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Old 07-03-2011, 22:41   #1
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Auto Pilot vs Self-Steering Vane

I always assumed I would have a self steering vane but in the recent solar threads people have said that solar is keeping up with their autopilot needs on long passages. Is this true?


If so, which option is better and why. We'll have about a 40' and plan to circumnavigate mostly along the equator but will head south to the cape of good hope and north to the the north sea.

Thank you in advance for any help.
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Old 07-03-2011, 22:57   #2
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

My 75-watt Siemens certainly doesn't keep up with my autopilot, but that doesn't mean more powerful solar systems can't.

I have three systems now. I have an autopilot, a windvane and a small tiller pilot that works with my windvane. Almost enough...

Windvanes are fine when the wind is blowing. I have been amazed at how much we are forced to motor.
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Old 07-03-2011, 23:11   #3
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

I believe an autopilot is almost a necessary component and a wind vane is optional. If you're ever forced to motor for a long distance, a wind vane is worthless while an autopilot will help reduce skipper and crew fatigue. On a long, blue water passage, a wind vane is great but I doubt that the cost/benefit ratio ever works out. That is, if you were to spend $4,000 on a wind vane, that same money would pay for a significant amount of diesel fuel that the autopilot would draw in engine-produced electricity. Or perhaps some will question the reliability of electric autopilots. The fact is that wind vanes fail, too. An autopilot will steer you by a compass course while the wind vane will steer you by wind direction.

If a wind vane would fit on my boat, I'd consider installing one. Since it won't, we'll remain ardent fans of our autopilot.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 07-03-2011, 23:20   #4
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

We had a windvane and tiller pilot on our Express 37 for a doublehandled trans-pac. The windvane was perfect when the apparent wind was forward of the quarters. When it was directly, or almost directly astern, it didn't work well at all so we removed the wind paddle and used a tiller pilot to drive the wind vane, which worked great. The tiller pilot's power consumption was minimal. Our solar panels were of limited help as we never saw the sun for the entire crossing. If I were to do it again, I would use the tiller pilot + wind vane the whole way and get a wind generator.
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Old 08-03-2011, 00:11   #5
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

We have both. I added the wind vane as a back up to our auto pilot, but it works so well, even downwind that we use it all the time except when motoring. We have the Monitor.
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:13   #6
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

Both is best, because one will break!
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:27   #7
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pirate Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

I prefer boats with tillers....
A Vane for my boat would cost $2000+/-....
for that money I can buy 2 tiller pilots and the panels for less than $1000... one for back up.
I've delivered two boats with vanes...
both were broken and had a tiller pilot with pulley system to operate them...
thats the problem with wheels...
costs a fortune just to look salty on a little boat...
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Old 08-03-2011, 08:45   #8
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

I haven't gone around the world, but chose an autopilot, rather than windvane. My solar panels run it with no problem.

I have about 20,000 miles on this one with no problems, but being a tri, with a huge skeg hung rudder and totally balanced sailplan, it is a perfect application for an autopilot. The lightly loaded wheel only moves about 2" every 10 seconds or so.

Either can break, but the windvane is less likely to, and perhaps more easily repaired.
On the other hand, you can carry an entire extra wheel pilot, with spare parts to boot. Also, the auto pilot works motoring in a calm, or down wind in light air, when a wind vane would not.

The autopilot was the right choice for us.

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Old 08-03-2011, 08:59   #9
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

There's also the chartplotter, lights, radar, radios... electrical consumption tends to be higher while underway, with or without an autopilot. So maybe a wind turbine?

Another solution: I have friends who use a towed generator for long passages. Their solar panels are adequate when they're on the hook or coastal cruising.
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Old 08-03-2011, 09:46   #10
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimbim View Post
I have three systems now. I have an autopilot, a windvane and a small tiller pilot that works with my windvane. Almost enough...

Windvanes are fine when the wind is blowing. I have been amazed at how much we are forced to motor.
Have you ever used the tiller pilot while motoring. Could you if you didn't have another auto-pilot?
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Old 08-03-2011, 13:27   #11
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

Quote:
Originally Posted by capt.cam View Post
I always assumed I would have a self steering vane but in the recent solar threads people have said that solar is keeping up with their autopilot needs on long passages. Is this true?
Why not? If there is sun ...

I would always prefer a wind steering system as they are silent and more repairable than electronics/electrics.

b.
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Old 08-03-2011, 13:34   #12
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pirate Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

Quote:
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?
Tied into the Vane system it works a treat... if the pulleys are set right..
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Old 08-03-2011, 14:12   #13
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

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Originally Posted by boatman61 View Post
Tied into the Vane system it works a treat... if the pulleys are set right..
So it's like a backup auto-pilot. I just installed a monitor but don't have a tiller pilot. Was thinking of ST1000..
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Old 08-03-2011, 14:15   #14
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pirate Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

If its just working your Vane rudder that should do you fine..
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Old 08-03-2011, 14:24   #15
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Re: auto pilot vs. self steering vane

How about both? I have seen it.
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