Another view of the cockpit
A third view of the cockpit
I am ocassionally asked about fitting wheel steering to the P26. I prefer the tiller. I find it simpler and more responsive. To me wheels are a bit vague and overly complex for the P26. If you would prefer a wheel and find it affordable and worthwhile to you then you should put it in. Make up your own mind. On this page I'll list the objective issues I think need to be considered.
Whether it's worth spending the money becomes subjective. Is it worth it to you? Boats like the P26 are not investments, sorry to say. I would not be surprised if the installation cost over $1000. That's a pretty large percentage of the value of the boat.
Reinforcing the rudder tube will be necessary. very important but not difficult. And you need a stuffing box to seal the rudder tube. The rudder tube also provides support for the cockpit sole. Cutting it to install the quadrant will require installing supports for the cockpit sole. These could do double duty as mounting locations for the steering cable sheaves.
Fitting Quadrant to Rudder
Pretty easy with a good machinist.
Loss of Slow Speed Maneuverability
The wheel system by design has to limit the rotation range of the rudder. This may limit the tightness of the turning radius of the boat at slow speeds (< 2 knots). With the rudder free to rotate through 360 degrees you can turn the rudder as far as you want (with limits of force of course). It is possible to turn the boat around in it's own length. I suspect this ability would be reduced and the minimum turing radius increased. This would be a noticable change to me when docking.
Loss of Storage Space
I store 2 large coolers under the cockpit when we cruise. You might not be able to fit that much in with the steering gear there. Plus the steering gear needs to be enclosed to protect it from getting jammed by a stray flip-flop.
Not really too big a deal on a P26. I bet all the gear would weigh 50-75 lbs? I guess you can subtract the weight of the tiller and mount fitting (12 lbs?). Either way, the P26 is not a ULDB but weight may be worth some consideration.
Wear on Bushings
I think there might be additional wear on the OEM rudder bushings because the quadrant would prevent the rudder from freely rotating 360 deg. This means the rudder will sit in the sailing position when the boat is at rest (95-98% of the time?). The rudder torque's on the bushings more in this position (because the rudder shaft is not vertical). As the boat moves about at the dock there might be the potential for more wear. I would expect this to be worse on a mooring. That's why I put the rudder backwards at the dock and tie it off. I don't think bushing wear would be a huge problem but it's something to consider.
There are other issues like whether a wheel is better for sailing then a tiller, cockpit space, and aesthetics, but they are even more subjective then whether the cost is worthwhile. I would rather not dwell on them. At least cost is quantifiable. All of these issues turn me away from the wheel but they may seem acceptable to you. Decide for yourself, it's your boat.