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Old 08-03-2011, 14:51   #16
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

Both have their place. If you find yourself motoring a lot, you'll want an autopilot. If you find yourself sailing a lot, the wind vane is much better.

A lot of the problems folks have with wind vanes (in my opinion) are because they have ones that don't fit their boat properly. Some of the newer models out there are designed to operate in much less wind and work a much heavier rudder.

Autopilots have a much shorter life expectancy than a wind vane and for the most part are not user serviceable.
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Old 08-03-2011, 15:11   #17
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pirate Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

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Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
Both have their place. If you find yourself motoring a lot, you'll want an autopilot. If you find yourself sailing a lot, the wind vane is much better.

A lot of the problems folks have with wind vanes (in my opinion) are because they have ones that don't fit their boat properly. Some of the newer models out there are designed to operate in much less wind and work a much heavier rudder.

Autopilots have a much shorter life expectancy than a wind vane and for the most part are not user serviceable.
Rebel... you have your opinion but... for the price of a vane I can buy 8 tiller pilots... my current one is 5yrs old.... so do the sums...
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Old 08-03-2011, 15:19   #18
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

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Rebel... you have your opinion but... for the price of a vane I can buy 8 tiller pilots... my current one is 5yrs old.... so do the sums...
They're two different products (a windvane vs. an autopilot), and not everyone has a tiller so they're using the belt-around-the-wheel thing. I'm not knocking autopilots in entirety: I've been quite happy to have one when motoring around.

They both outshine each other in different scenarios, so whichever ones you find yourself in more often should probably guide the decision of which to get.

In regards to cost, again it depends on the vessel. We have a heavy displacement vessel with worm steering so there's no recommended option for us that's under $2K on the low side. We're using one that's not designed for a vessel as large as ours and it shows, but a solid wind vane can be had for around double that. So the pricing really isn't that far off.
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Old 08-03-2011, 15:36   #19
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

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Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post

Autopilots have a much shorter life expectancy than a wind vane and for the most part are not user serviceable.
As a note; My Monitor came with a parts-kit for almost a complete rebuild of the moving parts, as well as a spare down tube.
Here's a couple videos of a wind vane in use. Just turn off the sound, I'm just jabbering.
I've also sailed straight before the wind in a 5kt breeze. The steering does zigzag a bit but does stay on course in the long run. I will eventually set up the elect. tiller pilot to operate the monitor for motoring.





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Old 08-03-2011, 17:29   #20
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

IIRC Beth and Evan's use a vane with a tiller pilot lash up.

Our bigger boat came with an Aries from when it was new in '87. Some connections were pretty well frozen up but I got it all apart and free. I have not had an opportunity to try it out yet.

This boat has a very unusual steering rig. It has a wheel in the center cockpit but also it had a permanently mounted 6'+ long tiller. The Aries connected to the tiller about 3 feet out and steered the boat. I assume that this worked fine as it would have been super simple to change the attachment point and thus the leverage. Since the boat has been across the Atlantic 3 times with this rig I gotta believe it works just swell. I will try it this season.

But that big tiller would sweep the aft deck, and it was real low so it would have been a bear to hand steer with it. Impossible to do standing up.

So I made a two part tiller out of steel, the first part is a straight box the same outside dimensions as the wood tiller. The second part fits into it with a socket and bends up to waist high. The second half stores on top of the fist half when not in use thus I get my deck back. Fitted it out and drilled the holes over the weekend, works fine, only lacks paint.

This boat does not have an autopilot and I will likely install a tiller pilot to the vane for self steering.

This is an old photo of the boat but I think you can see the wood tiller OK.
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Old 28-03-2011, 15:16   #21
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

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Have you ever used the tiller pilot while motoring. Could you if you didn't have another auto-pilot?
Yes, it works, though not nearly as precisely as the autopilot. Takes patience and fiddling, but uses a hell of a lot less power. I have two friends with vanes who only use them with tiller pilots.

The autopilot is wonderful, but not an option for us on long-distance sails. Uses far too much power (I only have four Trojan 105s in our little boat).
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Old 28-03-2011, 15:45   #22
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

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Originally Posted by PamlicoTraveler View Post
Have you ever used the tiller pilot while motoring. Could you if you didn't have another auto-pilot?
We use a tiller pilot rather than a more complicated wheel solution. A lack of wind her is forcing us to motor with the tiller pilot here.

