The steering mechanism on a narrowboat is very simple; a tiller connected to a curved ‘s' shaped steel bar, known as a swan neck, that fits into a flat rudder protruding out the back of the boat. To stop the tiller wobbling, there's a top bearing at the base of the swan neck where it joins the protruding rudder.
What can go wrong?
Catching the rudder
One of the more common and frustrating issues for boaters today is catching the rudder which in turn, often results in the vessel becoming difficult to steer. At River Canal Rescue, we call this ‘popping out of the cup' as it refers to the rudder lifting out of its locating joint.
While such lifting out is rarely damaging, it can be difficult to re-insert the rudder once dislocated. If damage does occur it usually affects either the skeg (the support beam extending from the bottom of the boat), or the top bearing (responsible for ensuring your steering has a smooth operation).
Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to avoid damaging the skeg, apart from being diligent and ensuring you position your vessel correctly in the lock.