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Old 23-08-2010, 16:38   #1
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Monitor Autohelm

I've been giving some serious thought to the autohelm by monitor.

At $5K-$6K installed (and that might be on the low side; I have a double ender with a stern pushpit) I can see why they're not more popular. But I like the idea of locking the ship's rudder amidships. No control lines into the cockpit, just a line to engage or disengage the autohelm.

Anyone have any experience with this model?

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Old 23-08-2010, 16:41   #2
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The drawing makes it look like the connection between the wind vane and the rudder is actually just lines, so you don't need metal housing to connect the two? Interesting / crazy / cool.

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Old 23-08-2010, 16:51   #3
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Your use of the word Monitor is confuseing as the name Monitor is a brand name for a different windvane.
Huge savings may be realized if you install the unit yourself, or enlist the help of fellow boat owners for a case of beer.
I've always thought that the use of a small tiller autopilot to hold the course of a windvane destroys the reason for using a windvane.
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Old 23-08-2010, 17:13   #4
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I would love to have a "Monitor" windvane or alternatively, a Cape Horn brand from what I've read on other threads here. It appears there is about $150 worth of materials and another couple of hundred in manufacturing costs. I'd pay $800-1000 for one new but not $5k. I do like the option of having the wind vane control a trim tab on the primary rudder, but mine is completely under water and don't know about cable corrosion in such a case. Plus, my hard wheel house enclosure and davits would make installation a bit of a puzzle to get clear air, or perhaps not if the boat never gets closer than 45' off the wind. hmmm.

I guess I'll keep an eye out for a used vane from a cruiser headed home in Mexico.
"The nature of the universe is such that ends can never justify the means. On the contrary, the means always determine the end." ---Aldous Huxley
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Old 23-08-2010, 17:25   #5
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I am also interested in this. Have been considering the Monitor but it is expensive. It'll take a little push to get me to do it, but it seems like what I need.
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Old 23-08-2010, 20:38   #6
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I had an Autohelm vane installed on Feeling Good when I got her in '78. I could never get it to work right. I spent hundreds of hours trying to get this thing to work. It would never hold a course for more then a few minutes at a time. The vane also caused the boat to develop a yaw oscillation when it was not in use. I finally removed the vane part, the servo rudder, and lashed the control rudder amidships with steel rods. The boat now tracks like an arrow. I don't know if this poor performance was due to the design of the Autohelm vane, it was size incorrectly, or the underwater design of the boat was not compatible. Whatever the cause it didn't work for me. I now use a autopilot that has a windvane mode.

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Old 23-08-2010, 21:21   #7
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I had a Monitor windvane and loved it! The lines to the wheel do rescrict one side of the cockpit though.
The windvane will not steer the boat unless the sails are trimed for maxium balance. I couldn't get the thing to work with the staysail that came with the boat when I bought it, but after I purchased a new staysail with a longer foot it sailed like a dream.
I must warn people of a characteristic of windvanes. When the wind shifts the boat turns to balance to the wind. As a singlehandler NEVER sleep when within ten miles of rocks, reefs, or islands. Don't ask.
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Old 24-08-2010, 00:10   #8
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G'Day RH,

Well, back in 1983 when we were gearing up to go cruising in Insatiable I (an old IOR one-tonner) I investigated the Autohelm vane, and as you have done, found it to be bloody expensive. My solution was to home-build a similar unit. To sum that up, at the time the commercial unit was about 2K$, and the total cost of building mine was less than 300$. Nothing too hard to do, but fairly time consuming.

At any rate, that vane, once I worked out how to use it, drove the boat for around 50,000 sea miles, and we loved it. It worked better in light airs than any servo pendulum we've encountered, and did just fine throughout the wind range up to storm conditions. Its one drawback is that its yaw response isn't as good or as quick as a servo. This means that on our fin-keeled ex race boat, in heavy downwind conditions it yawed more than a servo would have. Nothing that bothered us much... The advantages of the auxillary rudder (no control lines to wheel/tiller, and being a really practical emergency steering system) far outweighed the disadvantages in our minds.

If you have specific queries I'd be happy to try them on.


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Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II , lying Twofold Bay, Eden,NSW after our 32d crossing of Bass Strait!
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Old 24-08-2010, 03:41   #9
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For anyone interested, there is a practically new Monitor windvane for sale in the classifieds for $1,795 + shipping (just posted a couple days ago) .....
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Old 24-08-2010, 04:10   #10
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Monitors are Pendulum-Servo vanes. That's the proper name for the type and there are a whole bunch of manufacturers of that type of vane including the Aries which the Monitor was copied from. I had a monitor on my boat but it didn't interface with the wheel well. It just wouldn't steer the boat below four knots boat speed. I've done an informal survey with a number of boats with PS systems and wheels and the results have been mixed. Some say theirs work just great others have light air/low boat speed issues. Looks like you pays your money and takes your chances. From personal experience, a pendulum-servo system will steer a tiller steered boat even if the helm is heavy, has a bad weather helm, etc. A PS system would be my number one choice if I had a tiller. Wheels are yuppie affected abominations, anyway.

An auxillary rudder vane requires a really strong mount because they actually steer the boat just like the boats rudder. Something that would be a real challenge to build on a boat with a boomkin, outboard rudder or other impediment on the stern. Most of them are made to bolt onto a flat transom and are easy to mount there. Your choice whether you want or need to reinforce the transom to take the load. WindPilot Pacific Plus and Hydrovane are two manufacturers of auxillary rudder vanes. I've got the WP Pacific Plus on my boat and just did a TransPac with it. Worked great running wing and wing at near hull speed for 12 days. The WPPP uses a Servo-Pendulum vane to supply the muscle to turn the vane's steering rudder. Gives plenty of oomph to steer the boat especially in light air or running when the relative wind flowing across the wind vane is low.

Look for a used vane. They show up regularly in any major boating area. Sold my Monitor for $1700 with wheel adapter. Bought the WPPP for $1800 in San Francisco. Monitors come up all the time. Lesser known or less popular vanes are hit and miss. Scanmar will sell you the mounts and tubing to adapt the Monitor to almost any boat. Since they are so popular, they have data on mounting their vanes on a ton of different boats. The thin wall stainless tubing and most accessories, like the wheel adapter are quite pricey, though.
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Old 24-08-2010, 09:44   #11
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I just ordered a copy of Belcher's book. Nothing but used ones floating around these days for $50-$100 but that's peanuts compared to $5K. I think I'll take a stab at building my own; I should understand how the work regardless.
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Old 25-08-2010, 08:54   #12
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You may have some trouble mounting the auxiliary rudder with reinforcement to the canoe stern.
I mounted a Monitor to my Panda 40 (a blown-up version of a HC 36) in a couple of days by myself with the main halyard for control and backed into a slip so I could get to the stern from "ashore". Led the steering control lines under the footwell of the cockpit then up to the wheel, so they are not obtrusive. Used it for twelve years and counting.
Either way it will permanently increase the length of your boat (if in a marina that cares...) But really nice when you want an autopilot and steer by the wind and you don't want to use electricity.

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Old 25-08-2010, 10:36   #13

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If you want an external rudder type vane, please look at the Hydrovane.

The advantages of these kind of vanes are - no leads in the cockpit, and you have a natural backup rudder in case of failure.

I had a monitor vane and loved it. But, I had a tiller and a wheel interface is dubious to me. They do have side products that allow you to use the vane as a backup rudder, but it's costly and I don't know about viability of installing the extra rudder in a high seas situation.

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