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Old 07-07-2011, 22:19   #1
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NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Performance / Reliability review on the NORVANE WINDVANE

I get more questions about the Norvane than any other piece of equipment on the boat. Iím also sure this is the one item that I use more than any other single piece of equipment! I used to try to respond to all the emails and then I got behind so to put my mind at ease Iím going to give as honest and detailed a review as I possibly can on this item.


For starters, itís great. If you are sailing far on a small boat go buy one, you need it. Now for the details. I originally bought it because James Baldwin (Atom Voyages | Voyaging Around the World on the Sailboat Atom) told me to and I was consulting him throughout my refit. I had a beat up old Aries that I purchased used for $500 or so and it needed at the very least to be rebuilt and mounted, but might have need repairs as well. James said to sell it and buy a Norvane or ďbetter yet, buy a monitorĒ he said. I guess overall as much as I like the Norvane the Monitor is probably a better piece of equipment, but probably not better value. I think the Norvane was advertised for around $1700 just BEFORE I bought it, and when I finally got my order in the price was around $2100, if memory serves. I think the monitor is over $5000. Plus the Norvane weighs significantly less, something to consider seriously if you are mounting on a boat around 30í or smaller. If you are going to sail across oceans you have to buy the spare parts kit $150 and I also bought the Tiller-arm for emergency steering for $180, but I havenít tested it to see if it would actually steer the boat without modification.


I was able to get the vane to work right away, no problems. I did have James helping me with it on a few short sails around the bay. Initially it was a little tough to get it to perform the way I wanted it to down wind, at all wind speeds, but I eventually got it to work beautifully. It was mostly a matter of adjustment, weather helm, sail configuration and not over-powering. It loves to sail wing on wing. And after several thousand miles I was able to get the thing to steer straight on ALL points of sail, even while furling the head sail, jybing the head sail, or even setting and removing the whisker poke, AND reefing and dropping the main. Point is once you get the hang of it you can make it work under almost any conditions. Sometimes downwind you do get 10 to 15 deg of swerving off course to either side (so up to 30í total) especially in a swell but I donít think that is the vanes fault when you consider that as the boat speed increases down a swell the apparent wind moves forward and changes the course plus the roll of the boat can influence the wind paddle and course. I still used my Raymarine tiller pilot when there was apparent wind of less than 5kts, BUT I could get the Norvane to steer more or less even then if I tinkered with it enough and re-adjusted it every 10 minutes, again not its fault, when the wind was that light the direction and velocity was often unsteady so sometimes I just used the electric auto-pilot because I was lazy. Most sane sailors would have started the motor way before that point anyway as I was sailing at one to two knots, anything faster and the vane was working fine.


The most wind the vane ever saw was about 45kts sustained in 15í seas. I think I uploaded a video of this to my video section on photobucket found on the photos link on the home page. Anyway before the storm passed I was down to bare poles and running dead down wind at over 5kts with the vane steering once again, wonderfully. I was going to deploy some type of warps to slow down if the wind got any stronger but I didnít have to and I had no problems going to bed, never even felt like I was going to broach.
The last words of praise is that on several passages I was in radio communication with friends on other yachts, some with Aries, some with Monitors, and other vanes, and I donít remember many (if any) situations where the other boats were reporting steering performance as good as mine on our daily chats. Often times my friends would be complaining about how hard it was to steer or how they had switched to their electric autopilots while the Norvane was giving me no problems at all. I rarely used the Windvane with the spinnaker unless I had the jib poled out on the other side to balance things, and then it worked great and the boat was very very stable and fast with this Ďtwin head sailí configuration using the Cruising shoot poled out to the boom with no main up and full 145% genoa on the whisker pole. Once I even put the main up as well so all three full sails, jib, main, and asymmetrical spinnaker, but as I was racing a friend I was hand steering.


