There is nothing wrong with the stainless steel wheel. But there is nothing exceptional about it either. At first I wanted to replace the metal wheel with a teak one, but the cost was ridiculous. And, I would have to do the varnishing.
Next option was to cover the wheel with leather, an attractive and very comfortable alternative. My research took me to Boatleather, a company in Seattle with a good selection and reasonable prices. This happened when there was a boat show in Oakland and Boatleather had a booth there so I could see the product, the colors, and feel the difference it makes.
I chose a dark teak color and opted for the foam padding to get an extra comfortable grip. They sent everything I needed to install the cover and their website, http://www.boatleather.com, has a link to very helpful video instructions. Here’s the progression of the project:
It took one full day to complete. My right hand was cramped for a few days after completion, but it was worth it. The only problem was a section where the pre-punched eyes in the leather ripped when I pulled the thread tight.
I called Tom at Boatleather and his explanation was that real leather can have weak spots and unfortunately I got one. He didn’t recall this happening before. I wasn’t about to ask for a new cover and start over so I went back and “overstitched” the torn punch holes.
Not perfect, but if I don’t point it out, no one notices (except me).
I’ve had the leather on for a few months now and can say that from an appearance and handling perspective I am very happy with the results. Here’s Rhonda with a “good grip” on the wheel: