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Answers to Two Questions

Latitude Nation — Two things:

Mystery (Boat) Solved!

On the mystery boat ID, the consensus seems to be that it’s a Lyle Hess-designed Balboa 20. There were certainly a few other guesses — a Cal 20 and O’Day among them — but using a majority-rule standard, and after seeing some pictures of  multiple vessels, we are calling it for the Balboas.

Thanks to everyone for playing. We will publish all your comments in next month’s Letters.

Thanks for helping Roger Krakow identify his Mystery 20.
© 2019 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Mitch

The Tiller Conundrum

Also coming in next month’s Letters are the countless thoughtful responses you sent in regarding our ‘driving question’. We had asked what could possibly go wrong if we replaced our current tiller with a larger stick. But we made a bit of a mistake when we framed the question.

First: The tiller on our Columbia 24 most certainly does swivel vertically — we apologize for not making that clear (it’s our first-ever mistake in the 500-issue history of Latitude 38!)

Not a great picture, but hopefully illustrating my Columbia 24 Esprit’s swiveling tiller action. It’s one of my favorite features. Because the traveler is set aft (rather than a bar running through the center like a racing boat’s), when the tiller is up, the cockpit is nice and roomy — utilized here for a deep clean last spring.
© 2019 Nathaniel Beilby

As we mentioned, the swivel action can be improved, via new, tighter hardware, so that the tiller sits higher in the cockpit. We also made a mistake (second one ever!) in not expressing our true feelings about a tiller extension. We just don’t think an additional stick would feel right on our boat, which is not and never will be a racer. (Sure, tiller extensions aren’t just for racing boats, but to us, it would feel like putting a spoiler on a Volkswagen van.)

So, what we really want is a tiller that’s just a little bit bigger than the original. Nothing crazy, just something that has a little more heft to it. We should mention here that even on windy days, our Columbia has virtually no weather helm. So it’s not a question of more leverage, either. It’s just the perception that a slightly bigger tiller would feel more comfortable. We can’t say why we feel this way. We just do.

Does that make any sense? Does anyone else feel that some part of their boat would benefit from an arbitrary modification? And do you wonder/worry what the unforeseen effects of such a tweak might be? (Please email us here, or comment below.)


Our friend the carpenter has taken it upon himself to fashion a temporary replacement tiller. Made from poplar, it will stand in as the stick while he gets to the business of constructing a laminated tiller.

It’s good to have good friends. It’s really good to have friends who are outstanding and enthusiastic carpenters.
© 2019 Nathaniel Beilby

There seems to be near-universal consensus that a laminated tiller is superior to a solid piece of wood in terms of both strength and longevity. But it will also be nice to have a backup stick for worst-case scenarios.


  1. PJ 5 years ago

    Likely too late now, especially if what you meant by larger actually meant longer. If simply bigger around, then a woven hand grip would fit the bill and look nice as well.

  2. Eric Artman 5 years ago

    Well, if you think tiller breakage is likely to become a thing on your boat, you might consider mounting the new on with wingnuts….

  3. Brad Smith 5 years ago

    Okay, no extension, not on your boat! Mock it up first, this is like the measure twice and cut once rule. Whatever it takes to figure out exactly what you want is worth building it twice. I would start with a couple of 2X4s glued together and whip out a prototype. Once your happy with that expect it to take a couple of three months to produce the perfect thing you will love having on your boat.

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