offset bracket available at West Marine if you plan to stay with a 15" motor.
DaveNJ posted 09-23-2002 07:19 AM ET (US)     Profile for DaveNJ  Send Email to DaveNJ     
Thanks. These posts helped me to decide to go with teleflex steering instead of restoring my pulley steering.


whalerron posted 09-23-2002 08:23 AM ET (US)     Profile for whalerron  Send Email to whalerron     
Original is nice if you are restoring a boat to put in a showcase. Sometimes, original does not equate to "safe". I had the original pulley steering on my boat and I debated about making the switch to a "teleflex" style system. Then, 2 things made me see the light. First, a guy wrote to me and told me he was out in his 13 footer at planing speed. Something in his cable-pulley system broke and the boat did an immediate turn, rolled over and threw everyone out of the boat. The second thing came from a sailboater. He explained to me how those plastic pulleys can look just fine and yet will literally explode when they are under load and at the end of their lives. I like the tight turning radius of the cable-pulley systems but that does not override the overall safety issues. Make the switch and don't look back!


RMS posted 09-23-2002 10:47 AM ET (US)     Profile for RMS  Send Email to RMS     
Teleflex system can also 'let go' and the result is the same. Engine torque puts the engine hard over with sometimes disastrous results. I'm not knocking Teleflex, it's what I currently use, but don't think cable and pulley is the only system cabable of catastrophic failure.
lilgypsy2000 posted 09-23-2002 11:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for lilgypsy2000  Send Email to lilgypsy2000     
Anything "mechanical", "man made" or for that matter "nature made" is subject to failure. A prudent, safe person would do a simple "5 minute" walk around and check of his or her boat and or trailer, not just before launch but after launch as well. There should be nothing wrong with the old system as long as it is maintained properly.

Check for things such as damage to hull, trailer, tires, running and standing rigging (frayed cables, loose connectors, chaffed coverings, leaks etc., be it the "teleflex" or "hydrolic" steering of today or the "cable and pulley" steering of yesterday. One would also check for proper lifejackets for all persons on board, enough (fresh) fuel, anchor, up to date flares, a working marine radio, working and proper nav lights (I once saw a guy in a 40' plus boat with his bowlight installed upside down (red light was on the starboard side and the green light was on the port side of the boat.) , etc., etc.... Just my nickles worth. :)

If that guy had checked his system (and perhaps he did) he may not have had the bad luck that he did. Boats, planes, trains and automobiles all need not only regular maintenance but preventive maintenance as well. (In other words fix it before it breaks) Whew sorry about being so long winded.

Tom W Clark posted 09-23-2002 07:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tom W Clark  Send Email to Tom W Clark     

I really don't agree with the thinking that pulley and cable steering is particularly dangerous. Mechanical steering can fail as well and with the exact same results.

In the case of an old 13 Whaler, I would be inclined to keep the pulley and cable steering as it is actually tighter and more precise than the mechanical steering with much less resistance. HOWEVER, I would not think of reusing old pulleys and cables. The plastic of the old pulleys gets brittle and the cable will eventually rust and/or corrode and weaken. Replacement of these parts should be a maintenance item done every five years or so.

If you re-rig with pulley and cable steering then go down to West Marine or wherever and buy some new pulleys and a length of cable with a few cable clamps. It will all cost less than $50. The parts are all readily available and quite inexpensive.

To answer your initial question, the cables come off the drum beneath the steering wheel and exit through the starboard seat clamp through a pair of pulleys that are flush fit. They then go aft to the starboard stern corner through a pair of pulleys attached with pad eyes through bolted through the transom with #10 machine screws, washers and locknuts. One cable goes to the starboard side of the outboard and the other goes across the stern to a pulley in the port stern corner of the boat and thence back to the port side of the outboard.

A few notes:

You should use a single tensioning spring on the starboard cable at the motor and no spring on the port side. This will prevent propeller torque or a sudden "skid and grab" from stretching the spring and inducing any oscillation to the steering.

If you use a toggle tightener, it should compress the spring about 2/3 of its uncompressed length.

If you are starting with a hull that does not have all the holes drilled for the pulley and cable steering and the seat clamp is not already cut out for the side pulleys, then installing a mechanical steering system will not be much more work and you won't be drilling a bunch of holes in your hull.

I think the mechanical systems look better and are easier to install from scratch but they do not perform as well.

I especially dislike the NFB systems which seem really stiff with no feed back at all (I enjoy feedback as an indication of what is going on). They are also slow, lock to lock whereas a cable and pulley system is less than three turns lock to lock with almost no play at all if set up correctly.

Dick E posted 09-23-2002 08:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Dick E  Send Email to Dick E     
My postion was not that Telflex is perfect, but is significantly safer then using pulleys.

You have to be careful with Teleflex too.
When I bought my 1998 Montauk we took it for a sea trial,everything was fine.
I then trailered the boat to a lake about 60 miles to the north.
I put the boat in and the steering wheel would not turn the motor.

