What is a Kolderstok?

Before the invention of the steering wheel, the rudder on larger ships was directly operated with a so-called "Kolderstok" (whipstaff) . This stick ran through a slot in the deck and then hinged directly on the tiller below deck. The helmsman was able to give about 5 to 10 degrees of rudder by moving the Kolderstok. A ship was never completely steered with such a rudder, but only adjusted. The real steering was done with the sails.

The helmsman generally had no or poor visibility outside. If he could look at anything, it would be the sails. During a watch, the helmsman followed small rudder commands from the helmsman on deck, usually for hours on end. It wasn't a nice job. We still find the term in the modern Dutch language; "having the 'Kolder' in your head" means going or being crazy.

The Duyfken model clearly shows the position of the helmsman; the so-called "night house" where the helmsman stayed was prominently visible on these ships.