to steer

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To direct a vessel by means of a steering oar, or by a tiller or steering wheel connected to a rudder, so that it proceeds in the desired direction. Up to about the end of the first millennium ad, all steering was achieved by means of the steering oar, usually projecting from the starboard quarter of the vessel. It was a short step, taken in about the late 12th or early 13th century, to replace the steering oar with a rudder hung on the sternpost of the ship and worked by a tiller attached to the rudder head. This was very efficient until ships grew in size to the extent where the tiller had to be relatively long in order to provide sufficient leverage to counteract the pressure of the water on the rudder. In a high wind it could require several men to control the tiller of a large ship, even with the aid of relieving tackles. The introduction of the steering wheel in the late 17th century replaced the long tiller in larger ships and made easier the manual task of controlling the rudder. To steer small, to keep a ship on its desired course with only small movements of the tiller or wheel. To steer large, the opposite of to steer small or, in the case of a sailing vessel, to steer it so that it has the wind free.

See also drive, to; helm; steering gear.

See also drive, to; helm; steering gear.

Subjects: Maritime History.

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