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Old 12-03-2010, 11:51   #1
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Selecting a Wind Vane for My 50' Columbia

Usually, I can do a lot of research and start to get to the best product for a particular job, but I seem to be going in circles with wind vanes (pun intended). Reaching the conclusion to use a servo-pendulum, horizontal type unit is the easy part. Researching the posts in this forum has been helpful, but sometimes the comments are a bit contradictory so I'm hoping to gather some feedback in this thread from experience, thoughts and specific details of what in particular someone likes/doesn't like about the major wind vanes out there.
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Critical Considerations:

I'm looking for something that will work with my 50ft Columbia sailboat. I believe the units that turn the sailboats rudder offer better control than those where the sailboat's rudder is locked straight and the wind vane actually does the physical steering. I believe that I want to stick just to the servo-pendulum units without auxiliary or double rudders (double rudders just have a small section that actually pivots from what I understand). An auxiliary rudder is an additional steering rudder which makes steering movements independently of the main rudder. I want to turn my main rudder. I have a Destroyer wheel with cable steering.

How a system handles strong gusts that would damage some designs is important, i.e. do they turn 360 degrees rather than have a sacrificial metal tube like the Monitor, for example. I also believe that a center mount is the most desirable placement for a wind vane from what I've read.

A discussion of the bearings and other key components is important as well.
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Additional Considerations:

Having a separate "emergency" rudder or a unit that can be used as a backup rudder is a nice feature, but only as a secondary consideration. The main thing is that the unit is rock solid, not over/under built, etc.

I'd love to hear feedback on attaching an autopilot to the wind vane. This seems to be a good setup, especially if detachment is easily done, but some warn to keep the autohelm set up completely separate from the wind vane. I would think leveraging the servo-pendulum strength to increase the effectiveness of an autopilot on a 50ft sailboat would be a good thing, but maybe I'm overlooking the downsides.

Key items to look for would be great, i.e. 2:1 ratio, damping, linkage, etc.
Also, let me know if there are other major contenders for larger boats that I've overlooked that are worth a hard look.
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Major Contenders:

Most swear by the Aries, but their website isn't exactly brimming with information on their product. The Aries Standard is a proven unit. The vane swings on nylon roller bearings. Two lines control a toothed wheel that clicks with each adjustment and positions the vane to the apparent wind at 6-degree intervals. I have concerns about the 6 degree granularity of control and how the unit responds in light winds. (Will this handle a 50ft sailboat?)
Aries

The Monitor likes to compare itself to the Aries as a better built version. It puts the Aries down as having some parts too large to make the Aries as responsive in light air and touts it's ball bearings and stainless steel construction as superlative to every other design. Thoughts?
http://www.selfsteer.com/products/monitor/index.php

Cape Horn likes to compare itself to the Monitor to show how it's better. It has a section just to the comparison and rips on Monitor. It does make some good points, if all of that is written is true.
Comparison

WindPilot Pacific model (For up to 60 ft boats) - This seems to be a contender as well that compares well with the others:
Produkte

Sailomat just came out with a new unit in 2008 and not being thoroughly tested in the real world, I hesitate to go with it. Still, I haven't been able to rule anyting out just yet.
Sailomat

Hydrovane - This appears to be an auxiliary rudder system that is not connected to the main rudder system. Some with the unit have said it struggles in light winds, which is not the end of the world. This would be a good backup rudder, but I feel steering would have to be better using the rudder designed for the boat.
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Old 12-03-2010, 13:18   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D_e_n_n_i_s View Post
......
How a system handles strong gusts that would damage some designs is important, i.e. do they turn 360 degrees rather than have a sacrificial metal tube like the Monitor, for example. I also believe that a center mount is the most desirable placement for a wind vane from what I've read.
.....
....

Sailomat just came out with a new unit in 2008 and not being thoroughly tested in the real world, I hesitate to go with it. Still, I haven't been able to rule anyting out just yet.
Sailomat
...
Dennis,
The sacrificial tube is there to deal with logs, etc. hitting the vanes rudder, not for wind gusts.

The Sailomat has been around for a long time. The latest model is just an incremental improvement. One thing nice about this unit is that it does not require a jungle gym mount on the stern, like the monitor.

Paul L
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Old 12-03-2010, 14:02   #3
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Gotcha on the sacrificial tube ... There was mention in some of my readings of the top board snapping under really nasty conditions on certain models that don't pivot beyond a certain point - where the boat gets turned coming down a wave and there isn't any flexibility in the system for surfing.

I definitely wasn't impressed with those monitor connections and the Cape Horn comparison page really rips on it. I like a clean deck and cockpit. I think that a solid, properly geared connection can be done without making me afraid to move toward the helm. Besides, more sheaves means more points of failure and more friction.