Looking at the tiller arm/connecting rod carefully I noticed that the special locking nut was not there,it was replaced by a common nut, not even the right size.
If this nut loosen on the sea trial someone would of gotten wet or worse.

Well I was hot as a firecracker,but that's another story.

Steering & floation is the most important aspects of a boat.
If the pulley system is so good why isn't used on today's whalers.

whalerron posted 09-23-2002 11:05 PM ET (US)     Profile for whalerron  Send Email to whalerron     

Boat repair shops here in Maryland are not allowed to service boats that have cable-pulley steering. This applies to the entire boat. They cannot do any service to the boat if it has the cable pulley steering system.

rli posted 09-24-2002 12:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for rli  Send Email to rli     
Thanks for all of your thoughtful comments, Guys. This boat is my first Boston Whaler and I guess I couldn't resist the temptation to put all of the parts back where they belong. I'll give it some more thought.


Samars posted 09-24-2002 06:50 AM ET (US)     Profile for Samars  Send Email to Samars     

I must have been lucky for the last 36 years or you are mistaken. I acquired my 67 Whaler two years ago and it came from North East, Maryland. It still has the cable steering (works fine and Tom Clark could have been describing my history and set up).

It has had..over the years numerous trips to Marina shops and repair places...none has refused to work on her.

Take care

jimp posted 09-24-2002 10:53 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimp  Send Email to jimp     
rli -

I ran a 1963 13' Sport for 15 years with cable steering. Properly maintained, there's nothing wrong with it. We replaced the cable every 1-2 years, depending on condition (if there were cracks in the plastic cable covering at the end of the first year, it got replaced the next season, a 15 yr old could do it (as I did). Tom Clark's comments are right on. The spring/toggle tightener is critical, set up correctly its a simple system.


whalerron posted 09-24-2002 01:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for whalerron  Send Email to whalerron     
Samars - That is interesting and I wonder if the dealers have told me this for insurance reasons. 3 dealers, one in Annapolis, one in Glen Burnie and one in Hagerstown have all told me they couldn't touch the boat if it had cable pulley steering.

I did have a problem with my cable pulley steering system. I always checked the cables and lubed the pulleys every few weeks. I didn't wait for the cable casing to get cracked. Instead, I would replace the cable as soon as the casing became cloudy. When I replaced the cables, I always tightened the clamps as tight as I could get them without breaking the screws. One very hot day we were crabbing on the eastern side of Rich Neck and the gal who was working the boat around to the traps continually turned the wheel until the motor solidly hit its steering stops. One of those times, the port side cable pulled out of the port side clamp and all of sudden I had one hell of a birdnest under the console. It took 2 very long and hot hours to rerun all of that cable out there on the water. I think what happened was a combination of things:
1) driver banging the steering against its stops over and over
2) cable casing became "soft" in the hot sun (it was 100 that day with no breeze)
3) because the port side has no spring tensioner, the cable clamp there was enduring alot of force as the motor hit the steering stop


Somebody mentioned that Teleflex push-pull cable systems can fail. We all have probably heard of cable-pulley system failures. I am curious. How many people have heard of push-pull cable systems that failed to the point where the motor was allowed to torque to one side or the other while underway?

RMS posted 09-24-2002 02:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for RMS  Send Email to RMS     
Whalerron, I had a Telflex system fail with resultant 'engine hard over'. Fortunately it was at slow speed (not a Whaler either).
whalerron posted 09-24-2002 05:25 PM ET (US)     Profile for whalerron  Send Email to whalerron     
RMS - What broke? Looking back on the failure, did you have any early indications that something was wrong?

- ron

WHALETEX posted 09-24-2002 09:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for WHALETEX    
The original push pull cable on our '69 16 ft broke in about '78. As I recall it was a red colored Morse cable. The outside sleeving had cracked years before probably allowing water inside the sheath. The inside push pull cable broke just outside where it joined the rigid steering rod. We were cruising at about 25 mph on Falcon on the Mexico side when it broke. Boat came around hard to the right, but never tried to flip. We just hung onto the rails and console until we got the power pulled back. I got to hug that old 85 Johnson all the way back (at idle)to do the tillerless steering.
andygere posted 09-25-2002 02:13 AM ET (US)     Profile for andygere  Send Email to andygere     
When I restored my '72 13, I stayed with the cable and pulley system, replacing all parts. Follow Tom's advice and it will give you many years of trouble free and safe service. I added a second cable clamp to the free ends of the cables for an added measure of safety when I did mine.
RMS posted 09-26-2002 09:11 AM ET (US)     Profile for RMS  Send Email to RMS     
Ron, As to what broke in the Teleflex system, I don't remember exactly. I believe the interior cable, with the worm gear(?) wrapped around it, was stripped. We replaced with a new helm unit, a 'Big T' and a new cable.

Post New Topic  Post Reply
Hop to:

Contact Us | RETURN to ContinuousWave Top Page

Powered by: Ultimate Bulletin Board, Freeware Version 2000
Purchase our Licensed Version- which adds many more features!
© Infopop Corporation (formerly Madrona Park, Inc.), 1998 - 2000.