Friday, November 30, 2007

New Product Review - New HelmsMate T & TE Model Outboard Motor Tiller Extension Handles

boater using an Outboard tiller extension handleIf you troll with a kicker or trolling motor, you may have discovered that it is a stretch to steer from the best seat. If you sit clear in the stern, you may throw the boat out of trim, or develop a back kink from twisting and leaning to reach the tiller. If so, an outboard tiller extension handle may be just the ticket. They are designed to attach to your existing outboard tiller giving you the extra reach you need.


We carry the HelmsMate Extension Handles by Ironwood Pacific, and were pleased to evaluate and add two new handles to their line-up. The New Models -dubbed T and TE are much shorter than any of the previous Ironwood handles, measuring in at a fixed 18" for the T model and an adjustable 17" to 23" for the TE model. These are a welcome addition to this line-up as we've talked with a few customers who had purchased the longer versions and sawed them off to get to these kind of lengths.


In addition to the anodized aluminum shaft, the two new HelmsMates share other qualities with their big brothers. They utilize the same universal clamp as the longer models, which is really universal. It consists of a marine grade nylon clamp which you shouldn't mistake this for ordinary plastic because it is really tough. I took one of my samples out, laid it on a cement floor, and stood on it with all my weight (200 lbs.) on one foot, then bounced up and down a few times. It flexed and deformed a bit , but sprang right back and there was zero sign of cracking or distress.

The universal clamp comes with a 1/8" thick heavy rubber sizing sleeve that fits many tiller handles perfectly. If your handle is a little thicker, you can slide the sleeve out and if youn eed even more room, just grab the clamp ears and spread it open wider. for some of the smaller motors with a really thin handle, Ironwood Pacific provides what they call a second sleeve. It is a sheet of rubber that you can wrap around the handle from a partial turn to several turns to get the exact fit you need. It doesn't come included, but they will send yo one for free if you find you need it. As you can see from the picture above, there is a big cut-away that allows easy access to the kill switch.

The Helmsmate T Model is a fixed 18" length, but the Helmsmate TE is extendable from 17" to 23". I like the fact that there is a positive lock system consisting of a spring loaded metal button that locks into one of a series of holes in the outer shaft. It took me a couple tries to get the hang of it, but once I did it was very simple and it stays where you put it. This system means that I have to adjust in abut 2 1/2" increments, but I don't picture ever needing more fine control than that. It is a real contrast to the cam-lock systems used by some of the other tiller extension handles I've tried. On the most recent cam lock version I tried, it didn't take opening and closing the mechanism more than a handful of times before it got a little loose. Imagine twisting the throttle, only to have the cam slip and suddenly you lose throttle control and your length setting is lost. I'll take the positive lock over the cam any time.

In summary, these two new handles have all the features that have made the Ironwood Pacific HelmsMate one of my favorite trolling motor extension handles. They fit well on a variety of gas outboard motors and electric trolling motors, they are made in the USA, and they have a very attractive price. We are able to offer the T model at $14.95 and the TE at $18.95.

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