Making a Tiller Pilot Cover

My research into tiller pilots suggested that they are pretty reliable devices, lasting many years for some users.  Others, who relied on them for 24 x 7 blue water cruising, observed much higher failure rates, owing perhaps to greater number of hours used, but also to sun and rain.  There seems to be some agreement that making a cover for the device will improve its longevity.  It is relatively straightforward if you're handy with a sewing machine.

My device is a RayMarine ST-2000, but I believe the physical form of the 2000 and the 1000 are the same, so the covers will be identical.

The materials required are:

(1) 28" x 14" piece of suitable fabric (I used Sunbrella)
(2) 6 inches of 1" velcro
(3) 3 1/4" x 6 1/4" vinyl window material
(4) a grommet or sewn ring for the push-rod pass through
(4) suitable thread
(5) a sewing machine and basic sewing skills

I have a SailRite Ultrafeed which I find to be a great machine for canvas work.  I used to sew with an Elna, which is a sports-car of a sewing machine, but just doesn't have enough oomph to get through multiple layers of canvas, let alone vinyl window material, without a lot of skipped stitches.  The Sailrite is, in comparison, a pickup truck.  But it is a walking foot machine, which means that the work piece is fed through from both the bottom (as with a standard sewing machine) but also from the top (the walking foot).  It also has a direct drive 'transmission' that delivers maximum power from the motor to the 'drive train'.  After struggling with many canvas projects with lighter-duty machines, the LSZ-1 has made me a believer.

I thought about what it needed to do, and how to make it for a couple hours, and made a prototype. It was clunky, with too much handwork.  I refined the design and simplified the construction process, and the result was far better on the second pass. 

If you're interested in doing your own, and like to build things with a sewing machine, it is a fun project for a rainy winter day.  Or two.

If you'd like to use my design, you can find it here.

If you want a signed version by the artist, send me C note ;-).  Its going to be a long, rainy winter.


  1. The link to your design doesn't work for me. Any chance you can re-post this?


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