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
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
, main, and asymmetrical spinnaker
, but as I was racing
a friend I was hand steering.
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