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Old 27-09-2010, 10:16   #16
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Depends on what one understands by 'real autopilot'.

Vendee Globe boats have real autopilots. Just look at their real prices.

Systems with G-sensors, top of the line brains (connected to the speedo, the compass, the wind instrument, etc.) and with super duper fast and powerful motors.

AND do not forget the issue of the power. A windvane converts the power of the wind / passing water directly into the steering power. The autopilot will use some form of in-between - windmills, solar (more often : genset) and the batteries. This makes the auto system even more complex and expensive.

It is nice to have both, sure. And the better they are the better for the boat.

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Old 27-09-2010, 11:13   #17
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Hey there,

We're looking for installing a windwane on our boat and can't decide between Sailomat and Windpilot Pacific... Anyone having longer experience with any of these?

Would be happy to get some insights. Thanks.
/Alex and Taru
We have a Windpilot pacific plus. I would not buy one again.

We had a monitor on our previous boat - it was much superior.

I have not used a sail-o-mat.
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Old 27-09-2010, 11:21   #18
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We have a Windpilot pacific plus. I would not buy one again.

We had a monitor on our previous boat - it was much superior.
Evans,
What's your opinion as the need to have one at all. Do you see a windvane as essential equipment for a cruising boat?
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Old 27-09-2010, 11:55   #19
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Evans,
What's your opinion as the need to have one at all. Do you see a windvane as essential equipment for a cruising boat?
Bulletproof self steering is essential for passagemaking. Hand steering on a long passage doublehanded sucks.

You can get to that bulletproof system in a number of ways.

If your boat is already using a lot of electricity and you already have a massive electrical generating and storage plant then an 'autopilot only' approach with duplicate/redundant autopilots is quite a good approach.

If your boat and philosophy is minimalist and simple, then a wind vane (with a few essential spares) is the answer.

And somewhere in the middle is a combination autopilot and windvane system. That's where we wanted to be but the Windpilot worked poorly so we used the vane very little (as opposed to our previous boat where we also had both and used the vane perhaps 80% of the time).

So, like most things about sailing, the answer is 'it depends'. But generally, for most cruising boats under say 42' that are going to do a bunch of passage making, a wind vane probably makes good sense. The vane is wonderful gear - quiet and consuming no power and extremely reliable. But you have to get used to balancing the helm more carefully and even then it will still wander around quite a bit (more than an autopilot). They are not that great for coastal day sailing, and autopilots much more useful, because of the wondering around. But on passages they are terrific
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Old 28-09-2010, 15:58   #20
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Thank you all very much, We will try out the Sailomat as they gave us a good offer. We will combine it with our old Rayethon 6001+ autopilot and hoping for those two to be enough for now.

Thanks.
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Old 28-09-2010, 23:35   #21
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Thank you all very much, We will try out the Sailomat as they gave us a good offer. We will combine it with our old Rayethon 6001+ autopilot and hoping for those two to be enough for now.

Thanks.
Sounds good. If it fits the budget I would carry a spare autopilot drive also.
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Old 29-09-2010, 00:08   #22
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Have you considered the Monitor??? They are le$$ then the euro ones above, all stainless and comes with spare parts that could possibly wear out.

Mine was delivered in one week. Most of the boats out there, the monitor has already been mounted so the dealer most likely already has the specs. The installation only took me one day, as well. And I've sailed before the wind on many occasions. It also comes with two different sizes of vanes for different weather.
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Old 29-09-2010, 00:11   #23
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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
We have a Windpilot pacific plus. I would not buy one again.

We had a monitor on our previous boat - it was much superior.

I have not used a sail-o-mat.
G'Day Evans and Beth,

Just curious as to what you didn't like about the Windpilot? The few folks that I've met that used them liked them, and we had considered one for Insatiable II.

Thanks, and Cheers,

Jim and Ann s/v Insatiable II lying Michaelmas Cay, Qld, Oz
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Old 29-09-2010, 00:31   #24
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G'Day Evans and Beth,

Just curious as to what you didn't like about the Windpilot?
We have the big windpilot (pacific plus) and I don't know if our experience apply to the smaller units. . . But the sleeve bearings jam up much too easily so you lose sensitivity and light air performance, and we had more part failures/breakages than I expected.
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Old 29-09-2010, 14:01   #25
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a very good explanation of the wandering bit at Cruising Sailor • View topic - Fleming Wind Vane post by MikaMike » Thu Jun 26, 2008 3:33 pm.

Jessica Watson's "Parker" is a Fleming Global Equip 400. Link to Fleming FLEMING » Global Équipe - There and back for 40 years
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Old 29-09-2010, 14:25   #26
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Originally Posted by estarzinger View Post
We have the big windpilot (pacific plus) and I don't know if our experience apply to the smaller units. . . But the sleeve bearings jam up much too easily so you lose sensitivity and light air performance, and we had more part failures/breakages than I expected.

Thanks, Evans, that's very interesting and useful info for us.

I was attracted to the unit by the mounting pedestal... works really well on our large, flat bottomed sugar scoop. We've been getting along ok with autopilots, but I really miss having a vane offshore.

Cheers,

Jim and Ann S/v Insatiable II lying Michaelmas Cay, Qld Oz
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Old 29-09-2010, 16:04   #27
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I've got a WindPilot Pacific Plus, the auxillary rudder system. It looks to be the WindPilot Pendulum Servo system mated to an auxillary rudder. It steered nicely dead downwind for 10 days with relative wind between 5-10 knots. Averaged 140nm plus per day in this year of weak tradewinds, best days run of 155nm. Not bad for a 25' waterline boat in winds below 15k.

I made up a 4'x8" light weight corrugated plastic wind vane for truly light air conditions. The vane would steer the boat even down below one knot boat speed but the standard plywood vane didn't have enough area to sense the wind properly. The larger plastic vane worked a treat. I used it for most of the passage as it was more sensitive than the plywood vane in the downwind condtions that I had.

Tried the Raymarine x5 wheel pilot for a short bit but it was sucking up a bunch of amps and didn't have the beef to handle the large rudder excursions needed to keep the boat on course with the 8-10' following swells with smaller local wind waves mixed in. It's noise also drove me crazy as it busily whirred away trying to maintain the heading.

An autopilot is an expensive bugger to run. You not only need the pilot and backup repair parts but the generating capacity to feed the hungry bastard. I have 260 watts of solar panels and they didn't keep up with my minimal 3 amp drain with the overcast that I experienced most of the 2,000 miles. To keep an auto pilot running, you'd need a windmill and way more panels than I had and probably still wouldn't generate enough electrons. Other choice would be an auxillary generator or running the engine and the fuel expense and maintenance that that would require.

If your autopilot goes tits up, it's highly doubtful that you could fix it without having the specific printed circuit board or steering ram that failed. So if you have an autopilot, the only safe way to go is to buy two and use one for spares. And to be truly safe, better buy three or stock a bunch of known to fail parts. With a vane, they seldom fail, never had one quit in more than 12,000 miles of ocean sailing. If there is a problem, a fix is usually something even a novice can diagnose and cobble together a repair. As an example, a pinch bolt loosened up and allowed the steering vane to twist over a few degrees. No idea when during the 15 day passage it happened but never had an indication from its exemplary accurate steering that something was amiss. Only discovered the problem when I parked the vane and turned on the engine to power into Hilo Harbor. The boatwanted to turn left but was easily kept on course with the wheel. I discovered the loose bolt but needed a finger pier and another body to turn the rudder back into position. To make the sail from Hilo to our homeport of Kona, just moved the rudder actuating gear over one tooth and it steered perfectly.

An autopilot is a nice to have amenity. A self steering vane is something I wouldn't leave the harbor without. In fact, my philosophy is buy the vane first and the boat second.

Anyone who says an autopilot will steer a boat using only one amp either has a defective amp meter or only a passing acquaintance with reality.
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Old 29-09-2010, 18:09   #28
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We had both an autopilot and a windvane, and appreciated them both. In heavy seas we almost always turned to the windvane. It did well, except for when going directly downwind. It was a Monitor. Have you considered that brand?
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Old 29-09-2010, 18:43   #29
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Hey there,

We're looking for installing a windwane on our boat and can't decide between Sailomat and Windpilot Pacific... Anyone having longer experience with any of these?

Would be happy to get some insights. Thanks.
/Alex and Taru
In 2004 I bought a second hand Windpilot Pacific Plus with long shaft, for 1,200 euro's (new price then was 9,000).

It had already done 2 circumnavigations and there was some wear.
I contacted Peter Foerthmann in Germany and he turned out to be very competent and helpful. I sent him close up pictures of the essential parts and he sent me a few new parts for a very reasonable price. On his website he offers a very informative book about self steering as a pdf file.

We use the windpilot on a 50ft, 60,000lbs cutter/sloop.
We trim the boat preferably by reefing the main, not by using the main rudder.
When balanced ok, the windpilot steers very well, in any wind angle. Going down wind in light air, I sometimes attach a plastic bag at the top of the vane to add some sensitivity, works for me.

We also have a Simrad Robertson autopilot and in the years we are cruising full time I can say we use the windpilot for the longer passages. Otherwise we use the AP.

In 2008 we had some trouble in Senegal. On the trip from the Canaries to Senegal the windvane rudder broke in two pieces. Fortunately it hung on by the epoxy "skin" and I could salvage the broken off part. Ours is a 1999 model. The rudder has a flange-coupling with 6 M10 bolts to attach the rudder to the system. In heavy seas, the rudder had broken say 15 cm below waterline. I saw there was a hollow tube inside the rudder, from top to bottom. The dialogue with mr. Foerthmann didn't yield much. He denied the rudder was under dimensioned. In my opinion it was. He told me he was convinced the rudder should be floating and therefore the construction was light.

After finding the right materials I welded the tube together again and inserted a stainless steel massive rod in the tube, appr. 60% down the tube.
I welded things completely shut, added a 4 mm layer of glass mat and epoxied the rudder. I have been using it for 3 years since and its fine. It will sink though but I prevent losing it by adding 2 eye bolts and a piece of line.

To summarize, I think the Windpilot Pacific Plus is a good system, very robust and easy to maintain. They had a weak rudder but chances are these were improved after 2000, don't know about that. The power (from the pendulum) to steer a (well balanced) 50ft boat is enough. You should have a space of at least 30cm between your main rudder and the windvane rudder though, otherwise the windvane rudder will lack grip.

Well, hope this helps a bit.
Cheers, Len.
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Old 29-09-2010, 19:26   #30
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Have you considered a Hydrovane? We have had one on our 37' Dehler for 4 years now and would not be without it. We have sailed some 20,000 miles in that time, including an Atlantic crossing and she has been reliable and accurate. It remains crucial to have a balanced sail plan to reduce eccentric rudder loads, but that applies to all vane gear.
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