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Old 04-01-2013, 05:33   #46
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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.
Hardly any here. In a marina in London

From memory it seemed to be more to do with where you are and how rich the boats around you are, Brazil had a lot of windvanes, less so in the caribbean. I've got the best of both worlds, aries with a cheap tiller pilot hooked up to it for motoring. Except the tiller pilot keeps breaking. The most autopilots I've ever seen in one place was the back room in Mays chandlers in Horta, Shelves stacked high with broken bits of autopilot.

Personally, off the beaten track at all I wouldn't like to be without a windvane. At least you'll still be able to get it working a bit with some bits of string and tie wraps. Once an electronic bit goes you're stuck for weeks hoping that the overnight delivery spare part might actually turn up in some office or other in whatever country you happen to be in. Same with power, when your batteries start to fail and you want to get across just one more stretch of water to a place where decent replacements are available.
For long distance self sufficiency , gotta be wind.
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Old 04-01-2013, 06:56   #47
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

Hey when you do the look around to see how many boats have vanes, take note of the boat age.

I would make a guess that most vanes are on older boats and most newer boats wouldn't have one. I bet this has more to do with APs being poor and exepensive back at the time the vane was installed. I bet this has more to do with the topic than anything else.
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Old 04-01-2013, 10:08   #48
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

I just completed a 5000 mile solo voyage, SF - Kauai - SF. The trip down was a race, the trip back was a solo fishing excursion. My boat is 34', 10000 lbs. I carried the following AP's:

RM X5 comtroller with tiller drive unit.
Home made hydraulic drive, above deck, quick tiller disconnect, Type 1 drive, Teleflex hydraulic cylinder.
Home made gyro pilot control unit with tweaks for downwind optimization.
Alternate electric tiller drive unit, again DIY, above deck and connectable to tiller pilot mounting points.
Lastly an ST2000+ tiller pilot.
200 watts of solar panel.

I traded off operation between the RM controller and the DIY controller, the later taking the helm in heavier conditions with the kite up. I also traded off the hydraulics for the X5 tiller unit from time to time. I estimate I put about 2000 miles on the tiller unit.

Failures: >an electrical connection, crimped butt connector, vibrated loose turning off the hydraulics, readily fixed in minutes. Use expoxy shrink tubing!
>X5 tiller drive failed 50 miles out of SF on return. Shaft unscrewed itself from the screw drive unit. No water intrusion (i had taped all joints, greased shaft, and kept a sunbrella sleeve over the unit at all times.
> Had to add hydraulic fluid twice, once each leg of trip.
> I manually disconnected the DIY controller when reaching into the on deck electronics box in the last days of trip. Repaired quickly.
> Since my return the Type 1 motor, new at the start, has had its brushes fail and is now replaced. I am very happy that did nt happen out there.

Conclusion: If I was going cruising I would likely get a wind vane as back up. I would carry two hydraulic pumps, both new, for an extensive sail. I would bring the solar charge level up to 300 watts at a minimum. Current draw on this trip required daily battery charging in race mode and a bit less in cruise mode. I estimate average current draw around 5 amps, this is with a kite up the majority of the time, or pretty stiff winds on tighter wind angles. Sunny days the solar panels kept up fine with the AP, but without sun charging was necessary about 3 times per day.
Brian s/v Red Sky
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Old 04-01-2013, 10:27   #49
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

when I was making my comments I was thinking of proper heavy duty underfloor APs drive units. I don't rate either direct wheel units or tiller pilots as being robust enough for long journeys.

dave
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Old 04-01-2013, 11:11   #50
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

The great wind vane story was that of the vessel, Bella Bartok. Her skipper suffered a massive infection along the route and had to be taken aboard a ship. The ship's Capt gave explicit instructions to the skipper on how to set up the wind vane and a single head sail to point the boat at Hawaii. The boat was rescued about 10 days later by fellow racers, with the help of USCG, and a fishing charter Capt, 12 miles off of Maui and sailed unscathed to Honolulu. This is also a great testament to satellite trackers.

Below deck units are not immune to failure. A close friend just completed his 6000 mile on a brand new below deck hydraulic install. It is a higher end Simrad and associated hydraulics. The hydraulic hose failed leaving he and wife hand steering for 600 miles, somewhere outside Panama in the Carib. [anecdotal]

In the race down to Hawaii there was a big variety of systems. The few failures I am aware of were due to lack of energy to keep up with the demands of the AP. There was one RM GP Tiller drive unit that tore itself apart. Everyone was carrying at least two complete AP's and then with spare drives. The units installed ranged from RM X5's to high end NKE and B&G with hydraulics, an Alpha, and several wind vanes.

