Sonar: Joystick/Sip ‘n’ Puff Steering

This actuator-driven system was developed by Gene Hinkel and Steve Alvey for Y-Knot Sailing. The first version of this system required a plate to be installed on the side rear of the cockpit to attach the actuator. With this system, the helmsperson is in front of the traveler, and we swap out the standard Sonar tiller with this shorter version. The actuator doesn’t need much of a tiller at all past the connection point. The tiller and extension is provided as an emergency measure — in case of power or system failure, the actuator can be popped off, and the boat can then be steered by hand.

Sonar actuator

Sonar actuator

Since that initial version, Gene has created a plate that sits on the cockpit bench, and clamps to the stern cockpit locker, which you can see in the photo below. Also note that the large pin on the original model above has been replaced by a smaller u-joint pin below. This provides some flexibility in the connection, making it much easier to install and remove the actuator. Also note the pipe clamp wrapped around the metal bracket connecting the tiller to the rudder head. This is necessary to keep the tiller from “skying” in rough conditions.

Sonar actuator plate

The actuator in action. Quick lock-to-lock speed, and able to make small adjustments as well: