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
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.