I'm just hoping that someone with a well designed wind vane will also have a well designed set of controlling lines. I'd hate to have to engineer the connection, but if I really have to in order to get the best wind vane ...
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Old 12-03-2010, 14:16   #4
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Originally Posted by D_e_n_n_i_s View Post
...
I'm just hoping that someone with a well designed wind vane will also have a well designed set of controlling lines. I'd hate to have to engineer the connection, but if I really have to in order to get the best wind vane ...
Dennis,
I'm not sure what your concern is with the wheel or tiller connections. All the vanes come with nice little pictures of the umpteen different ways you could connect to your wheel. The vane is only used when you are doing reasonably long sails. They take some time to setup and you expect to have some extra lines running around the cockpit.

Paul L
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Old 12-03-2010, 17:04   #5
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Thats nice - and how about the overhangs on your boat? I would think with the amount of overhangs Columbia 50 has, there will be the risk of the vane coming out of the water whenever you are picked up by a bigger wave.

The autopilot way?

b.
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Old 12-03-2010, 20:12   #6
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The Aries 6 degree click adjustment is the best adjustment system bar none. The infinitely variable type either require careful control of tension to get them to change heading and/or critical angle of the control line to the vane sheave to prevent the line from jumping the sheave. The click mechanism on the Aries works from anywhere you can run the lines without any problems. The 6 degree heading adjustment is more than accurate enough for a wind vane self steering system.

I had problems with the wheel vane interface. The monitor would not steer below 4 knots of boat speed because it couldn't produce enough ummph to turn the wheel. The faster the boat went and the more force required to steer the boat, the better it steered. Just the opposite of what you'd expect.

The Aries on our W32 would steer the boat if the boat would sail on all points of sail with conventional sails. It would not steer dead downwind with a spinnaker in light-moderate air. The boat would sail out from under the relative wind so the vane thought it was in a dead calm. This is a problem with almost all vanes. If you are going to run spinnakers DDW, you need an autopilot.

The Wind Pilot Pacific Plus (auxilary rudder sytem with a pendulum servo command rudder) steers our boat very well. The wind sense vane has problems in light air, less than 5 knots, transmitting wind direction to the steering vane. I've substituted a larger light weight corrugated plastic vane for the stock plywood one and it has made the vane a lot more responsive. I've been out in 30+ mph winds on a close reach and the vane steered great wven before we got the sail plan balanced out. Other than that, the vane will steer the boat even with barely perceptible forward motion. Problem is steering the boat with the vane in standbye. The vane rudder is locked straight ahead. In my long keel, rudder challenged boat, steering in tight quarters is a problem. Need to back and fill using prop torque to make sharp starboard turns in marina fairways, forget turning to port. Expect that a fin keel, separate rudder boat would be accepatbility maneuverable. My boat was/is maneuvering challenged without the vane.

You've got a big boat. Fortunately it's got a balanced rudder so forces should actually be less than smaller full keel boat with a barn door rudder. I would think it would be well within the capabilities a good Pendulum Servo System as long as the wheel/vane interface could be worked out. The size will be more of a problem with an auxillary rudder systems as you simply need a larger rudder to steer a larger boat. Feel that the WPPP would handle but you might want to talk with the manufacturer to get their reccomendations.
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Old 14-03-2010, 09:20   #7
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Get a hold of Scanmar, Monitor. They sell many different brands. They also have all the dimensions to place a unit on almost any vessel that was production made & custom made too. I use to bend tubing for monitor in Ca. I know many times they can sell you the premade braces, so it's just bolt on.........i2f

http://www.selfsteer.com/
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Old 14-03-2010, 13:57   #8
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Wow, thanks for so much great info !!!

Paul - I guess it's just a matter of becoming more familiar with the connections to get past my concerns.

Barnakiel - Thanks for the feedback, I'll have to take some measurements and figure the angle to see how the wind vane will ride in the water. I appreciate you calling my attention to this.
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Roverhi - Wow, what incredible insight - Thank You !! You've helped to ease my concern about the 6-degree Aries adjustment. The Aries seems to be a bulletproof model. I would like to couple it with an autopilot for dead down wind sailing and low winds when I could use it for better accuracy.

The wheel vane interface is my biggest concern with rigging things up. I appreciate you sharing your experience with the monitor and it's difficulty in low winds.

I think you have keen insight into the Columbia 50 rudder and that's why I would consider leaning toward the WindPilot Pacific rather than the Pacific Plus, which uses the auxiliary rudder for steering. That's impressive that it works in low winds as well as 30+ mph winds after your adaptation. Steering on my boat is very sensitive so I'm lucky that way (I hear ya on the starboard spin, though). I may could get away with more than I think I could, but I'm sticking to servo-pendulum units that move my own rudder to be safe.
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Imagine2frolic - I'm definitely getting ready to frolic ... It's noteworthy that monitor has the mounting flexibility. I definitely need to take some measurements.

Thanks to everyone for all of the great feedback. Please keep it coming because I'm learning tons and I'm hopeful that others will benefit from this info too !! I'm definitely getting past my installation fears with these units and am starting to get an idea of how to choose some of the better units out there.
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Old 14-03-2010, 15:09   #9
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I have a Fleming Global 501 on a 40ft boat and it steers superbly.
The mounts and main parts of the vane are investment cast stainless steel. The bearings are all UHM nylon. there is no alloy on this unit.

