Galleon Steering Assembly
Ahoy, mates – this is Dean Calin. One reader asked for clarification on how the whipstaff connects to the tiller to turn the rudder in Elizabethan-era sailing ships. I generated the accompanying illustrations to show the assembly in three positions, due ahead, steering 3° to starboard and steering 3° to larboard (port). The tiller is an ancient device, and is the very basic way that one steers a ship with a rudder. Ship’s wheels, used for steering, were marvelous devices, but were not implemented on sailing ships until around 1700.
In the picture to the left we see the helmsman holding the whipstaff (15). The length of the whipstaff (the vertical pole running through the black iron gimbal) and the length of the tiller (a horizontal pole connected to the whipstaff at one end and the rudder at the other) gave enough leverage for one man to use his weight to turn the rudder on its hinges. The whipstaff was mounted to the gimbal that allowed it to tip from left to right. At the bottom, it was connected by a flexible joint that levered the tiller which was mounted directly to the rudder. A space between the quarterdeck and the main deck allowed the helmsman to hear the navigation commands and to have a limited view outside.
THE IMAGES ABOVE SHOW A VIEW LOOKING FROM FORE TO AFT AT THE STEERING ASSEMBLY
THE IMAGES ABOVE SHOW A VIEW LOOKING DIRECTLY DOWN ON THE STEERING ASSEMBLY