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Old 23-10-2015, 06:21   #1
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Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

To the sailing community-

I'm considering purchasing an Island Packet 38 with one autopilot and would like to add redundancy. Am I better off adding a windvane (a totally different system without energy consumption) or a second autopilot (easier to use)? Has anyone had two autopilots fail? I understand that a windvane would also give me a second rudder. Thank you.
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Old 23-10-2015, 06:33   #2
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

If you are planning on crossing oceans then a vane is a nice system and probably would be used for 90% of your steering underway. A back up pilot would also work well but when crossing oceans its really nice to have the boat steered by a system that doesn't use any electricity. Personally I won't cross oceans without some form of back up steering, a lesson learned after hand steering over 2 weeks on a trip back from Hawaii.

If you are coastal cruising in the Med/Mexico or Caribbean then a single autopilot is OK for a minimum setup. Push comes to shove you can hand steer as most places are only a day sail away.
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Old 23-10-2015, 10:55   #3
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

I'd go with an autopilot and a windvane, but I would want the autopilot to be top notch, in good condition, with no problems suspected. Note that many windvanes do not have a "second" rudder. Some do by the nature of their design. Others you can buy as an option a functioning temporary rudder in an emergency (only). Others do not have a provision for a second rudder function at all. Pick the one that suits your needs and budget well. A windvane is a very nice thing to have.
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Old 23-10-2015, 11:18   #4
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

Another vote for the logic already expressed.

If you are long range cruising, a windvane is an excellent choice. In the middle of the ocean it will be your go-to steering system. They aren't that complicated to learn how to use.

If you are coastal hopping, a backup isn't important.

You might want to get a supply of spare parts for your existing system, but if port is always a day or two away, then the costs, hassles, and issues associated with an installed spare autopilot aren't worth it.
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Old 23-10-2015, 11:38   #5
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sevi View Post
...Am I better off adding a windvane (a totally different system without energy consumption) or a second autopilot (easier to use)?...
"Better off"?

You are offshore with your main autopilot working just fine, but your rudder hopelessly disabled; would you rather have an entire spare AP stowed away or a functional, self-contained (with own rudder), wind vane self-steering?
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Old 23-10-2015, 12:02   #6
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

If you can fit a wind vane it may be the better way to go.
Dinghy hanging in davits and Solar panels make a windvane a no-go for me on my 38
I originally bought a CPT with the idea of it being a back up and me installing a "real" autopilot later, but the CPT works so well, I may just get another one to have as a back up, it would take 5 min to change both boxes out if one broke.
Any steering system and any rudder can be broken, but the rack and pinion system IP uses along with it being a full keel boat makes it less likely I believe to be damaged.

There is a hole in the upper aft portion of the rudder, it's my understanding that if you destroy the steering system, you use that hole to attach a line to the rudder to steer, or that is why the hole is there. My understanding is it's never been used though.

I hope to never lose a rudder completely, but my back up is the whisker pole and a hatch board, but I have never tried that, boat trims out pretty well though so I don't think much rudder would be needed to hold a sloppy course.
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Old 23-10-2015, 12:11   #7
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

Funny to read this. I am in the process of changing from an autopilot and wind vane to 2 autopilots. I am changing from cable steering to Hydraulic steering and adding davits. No wind vane and davits.
I am adding a switch box so I can use either electronics package with either hydraulic drive.
Wind vane is original Aires. Works great but not with davits.
I guess it depends on your situation.
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Old 24-10-2015, 08:59   #8
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

[QUOTE=Sevi;1944352]To the sailing community-

"Am I better off adding a windvane (a totally different system without energy consumption) or a second autopilot (easier to use)?"

You can have both when using a stand-alone windvane (eg. 'Hydrovane'), that comes with its own rudder, what also can be used as spare rudder. Connect a tiller AP to it and voilą: 2 independent steering systems with their own AP (great mid-ocean redundancy).
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Old 24-10-2015, 10:41   #9
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

Quote:
Originally Posted by svadagio View Post
Funny to read this. I am in the process of changing from an autopilot and wind vane to 2 autopilots. I am changing from cable steering to Hydraulic steering and adding davits. No wind vane and davits.
I am adding a switch box so I can use either electronics package with either hydraulic drive.
Wind vane is original Aires. Works great but not with davits.
I guess it depends on your situation.
Bob
Perfectly good setup if it works for you. Our first boat came with an older Monitor windvane that was near the end of its life. And it also had two older 12v autopilots driving the hydraulic steering. Before we went offshore I removed the oldest autopilot and put in a new Simrad. I left the other autopilot as a backup. We used the Monitor any time we could. It was so nice to have it steer the boat and not use any juice from the batteries. The autopilots were electricity hogs.