My install is above deck for ease of access.Only the physical drives are exposed to the elements. All electronics and motors are ensconced in a water proof box about 20"x18"x8" handily placed under the tiller with a large WP inspection plate. The space below deck in the vicinity of the rudder post is a tight squeeze, and a rib breaker in heavy seas.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:14   #51
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

Interesting point regarding AP and wind vane servicing. It is actually easier (if more exciting for the person doing the repair!) to re-reeve control lines off the back of the boat on a wind vane in a seaway than it is to remount an AP, which is usually in a spot tight enough that you'd better hope that the person with the knowledge to fix the thing is also the smallest adult on board.

Again, wanting to have unrelated (vane plus line plus tiller AND AP plus hydraulics plus control head/fluxgate compass) methods of self-steering is not a knock on autopilots so much as it is an illustration that self-steering across oceans is NOT a place where you want a single point of failure.

It's a little easier for me: I have a vane and hydraulics and a tiller head on a transom-hung rudder. The boat is easily trimmed to steer itself inherently, so it's a matter of setting up the rudder, running the Spectra line and a quick adjustment on the vane by hand. Oh, and turning the hydraulics to "bypass". If I need to react quickly, I slip the vane line and use the tiller as per normal. It's a little beefy, but then the tiller is seven feet long, Viking style...

Hand-steering outside of squalls, light air or harbours is anathema to most cruisers, who find a watch is more successful if they aren't staring alternatively at the compass and their own knuckles.
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Old 04-01-2013, 12:50   #52
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

there were 2 boats here in zihuatenejo with vanes, so far, and the rest had ap.
i have a hydraulic autopile it--i enjoy that crewman's expertise in course holding and stay power.
i do not have a vane.
i sail a ketch--so i dont wish to use a vane. i have seen some ketches with them, but i dont feel the need for one. my simrad uses very very little electricity--and i keep spare oil with my spares.
i am most happy with my auto pile it. he holds course very well in 60+ kt winds. excellent item and perfect for my boat--even when sailing.
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Old 04-01-2013, 13:01   #53
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We've got a below decks pilot and a vane. For my money, they complement each other. We also carry a tiller pilot to control the vane on a compass course.
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Old 04-01-2013, 16:41   #54
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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there were 2 boats here in zihuatenejo with vanes, so far, and the rest had ap.
i have a hydraulic autopile it--i enjoy that crewman's expertise in course holding and stay power.
i do not have a vane.
i sail a ketch--so i dont wish to use a vane. i have seen some ketches with them, but i dont feel the need for one. my simrad uses very very little electricity--and i keep spare oil with my spares.
i am most happy with my auto pile it. he holds course very well in 60+ kt winds. excellent item and perfect for my boat--even when sailing.
Jib and jigger can work like a vane and I've seen ketches self-steer pretty well, and yawls likely have it even better. So I'm not surprised you don't see the need for one. Cutters and sloops, however, don't have quite that balance on most points of sail.
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Old 04-01-2013, 17:54   #55
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

I definitely want a windvane for anything longer than short two or three day hops between harbors, or singlehanding for more than a daysail. An autopilot is nice for motoring or coming into a harbor, but to me it's a convenience or luxury rather than a requirement.

I never want to hand steer for days on end again -- it so completely sucks...

It's interesting how different our ideas about being conservative or respectful to the sea are. From reading this forum I've learned that, compared to most people, I am nonchalant about weather forecasts in most of the world, but much more concerned about setting the boat up to work reasonably well without an electrical system. A windvane is a big part of that preparation, just like the big manual bilge pump, manual freshwater pump, and lots of waterproof flashlights and batteries. Maybe my imagination is too morbid and my risk assessment is unrealistic, but I've just assumed that I'd lose the electrical system in flood (or roll and flood), that while battening down the floorboards is a good safety detail during the roll or flood, I still want to then sail onward from that.
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Old 04-01-2013, 18:12   #56
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

I don't know if a wind vane is viable for a single hander.
I met someone who put her boat on a beach when she overslept and the wind have changed....

Really to use one someone does need to be on deck all the time.

