- The boat's helm is the space from which the boat is steered. This includes the steering wheel or tiller, as well as other navigational instruments.
- The helm is usually located on the right or starboard side because most people are right-handed, making it easier to control the boat.
- All modern boats with an engine or sails use a helm to steer and control the vessel properly.
As someone who loves spending time on the water, I know how important the different components of a boat are. So let’s talk about what a helm on a boat is.
The helm of a boat is the tiller, wheel, or other equipment that controls the rudder of a boat. Today, that is the entire apparatus used to control the steering of a boat on the starboard side. This area also includes a helm chair, throttle, and other driving components.
In my experience, every boat I’ve ever used has included a helm for proper boat control with a seating area cockpit on the starboard side of a boat. I’ve also spoken with experts in the industry to confirm what a helm is, whether all boats use one, and where it’s typically located. Keep reading to find out more.
What Is The Helm Of A Boat? (Definition & Meaning)
The helm of a boat is essentially the area where the boat is steered from. Whether you're operating a small fishing boat or a large yacht, the helm is where you'll find the tiller or steering wheel that allows you to control the vessel's direction.
Depending on the boat type, we can find the helm on boat floor plans in different locations. Not all boats will use the helm the same way or place the boat helm in the same exact area.
The helm is not just where the steering wheel is located. It is also the entire steering apparatus. This includes the rudder, the steering mechanism, and any other navigational instruments used to control the boat's movement.
The helm is where the captain or skipper will spend most of their time on board, as it is their responsibility to ensure the safe and efficient operation of the vessel. It's important to keep the helm in good condition.
A malfunctioning helm can lead to serious accidents, so it's crucial to ensure that it is always working properly. In short, the helm of a boat is the space from which the boat is steered, and it is an essential part of any vessel.
Where Is The Helm Located On A Boat?
As mentioned, the boat’s helm is the entire mechanism that allows the captain to steer and control the vessel's direction. It is typically located at the stern or back of the boat.
The helm is always a non-slip surface, so passengers can move around wet decks freely. Many smaller boats like speed boats, pontoons, and fishing boats will also position the helm on the right side of the boat. But why?
Why Are Most Helms on the Right?
Most helms are located on the right side (starboard side) of the boat. The old-school theory for this is that it is easier for right-handed people to steer the boat with their right hand. This makes operating the boat more natural from the dedicated helm chair.
This is because the propeller rotates clockwise, which creates a force that makes the boat turn to the right. Therefore, having the helm on the right side of the boat makes it easier for the captain to turn the boat in the desired direction.
It also provides better boat deck access by placing the helm towards one side. However, not all boats have the helm on the right side. Some boats have a center console, which means that the helm is located in the middle of the boat.
What Does Helming a Boat Mean?
Boat helming means being in charge of steering the vessel. In my experience, the person helming is the person in charge. They are responsible for ensuring the safety of everyone on board by keeping the boat on course and avoiding obstacles.
For sailboat owners, you’ll likely hear the term boat heeling more often. This refers to when the boat tips to one side because of how the boat is moving and the wind is blowing. It’s a similar term.
Helming a boat requires skill, knowledge, and experience. It is not just about turning the wheel or tiller. It also involves understanding the wind, waves, currents, and other factors that affect the boat's movement.
When I am helming a boat, I need to be alert, focused, and attentive. I must keep a lookout for other boats, buoys, rocks, and other hazards that may be in the way. Most boats have a helm chair with a foot platform and overhead hatches, so you can drive freely with the wind atop your head.
Helming a boat is both exciting and challenging. It requires me to be confident and decisive yet also flexible and adaptable. I must be able to adjust my course and speed as conditions change while also keeping an eye on the big picture and staying true to our destination.
Do All Boats Have a Helm?
Yes - just like a boat hull, all boats also have a helm. The helm is the physical mechanism needed to steer and control the boat on the open waters. It includes the rudder, tiller, and wheel.
Whether it is a small fishing boat or a large yacht, every boat needs a helm to steer it. The size and complexity of the helm may vary depending on the size and type of boat.
A small boat may have a simple tiller, while a large sailboat may have a more complex steering system with flapping sails, a wheel, and multiple controls. Larger boats will likely have doors leading to the helm with more complex seating and grab rails.
The helm is not only used for steering but is also the command and control center of the boat. It is where the skipper or captain will spend most of their time on board. The helm often has navigation and communication devices nearby, making it the most important part of any boat.
About THE AUTHOR
I have a deep love of houseboating and the life-changing experiences houseboating has brought into my life. I’ve been going to Lake Powell on our family’s houseboat for over 30 years and have made many great memories, first as a child and now as a parent. My family has a passion for helping others have similar fun, safe experiences on their houseboat.Read More About Brian Samson