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Old 29-03-2011, 07:49   #23
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Re: Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

I feel (for although I have a wind vane I have yet to field-test it as the boat's out of the water) that a "tiller solution" is not only easier to service, it is easier to tweak, because even a slight oscillation in a tiller's swing is going to be noticeable rather than reacting via compass readings to a wheel's evolutions.

So yes to a wheel for active steering if you HAVE a wheel, but if you can run a windvane with a tiller (and some boats are going to have physical constraints on this), I prefer to do this in theory with a tiller.

For this I blame Tony Meisel and experiments with shock cord and sheets on my tiller-steered sloop.
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Old 29-03-2011, 08:29   #24
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Re: Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

Go for both. We have a 30 year old autopilot, a Benmar Cetek, that keeps on ticking as long as it gets to visit its home factory every five years or so. Our Saye's Rig will sail the boat for days without a complaint as long as we balance the sails first. We use the autopilot under sail when the seas are choppy enough prevent balancing the rig enough for the Saye's. Sicne we have hydraulic steering we have two separate cut off systems for the hydraulics, one to disengage ti completely for the Saye's and the other to divert it to the Benmar. I am sure the draw from the Benmar is greater than today's modern electronic autopilots but we've gone for days without depleting the batteries.
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Old 29-03-2011, 23:51   #25
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Re: Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

I think that one of the things most people overlook when choosing an autopilot is rough weather.

Motoring can be boring when you are steering by hand, but it is not nearly as exhausting as steering in really rough weather while the seas are trying to push the rudder around on you.

When we installed the autopilot in our Vagabond 42 we used the properly sized/geared motor for the system. The first time we ran into a bad storm, the system was unable to handle the forces needed to control the boat, and hand steering for three days straight nearly broke all four of us.

We immediately upgraded the motor to 2 sizes larger, and increased the gearing ratio by 2X. This made for a much more reliable system for when you REALY need it, worn out in BAD weather.

Of course the upgraded motor put a considerable drain on the electrical system, especially when under strain, but it worked. The next 2 storms we were in for a total of over 25 days, we never had to steer by hand once.

I am opting for a wind vane for my current boat as they have proven their ability to control the steering in nearly all conditions, (except very light wind), and especially wen the going gets tough and the body MUST get some rest.
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Old 30-03-2011, 11:31   #26
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Re: Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

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Originally Posted by rustypirate View Post
I am opting for a wind vane for my current boat as they have proven their ability to control the steering in nearly all conditions, (except very light wind), and especially wen the going gets tough and the body MUST get some rest.
I'm able to sail before the wind in as low as 5 kt with the Monitor. It does zig zag a bit, but does average itself out over a long distance, kind of a serpentine track.
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Old 30-03-2011, 12:04   #27
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Re: Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

NOISE.autopilots make noise.so good for motoring .
Windvanes in light air might squeak but it's "boaty".Slow sailing is better than motoring if you have the inclination,but using an autopilot for this wrecks it.

You can make a windvane.
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Old 30-03-2011, 13:52   #28
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Re: Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

Since we have a CC, autopilot is the way we go.
For the noise issue, I guess if I raise the mattress off the bink, I might be able to hear it. Don't hear it when head on pillow sleeping above it.
Power consumption depends how well the boats balanced, just as a wind vane works better .
Plus, with limitations, it will maintain the track set on the Garmin..
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Old 30-03-2011, 18:57   #29
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Re: Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

I can't hear my CPT autopilot, but then it doesn't have to work too hard since it's just moving the hydraulic pump input(wheel) that powers the hydraulic cylinder that turns the rudder shaft. That said, I hated the noise on the old boat with the rack and pinion, never used it sailing.
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Old 30-03-2011, 19:29   #30
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Re: Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

CPT autopilot? Man, that's old school! I last read about them in a 1980s cruising book about a guy who had a Mars Vigil Radar...not sure if it smelled like chocolate.

Glad to hear it still works. I have a very old Autohelm 1000 as a tiller pusher...it's fiddly but functional.
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