RELIABILITY:
It only really broke one time. There was a few adjustments and tweaks in the beginning mostly regarding the leads of the steering lines. Sometimes they would pop off of one of the blocks but again, that hasnít been much of an issue once it was finally adjusted properly. No doubt there has been several passages where I went many days without ever touching the vane. The installation was straightforward as well.
I do remember that one of the main stainless pieces (a tube) was a little (very little) crooked, that bothered me at first but that hasnít seemed to affect anything so far after well over 10,000 Nautical miles. The one time it did actually break it was a small bearing. I would have fixed it offshore as I had a spare form the spare kit I bought but I was only 100 miles from Fiji and didnít want to risk loosing more parts. Once I got into Fiji I took the entire vane off (in like 10 minutes) just removing it from the mounting brackets that stayed in place on the boat. With the vane in my cockpit and a good mechanically inclined friend (Phil from Happy Ours) to help, we replaced the bearing in something like 30 minutes, I think I would have had the same result on my own but it might have taken me (Iím not so mechanically inclined) a few hours.


I think Norvane offered to replace the part if I paid for the shipping but when I finally had family flying to Australia to deliver it, Norvane stopped answering my emails, in fact writing this reminded me and prompted me to email them again today, well see what happens as I donít think they answered any of my last two emails of the last month or so. I wonder if they are responding to people that want to buy new vanes? <UPDATE THEY NEVER RESPONDED, but found time to post a positive reply to this ame review that I posted on my website (www.sailingSalsa.com) .. weird must not have read the entire thing where i mention i was trying to reach them>

So in summary, I am happy with the vane. I think it performs as good as any other one out there based upon my observations. The one bearing that broke seems perfectly reasonable as it was in the spare kit, and was easy to fix, plus this was after 10,000 miles. Iíll keep updating this if there is anything new to report. Hope this review is useful to you.

You can contact Norvane at NORVANE Self-Steering Wind Vane. Stainless steel, servo-pendulum. Powerful, sturdy and reliable for sailboats 20í to 60í
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Old 07-07-2011, 23:35   #2
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Thanks for doing this review, Kirk! I was planning to buy a Norvane, but couldn't find any evaluations from owners - other than on the manufacturer's site - and ended up buying a used Aries. After reading your post, I'm tempted to sell the Aries & buy a Norvane. Do you know whether they do installs at/near their factory site? Regardless, it is good to have reviews on an item that is much less expensive than the competitors!
Mike
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Old 08-07-2011, 01:31   #3
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

If they do any installations I am not aware of them. I was using Sailing Guru, James Baldwin (Atom Voyages | Voyaging Around the World on the Sailboat Atom) as a consultant / broker during my purchase and installation but he only works in GA, you might want to give him an email, however he might not reply right away as the last time I spoke with him online he wasn't available to check online frequently at the moment. Good luck.
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Old 13-11-2012, 11:03   #4
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

I have a deposit down on a Monitor, but after finding out & reading about the Norvane, I think I may switch.

I hate to say this, but the reason is cost. I am planning to start a circumnavigation in March, and I think Monitor is the best, but I am counting my pennies and the Norvane may win out.

Any other opinions on them either way?
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Old 13-11-2012, 11:56   #5
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Had a Monitor on my older boat a Bristol 32, worked flawlessly BUT I think it's too much for a small boat. My Bristol definitely didn't sit even in the water- bow raised up some.

there was a Caliber 33 in my old marina that also had a Monitor - also sat heavy down in the stern.

I see that you have a Westsail 28 - their great self steering vanes, but I think there much better on larger boats.
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Old 13-11-2012, 18:46   #6
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

I just got an email that this thread was active again and noticed that my last review was after 10,000 miles, and now i'm about 1000 miles from finishing the single-handed circumnavigation (on an Alberg 30) and thought I would give an update since I now have more like 30,000 miles on the Norvane, 3 times more than the first review. I can't remember what I wrote in the first review and I was too long winded so I don't have time to read it but here are the basics.

Still love the Norvane. Still no major failures, only one or two of those little bearings that come with the pares anyway and unexpectedly, a few of the main delrin bushings that was not included. I discovered this before arriving at Saint Helena dead smack in the middle of the southern Atlantic between South Africa and Brazil. The bushing did not fail, it just wore enough to make the vane slugish and non-responsive but kept working as long as I averaged more like 4kts rather than the normal 5. They were big seas form two directions and the boat wanted to surf plus a broad reach, so I'm actually impressed how well it did and I made it to Saint Helena no problem and probably could have but didn't want to carry on to Brazil like that. Here is the cool thing. This time Norvane responded quickly to my email and offered to send new bushings at no cost, wow. Changing them out would have been quite easy as well even in the terrible anchorage in St. Helena. BUT there is no airport and the supply ship was going into dry-dock so I couldn't have gotten them for over a month. I had a local machine shop make them (three of them I think) and it was something like $50USD parts and labor. Phill at Norvane still sent replacements to a friend of mine in the US to forward to me later but I'm still going on the machined ones as they are fine and have not had anyone visit or been anywhere where it's easy to get a parcel.