But the Monitor finally died and we never replaced it during our 4 years out. So we used the Simrad. It worked great but we had to run the engine a lot to top off the batteries as our solar could not keep up alone. I will be putting a windvane and a new autopilot on our current boat. The existing autopilot is a cockpit belt driven unit and I would not want to depend on it on our 42' boat. So it will be the backup. But I like windpilots so much I would always want one. It will be expensive to do either of them so they are a major part of the refit budget.

I would not go anywhere without some sort of autopilot. Just not possible to hand steer more than a few hours. I have done it and it is not for me, nor should it be for anyone without enough crew to do 2 hour max shifts at the wheel. And, someone will have to come up and take the wheel if they need to take a p**s.
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Old 24-10-2015, 10:54   #10
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

On Hawk, we started off with the 'one autopilot plus one windvane with aux emergency rudder'. We switched a few years later to two autopilots.

There were four reasons for the switch.

1. the autopilots steer SO much better than the windvanes (we have used both windpilots and monitors)
2. we found in one incident that the windvane aux rudder is really too small to act as a good emergency rudder if you lose your main. it works ok in that capacity in flat water but not at all in waves - it needs the main rudder to 'trim the boat' and without the main rudder it is a big time fail.
3. the monitor was relatively reliable - but needed to be repaired twice rtw. the windpilot was quite unreliable - bearings jamming very quickly and aux rudder shaft breaking several times. The correctly installed autopilots were not less reliable than our windvanes (they did take power).
4. the windvane blocked up our swim platform transom and made med-mooring a bit trickier and extra care needed for any sort of stern-to slip/docking

I hate to say this because vanes were THE sign of a "serious bluewater boat" when we started cruising - but I would op for two autopilots today

regarding autopilot reliability - installation makes a BIG difference - you want it dry, on strong rigid mounts, with big electrical cables, with nothing that can fall on it. a lot of even 'pro' installations I see are inadequate for passagemaking - will work just fine for the majority of day sailors - but fail when you have it working for a couple weeks continuously.
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Old 24-10-2015, 11:26   #11
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

Two autopilots won't provide more reliability if there's no electricity.

Modern autopilots conservatively sized and installed inside are quite a bit more reliable than expecting an engine, alternator, regulator, batteries and fuel supply to ALL work.

Solar panels are the best answer (with a spare regulator aboard). A genset is OK too if you're confident of your fuel and have enough battery to run the genset only a couple of times a day.

Autopilots will use a lot of electricity if your boat is tough to steer. This is especially problematic downwind in a sea. Some boats have to be hand steered in this situation.
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Old 24-10-2015, 11:52   #12
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

Responding to a64pilot's comment:

"There is a hole in the upper aft portion of the rudder (Island Packet 38), it's my understanding that if you destroy the steering system, you use that hole to attach a line to the rudder to steer, or that is why the hole is there. My understanding is it's never been used though."

I believe that the hole is there primarily so that lines can be secured to protect the rudder when hove to or using a parachute in extreme conditions. The lines will keep the rudder from smashing hard over if the boat is driven astern. I do not have an IP, but this design feature seems very desirable.

Some feel that the best strategy in a survival storm is heaving to (see Adlard Coles' classic "Heavy Weather Sailing"). If I was crossing an ocean, I would be very glad to have that hole and I would pre-position lines that could be set up to secure my rudder in the unlikely event of needing to heave to in extreme conditions.
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Old 24-10-2015, 11:56   #13
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
...

There is a hole in the upper aft portion of the rudder, it's my understanding that if you destroy the steering system, you use that hole to attach a line to the rudder to steer, or that is why the hole is there. My understanding is it's never been used though...
Thank you. I wondered what that hole was for, but would not have thought of this.

Thanks again. I hope I never need it.
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Old 24-10-2015, 12:25   #14
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

A pilot and auxilary rudder vane combo is great.

Set the pilot for a twenty degree off course variation and it will sit dormant until you broach hard then the pilot wakes up and helps the vane fight the vessel back on course.

My nephew lost his rudder last week in the Alinuihaha. It sheared right the
F off. He only wished he'd opted for an auxilary rudder type vane over the servo pendulum he bought. 70s era Islander 30 with free hanging rudder. Bad....

The old drag the bucket worked to get them outside Maalaia.
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Old 24-10-2015, 13:46   #15
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Re: Two Autopilots vs One Autopilot and a Windvane?

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Originally Posted by wegman View Post

Some feel that the best strategy in a survival storm is heaving to (see Adlard Coles' classic "Heavy Weather Sailing"). If I was crossing an ocean, I would be very glad to have that hole and I would pre-position lines that could be set up to secure my rudder in the unlikely event of needing to heave to in extreme conditions.

I hadn't thought about it to secure the rudder if Hove to, but I do agree on pre-positioning the lines, I have never tried but doubt it would be possible to get a line secured in that hole without almost getting into the water, something I'd be hesitant to do in a real storm


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