I just happened across your post today...don't know if you've already pulled the trigger and purchased a windvane
. If not, here are some thoughts:
- I have a Columbia
50, and had one once before also, that I sailed from San Diego
and back, among other things. You're going through all the thinking I went through not quite 20 years ago!
- No question in my mind--servo-pendulum is the way to go on a Columbia
50. The balanced spade rudder
means the boat steers beautifully with a vane.
- On my "old" boat--the one we sailed to Hawaii
, I had a Fleming
vane. It was a beautiful piece of gear
of the highest quality. I was sold right from the beginning, but even more so one night as we rolled down the Molokai channel in relatively big waves with lots of wind
. As the waves would throw the stern to one side or the other--with little change in the apparent wind
direction--the vane would immediately correct and keep the boat on course. (That's the whole deal behind a servo pendulum; it immediately counters with tremendous power any would-be sudden course change caused by wave action, as well as doing a great job steering
the boat normally based on apparent wind angle changes.) Watching the wheel
spin back and forth that night was amazing. If I was steering
myself, I probably would have lasted about 20 minutes!
- For my "new" Columbia 50 I recently found a used Monitor
and, while I haven't yet installed it, I know it will work just fine. The quality is excellent, although perhaps not quite as good as the Fleming
I had before, but it's kind of like the difference between an A and an A+. It's going to be great.
- The Fleming vanes for sale
now are quite a bit different than the one I had; I have no thoughts one way or the other on them, but I'll bet that they would be just fine. Monitors, on the other hand, are often for sale
in the U.S. used, and having Scanmar readily available is nice.
- I'm sure other servo-pendulum vanes will do a good job steering a Columbia 50, so you can't really go too far wrong. In terms of materials, though, my personal feeling is that aluminum
is nice for spars--but I'm not really interested in having it anywhere else.
- For what it's worth, I also advocate having an electric autopilot
. Here's why: (1) I always use the autopilot
when the boat is under power. There are no concerns about power consumption
then, the vane's "oar" is safely out of the water
, the boat steers a perfect course, etc. (2) I often click the autopilot on when I'm steering and want to go and do something for just a moment. It's very convenient. (3) I usually click the autopilot on to steer while I go back and get the vane set up. It keeps the boat on exactly the right course until the vane takes over. (4) If something were to happen to the vane, the autopilot serves as a steering backup, although of course I would have to run the engine
and charge the batteries a lot more often.
Bottom line...my recommendation...buy a stainless steel
servo-pendulum vane, bolt it on, learn to use it, and move on to your next project!
All the best-