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Old 02-01-2013, 16:42   #31
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Mike, you simply cannot compare an Aries vane to a X5 AP. The X5 is nowhere near the same playing field as windvanes and below deck pilots. If you were comparing the Aries to a below deck Simrad or Raymarine or etc, then your experiences would be more valid. Most boats going offshore would not be relying on an X5 as a primary AP.

Or at least they shouldn't be...
I completely agree Mark, which is why I specified the basis of my experience. As I said, I don't have the option of installing a below-deck AP -- if I could, I likely would. The X-5 is not in the same league as a quality below-deck ram AP. Regardless, I believe I would still choose a vane first, and AP second IF I had to make a choice.

My primary recommendation remains to have both.
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Old 02-01-2013, 17:04   #32
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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I bought a hydraulic Simrad HLD350 linear drive with the intent of swapping that for the 6 month old Raymarine linear drive, but may hold off if the linear drives aren't typically weak points. We are a modern fin keel/spade rudder, and when I tried the emergency tiller, very little force was needed to keep the boat on course. If most people don't have problems with the Raymarine drive, I'll just save the glass work and sell the Simrad unit.
This is only my opinion:

I don't much like Raymarine equipment and during our recent complete electronic refit did not put any Raymarine stuff on the boat except for a Raymarine linear drive. It is controlled by a Simrad AP computer. We had a B&G hydraulic ram previously, but never liked the drag on the steering it produced when in standby. The Simrad ram may not be as bad, but in doing lots of research, I never found much reliability issue with the Raymarine linear drive and many examples of it operating for many years across oceans. The RM drive is lighter and much quieter than our B&G drive, has no noticeable drag on the steering and uses less power on average (although that may actually be a function of the new AP computer and not the drive itself). In particular, it is much quieter - our drive is located under our berth and the hydraulic drive was very loud and could be heard in the cockpit, but we don't hear the RM drive at all when our heads are right over it.

So we were happy to buy and install Raymarine's linear drive even though we wouldn't have any of their other equipment on board.

Mark
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Old 02-01-2013, 17:36   #33
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

We have both. I would say that having both is the most common arrangement for monohulls we have met in the S Pacific so far although some people have one or the other.

I agree that we don't know enough from the OP to give an opinion, but I thought I would add another issue to consider:

- How do you feel about mechanical noise while you are sailing? I hate it and so I hate having the autopilot on while we are sailing.
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Old 02-01-2013, 17:40   #34
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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So one would think that in a cruising anchorage there would be that ratio of boats with wind vanes.

Taking a look out the door ( and its Key West mooring field so is that cruiserville?) there are 50 sailing boats and only one (1) with what looks like a wind vane... Ad that wind vane looks dismantled.

In the Caribbean there may be a few more but not 10% of boats. In the Pacific and the furtherest reaches of cruising boat you might find 10% but only the old boats.

I have ever only seen one or two with a wind vane on a swim platform.

So instead of going and buying something that costs MORE than an autopilot I would seriously wonder why you should if most, 90% don't have one a wind vane.

Mark
Mark - Did you make a type error? If not, I respectfully disagree. There are way more than 10% of the boats in French Poly with windvanes! And they aren't just on old crusty boats...or old crusty people's boats
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Old 02-01-2013, 20:11   #35
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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How do you feel about mechanical noise while you are sailing? I hate it and so I hate having the autopilot on while we are sailing.
+1 on that Livia
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Old 02-01-2013, 20:38   #36
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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Mark - Did you make a type error? If not, I respectfully disagree. There are way more than 10% of the boats in French Poly with windvanes! And they aren't just on old crusty boats...or old crusty people's boats
No, no typo. If you are there in FP stick your head out and count them up.

Anyone else count, too, and tell us where you are.
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Old 02-01-2013, 20:56   #37
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

We have very little if any noise from our Hyd AP what type of AP do you have thats that noisey ?? Just wondering for future knowage !
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Old 02-01-2013, 22:23   #38
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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What are the most common failures on modern autopilots?
I would have an entire spare system. I don't yet as I don't have any long passages planned. But I will soon. The most fragile part is the control panel in my experience. Button and knob failures. Water ingestion. Waterproof Raymarine junk needs to be kept mostly dry - if that makes any sense.
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Old 02-01-2013, 22:33   #39
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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No, no typo. If you are there in FP stick your head out and count them up.

Anyone else count, too, and tell us where you are.
We're not in French Poly right now but I thought of the 5 boats we talked to most often in this year's "puddle jump" crowd and they are:

Sockdolager - Cape Horn
Cheers - Monitor
Southern Cross - Hydrovane
Wondertime - None
Convivia - Monitor

4 out of 5

And you can add us, Estrellita - Hydrovane.

5 out of 6 is definitely an overestimate because those are all monohulls and so few cats use them, and I know there are monohulls who traversed with an autopilot only but to say that 90% of boats in the S Pacific are autopilot only...doesn't make sense to me.
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Old 02-01-2013, 22:47   #40
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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We have very little if any noise from our Hyd AP what type of AP do you have thats that noisey ?? Just wondering for future knowage !
Your "little noise" might be my "mechanical noise" - it's not terribly loud, it just isn't the sound of nature.

But to answer your question we have an Alpha unit with a newer Raymarine "brain". I love having the autopilot, and we use it more than our windvane because we use it on all day sails and most overnights but we don't use it on passages longer than that unless we are motoring.
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Old 02-01-2013, 23:48   #41
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

So Key West has more APs. The isolated areas of the Pacific have more windvanes. Seems logical. If you are going to cruise within a few 100 miles of support and spares, you can skip the windvane and go with the AP. If going a long way from civilization, you will want many spares for the AP (complete second system?) or just a windvane and a few tools.

Better to have both. I regard the fact that we, on a cat, canīt have a windvane as annoying. I would prefer a windvane to the B&G AP we currently use. We had serious issues with the AP in 2012 when we didn't carry enough spares. I, as the cheap-arsed skipper, was to blame!

On our previous boat, a mono, we had both windvane and AP and eventually sold the AP because we just didnīt use it. The servo pendulum windvane was far better.

It is pure, semi-spiritual, engineering magic to watch a windvane in action. Going to windward, when it takes advantage of every lift, is simply beautiful. And if it breaks, you can immediately see with your eyes what is wrong. When the AP breaks down, you then begin a long trouble shooting process that often ends up with "yeah, that little black box/circuit board/gizmo is rooted, we have the other 2 black boxes/circuit boards/gizmos onboard, but not that one."
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Old 03-01-2013, 01:31   #42
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

G'Day All,

Jimbo's post 43 sums it up well IMO. It is certainly true that modern a/p are more reliable, steer better and have more bells and whistles than their predecessors... but to say that they don't give problems is refuted in every anchorage on the long term cruising itinerary. They sure as hell are not infallible! And carryong lots of spares is expensive, too.

On our previous boat we had both a home designed and built vane and an Autohelm 3000 a/p. We used the a/p a lot coastally, but the vane steered somewhere around 50,000 of our 86,000 miles in that boat. I loved that vane. Being home built, we had some mechanical failures in the early years, but I could fix all of them myself, and did so. The a/p had a few failures too, and I couldn't fix any of them! Ended up carrying a lot of bits and pieces so that I could swap parts when required, and that sometimes worked.

On Insatiable II we have only a/ps, and it is a worry to me. There are two complete under-deck control systems, both hooked to a huge Whitlock rotary drive, and an Autohelm 4000 tiller pilot which only works in light conditions. The principle a/p (Navman 3100G) works pretty well on our fairly twitchy boat, but at the cost of a lot of amp-hours. I wish that I had a wind vane much of the time... the boat surfs readily, and a windvane is kinda dicey under those conditions, but the rest of the time it would be a joy to me.

So, I would have to vote in the "both" camp, even though I'm not currently putting my money where my vote is!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 03-01-2013, 06:06   #43
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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Water ingestion. Waterproof Raymarine junk needs to be kept mostly dry - if that makes any sense.
Having delivered a few dozen boats mostly with Raymarine instruments, Id have to profoundly disagree.

Dave
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Old 03-01-2013, 17:52   #44
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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Having delivered a few dozen boats mostly with Raymarine instruments, Id have to profoundly disagree.

Dave
Well, I reckon that delivering a boat and owning one for some years are different experiences, Dave. I have owned several wheel and tiller pilots by Autohelm/Ray Marine and all but one have had water intrusion problems, both in the drives and in the control heads. These were on our previous two boats, both of which were somewhat wet in snotty weather, and both of which did a lot of sea miles.

Our present boat, very much drier on deck and in the cockpit, has a A/H ST4000 tiller pilot for light conditions and it has survived for many years (with the occasional replacement motor or wormscrew in the drive).

I sure wouldn't have rated these units as waterproof!

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 04-01-2013, 03:29   #45
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

Again, wheelpilots and tillerpilots cannot be compared to real below deck pilots any more than a windvane can be compared to sheet-to-tiller self steering. Their performance and build quality is so far removed from a real AP that they are actually different beasts altogether.

A theme coming up often in this thread is that those slagging AP's base most of their experience on "toys", and not real AP's.

How much of a lack of waterproofing and lack of performance do you think the Vendee Globe and other RTW racers tolerate?

Mark
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