Anyway, people can do have have what they like.
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Old 04-01-2013, 20:26   #57
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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I don't know if a wind vane is viable for a single hander.
I met someone who put her boat on a beach when she overslept and the wind have changed....
I have seen a RM autopilot do that as well. And the same woman now on her 3rd or 4th attempt around the world is still having autopilot problems on her RM pilot. Seems strange to me, but...

I am an autopilot person, although I have nothing at this time. I think that properly installed they are very reliable machines. I especially like the NKE, B&G and Simrad pilots. They seem very reliable. The older AutoHelm units were also very reliable (underdeck units) also. The biggest thing is proper installation and maintenance.
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Old 04-01-2013, 20:26   #58
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

Windvane or Autopilot

After over 30,000 miles crossing oceans I want both.
My first offshore boat I had 2 autopilots. After leaving Hawaii enroute to Vancouver both autopilots failed within the first week and no I didn't have spares as I felt the second one was a spare. My wife, Son and I hand steered for close to 2-1/2 weeks in real crappy weather.
My next boat had a brand new B&G below decks and a Hydrovane. I was using the autopilot during a heavy blow and the ram tore away from the plywood mount that was glassed to the hull. An easy fix once we got to land but the autopilot was finished. Poor workmanship on the install for sure and when I got back home you know who made a proper repair. The Hydrovane got us home with no problems although to be fair we had to carry less sail than we would have with the B&G.
The last boat had a Furuno auto pilot and an octopussy ram, they told me it could power a 80 foot fishing boat and it probably could (when it worked) I backed that up with a new Flemming Vane. Sailed all through the South and North Pacific for 3-1/2 years and in the end the Fleming got us home.
Autopilots are wonderful instruments and I would not be without one but when your in the middle of Tim buck two for years at a stretch you'd better carry at least a complete replacement as a spare because odds are your going to need to.
We are outfitting our 4th offshore boat and it has a new below decks pilot, I'm trying to convince myself that I couldn't possible be as unlucky with this as I was with the first three but I'm shopping for a vane.
As to the poster who thinks only a few boats in the South Pacific are still using vanes, I'd have to disagree. If you stay on the milk run where you can order in parts there probably are fewer boats with vanes but once you start travelling into areas that are off the milk run you'll find a disproportionate number of sailboats with both vanes and autopilots. Having said that I have met several folks that had wind vanes and didn't even know how to properly use them yet they were giving others advise on the strengths and weaknesses of their particular model. And finally if I was Coastal Cruising or Island hopping in Mexico or the Caribbean I would not bother with a windvane, I'd stick with an autopilot. In my mind wind vanes make sense when your crossing oceans on multi week passages only.
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Old 04-01-2013, 22:35   #59
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

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Originally Posted by MarkJ View Post
I don't know if a wind vane is viable for a single hander.
I met someone who put her boat on a beach when she overslept and the wind have changed....

Really to use one someone does need to be on deck all the time.

Anyway, people can do have have what they like.
Hmmmm, sombody forgot to tell me I had to watch my windvane 24/7.

4 people are dead who ran into an island they had programmed as a waypoint in there autopilot in the last Ensenada race.

Whether it's an autopilot or windvane, when you are within 12-24 hours of something solid, you need to keep watch. Neither are smart enough to prevent a boat from running into something hard. The skipper and crew have to have their heads screwed on and maintain a watch.
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Old 05-01-2013, 00:36   #60
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Re: Windvane Steering? Autopilot or Both for Offshore Cruising

Most of my 30K miles have been with a wind vane or hand steering, so my favorite autopilot story is leaving San Francisco Bay on a brand new 1/3 million dollar yacht and having the wonderful below decks autopilot rip the ram off of the transome within 3 miles of getting out of the Golden Gate. I had enough crew so it wasnt a problem. I wonder if it had been put on a little stronger and failed in rough weather instead of calm weather. The new owner would have loved that. In my first 18K /20K miles I had one Quartermaster and 2 Aries vanes and never had a failure. On one of my Hawaii/Calif deliveries we had a very reliable below decks auto pilot on a motor sailor, but it didnt steer worth squat. Of course we ran the engine a lot for the fridge/freezer and all of the other comforts. If I were going coastal cruising I would put my money on an autopilot, but if I were planing passages longer than a week or so, I would put my money on a good vane. People who put there faith in electrons will sooner or later see the light(or the darkness) of electrical systems in a salt atmosphere. GOOD LUCK _____Grant.
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