What do you call a steering wheel on a boat?

What do you call a steering wheel on a boat?


When it comes to boats, the steering mechanism plays a crucial role in controlling the vessel’s direction. Just like a car has a steering wheel, boats also have a similar device to navigate the waterways. However, the term used to refer to the steering wheel on a boat may vary depending on the type of boat and its specific design.

Types of Steering Wheels on Boats

1. Helm: The most common term used to refer to the steering wheel on a boat is “helm.” This term is widely used in the maritime industry and encompasses various types of steering mechanisms. The helm is typically located in the cockpit or bridge area of the boat and is used to control the boat’s rudder or outboard motor.

2. Wheel: Another term often used to describe the steering mechanism on a boat is simply “wheel.” This term is more commonly used in recreational boating and is often associated with larger vessels such as yachts and sailboats. The wheel is usually located in an open area of the boat’s cockpit and is used to turn the rudder or control the boat’s direction.

3. Tiller: In some smaller boats, especially those with outboard motors or tiller-steered sailboats, the steering mechanism may not resemble a traditional steering wheel. Instead, a long handle called a “tiller” is used to control the boat’s direction. The tiller is connected directly to the outboard motor or the boat’s rudder and is moved from side to side to steer the boat.

Factors Influencing Terminology

The terminology used to refer to the steering wheel on a boat can be influenced by various factors, including:

1. Regional Differences: Different regions may have their own specific terms for the steering mechanism on a boat. For example, in some parts of the world, the term “helm” may be more commonly used, while in others, “wheel” or “tiller” may be preferred.

2. Boat Type: The type of boat can also affect the terminology used. Larger vessels, such as yachts and sailboats, often have a traditional steering wheel, while smaller boats may have a tiller or a different type of steering mechanism.

3. Nautical Tradition: Nautical traditions and customs can also influence the terminology used in the boating industry. Certain terms may have historical significance or be deeply rooted in maritime culture.


In conclusion, the steering wheel on a boat can be referred to by different terms depending on various factors such as regional differences, boat type, and nautical tradition. The most common terms used are “helm,” “wheel,” and “tiller.” These terms are used to describe the device that controls the boat’s direction and are widely recognized in the boating industry.


– BoatUS: www.boatus.com
– Sail Magazine: www.sailmagazine.com
– Discover Boating: www.discoverboating.com