The course adjustment is a continuous line and in contrast to the 6 degree clunk, maintains course superbly.


It was easy to mount and it works superbly with a drum on the wheel.
It was much cheaper than a Monitor and is much more sturdy.

www.flemingselfsteer.com and go to Testimonials...you'll see my boat with the vane mounted.


BIG problem with Aries is that they have cast alloy and stainless steel together...this corrodes at sea and siezes...Monitor is all stainless steel, but when you compare the construction with Fleming, Monitor looks weak...and is twice the price !

Servo pendulum is the ONLY way to go...there is not enough power in the other types to keep a moderately large boat on course.

Of course, they only work in winds above 4 knots...its the wind pressure on the blade that turns the oar in the water that gives the power...no wind pressure, no turn = no power...doesn't steer....

They don't work so well downwind...again, lack of apparent wind cf boat speed means not much steering force...but close hauled to a reach...brilliant !
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Old 14-03-2010, 19:35   #10
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IIRC, Steve and Linda Dashew circumnavigated on a Columbia 50. After that they went on to build a number of semi custom production boats. They should have some information as to the suitability of a vane on the C50. They certainly had to have some form of vane/auto pilot. Might see if they written about their time on the C50. Understand the boat was a modified C50 from the factory built for a serious offshore racer with a much taller stick and other mods.
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Old 15-03-2010, 07:48   #11
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Thanks for the info and link to Fleming Self Steer. They state that the auxiliary rudder system is the more powerful system for larger boats up to 45 ft, but their Global Offshore 501 is designed for boats up to 20m (60 ft). I don't see the Global Offshore shown on the website, but it appears not to be an auxiliary rudder model so I'll see if I can get more info on it.

They have some interesting information on the lack of strength of aluminum, advising that stainless steel construction is the only way to go for wind vane construction.

Look at the reverse transom on that good lookin' Diva boat ... I have to confess at checking out other boats with a traditional transom like mine, but the unit looks great.
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I have a lot of the Dashew videos and I never knew they owned a Columbia 50 !!! Aha, it was called the Intermezzo (now Fuera) ...

You can see their boat at the bottom of this page: Columbia 50 Specifications. On their website, there is further mention of it: SetSail Search Results Intermezzo

Historical reference of the boat by Steve Dashew: SetSail Blog Archive INTERMEZZO

Dashew, Steve & Linda / SoCal / 1976-83 / Columbia 50 / Intermezzo

A better shot of their boat: http://www.columbia-yachts.com/Fuera.jpg
Mine can be seen on the same website from a picture posted by its original owner: http://www.columbia-yachts.com/MagicLamp.jpg
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Old 15-03-2010, 19:42   #12
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I believe they had RVG and gave it up for Aries. The RVG was apparently OK just the unit was to small for their boat.

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Old 17-03-2010, 09:54   #13
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If they went with the Aries for their Columbia 50, then it certainly would be capable of handling my sister vessel. I waffle on my concern for that 6 degree increment of control, though ... The unit comes highly recommended as bulletproof.
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Old 17-03-2010, 10:05   #14
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If they went with the Aries for their Columbia 50, then it certainly would be capable of handling my sister vessel. I waffle on my concern for that 6 degree increment of control, though ... The unit comes highly recommended as bulletproof.
Dennis,
I used an Aries for a long time on my old boat. My current boat has a Sailomat 601. There really is no issue with the grossness of the "6 degs" adjustment on the Aries. It won't turn out to be 6 * on your boat anyway. When you use a windvane you set the boat up so the sails are balanced and the helm is easy to steer and you are pointing pretty much in the direction you want to go. Then engage the windvane. There is a lot of course variance involved in the first phase, i.e. setting the boat up and getting a balanced helm. When I was taught to give courses to the helmsman on sailboat as a navigator, it was to always give an even 5* course. This was so they could steer to a reasonable mark on the compass. So why would you expect your windvane to steer significantly better?

For a vane on your boat you need to worry about a few other things. Can the vane steer a boat this big. Weight on the stern. Cost. Reliability. Ease of mounting.

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Old 17-03-2010, 13:17   #15
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The 6 degree course increment is a non issue. Self steering vanes do not have micrometer control of the course. They steer to the wind which, even in the steadiest trades, is constantly changing. You trim the boat to head in the direction that you want to go and make corrections, if needed every day or so to compensate for all the variables that effect COG.

The ease with which you can put course changes into the Aires is SO MUCH BETTER than the infinitely variable course change mechanisms that it blows them out of the water. With the Aries, a course change was just tugging on a line. With the Monitor and WPPP, I have to consciously check to be sure that control line is feeding properly into the sheave, Have to grab both lines firmly and be careful to pull them straight, make sure the join in the line isn't going to run into the pulley, and heaven help me if I don't. Nothing like having the control line jam or jump off the control pulley in the middle of a tack or close quarter maneuvering.

If I could exchange the infinitely variable controls of the WPPP for the 6 degree click of the Aires, I wouldn't have to think about it for more than a nano second.
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