On a side note, I do think it is a lot lighter than monitor but its certainly strong enough. I took a hit from the rear underway from 44 ft catamaran on an inland waterway, bent the thing, and with some effort I managed to get the thing bent back into shape and working perfectly again. The other captain offered to pay for new parts but I saw no need and its fine now. I also took a hard hit from a fully loaded Dow in madagscar, took out my pushpit, bent the solar panel mounts and the norvane absorbed part of the blow but only suffered a small dent on the mounting tubes, still works great.

Lastly, speaking of value, in my opinion, when you pay the extra money for a Monitor, your not just paying for extra quality, your probably paying a LOT for the name an reputation. So many have been around the world and beyond that they can demand a very high premium. Same may be the case with the Norvane, I know they have raised the prices at least once, probably several times as they start to grow a reputation as well. As for now I think it's still a serious bargain and possibly even better suited for smaller boats than the one-size-fits-all Monitor. Just be sure to get the spare parts and also order spare bushings as well, just in case, if you are planning to put some serious mileage on it as I did. As always sorry for the long-winded review update but if your thinking of buying one I'm sure you want to hear all the details. OH, I think uploaded some videos of the vane in action here;

Passage from Brazil to Trinidad pictures by kirkalittle - Photobucket

Good luck either way! -Kirk, www.SailingSalsa.com
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Old 13-11-2012, 20:17   #7
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Will contact them,thanks.marc ps which unit do you have?
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Old 14-11-2012, 18:05   #8
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Great page Kirk!

I watch all your vids last night.

Thinking the Norvane is gonna go on the back of my Westsail.
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Old 14-11-2012, 23:14   #9
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Well spent all day attempting to contact them.Numerous calls,messages no return.They do exist?Am going to try again in the am.Have to admit if it takes this long to acquire data to purchase one little concerned if there is a problem.marc
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Old 16-11-2012, 07:26   #10
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

I sent a contact message via there webpage, then two days later called and got a generic answering machine.

Still nothing.
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Old 16-11-2012, 19:14   #11
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Was ready to buy one but going to look for something else.If service before the sale sucks you know after you are screwed.marc
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Old 17-11-2012, 06:38   #12
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Hoping they are just closed during Thanksgiving time.....
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Old 17-11-2012, 16:27   #13
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

If you really want the norvane you have to consider a few things. I think i mentioned a minor gripe in my first review where I had difficulties contacting Norvane as well. When you refer to "them" Norvane might be more like just one guy, but I'm not sure. I only ever dealt with Phill Seargent, and I know he is a sailor as well so he could even be out cruising or delivery or might not be even be running things full time. I don't want to make excuses for him because availability for orders and support is part of a business and there are certainly some gaps missing in those areas of customer service. On the other hand he has been extremely helpful when I did eventually manage to reach him. So I guess the point of this little ramble is that 'it is what it is'. If you want a team of people who are going to answer your calls promptly then you might consider something else but it I still feel there is very good value here and I'm not one of those folks that write positive reviews of everything have just because I bought it and need to feel good about it. Just sayin :-)
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Old 17-11-2012, 17:57   #14
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

I received a message from Kirk about the issues you're having contacting Norvane. Phil Sargant who runs the business mostly by himself is out of the country on vacation for one month until about the first or second week of December.

One reason he has been able to keep prices down I feel is because he doesn't spend much money on office staff, advertising and the like. It would be nice if his website got updated to notify people when he is unavailable, but again, more money for a webmaster.

I've been a dealer for Norvane for a few years and installed several units, including one to replace the monitor on my Pearson Triton, Atom, so if you have any questions that can't wait you can email me thru atomvoyages.com. For some reason lately I'm not receiving emails from hotmail senders, otherwise I'll get back to you within a day or two. I only resell to local customers in GA so you'll still order direct from Norvane if you decide to purchase when Phil returns.

James Baldwin
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Old 17-11-2012, 19:20   #15
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Re: NORVANE WINDVANE Performance / Reliability review

Do not need a webmaster to change a ph. message.marc
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