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Old 17-05-2013, 10:05   #16
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

We of course make our own individual choices. But having been stuck hand steering for days... twice... because of a broken autopilot, I can taste the level of THIS TOTALLY SUCKS and, my individual choice is that, when going far, a windvane is more important than... the stove, the head, the entire electrical system, maybe even the anchor windlass.

I just don't ever want to be in that situation again, and I would not be as comfortable at sea, or maybe even voyage as far as I do with limited crew, if being stuck like that was even remotely likely. So even if the windvane is rarely used, it's a bit like a series drogue or liferaft.

As a side note, one 'tell' for me, that I've crossed a line with getting worn down, and it's time to seriously buck up and make that second (or third or fourth) wind and re-evaluate how I'm handling the situation, is that I start to no longer care. And I can see getting there having to hand steer for several days.

That said, with our traditional back seat driving here, sometimes heaving to (or just drifting) to catch up on sleep for a while is great for the soul, to get recentered and start to care again and handle it like the bad ass you are.
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Old 17-05-2013, 10:18   #17
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

Lashing a tiller with bungee cord + sheet works for downwind sailing on FK's. Upwind, sucks. I like vanes. If you get electronics, go commercial. Think I might try WH next time?

and yes, they all fail sooner or later. preventive maintenance + spares.
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Old 17-05-2013, 10:44   #18
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

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Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post

Singlehanding and being the dad on the boat has had me in love with self steering.
Well I'll back you up 100% for going for a windvane

Have a look in the back room of Mays chandlers in the Azores, racks full of broken autopilots. One resister gone and that's it, hand steering for a very long way. Wind vanes you patch up to work enough with bits of string and zip ties. Then get it sorted out in some remote port with side street fabricators. Electric you're stuck, weeks waiting for parts then get stung for import tax.
Long distance gotta be wind all the way No power needed, silent, drinks no coffee.
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Old 17-05-2013, 10:51   #19
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

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Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
Think I might try WH next time?
I wouldn't.

I had a WH P3B. Wil probably has the best customer service in the universe. But... my personal opinion is that the circuitry is not as well engineered or fabricated as other autopilots. Opening up the control box to turn little adjustment pots on the circuit board is from a different era, and doing that let me look at the soldering and jumper wires on the board -- and the quality there was not self evident. One of the failures turned out to be a cold solder joint on a jumper wire, though to be fair, I think the jumper wire was added at my request (to make it not engage the hydraulic solenoid, and lock the wheel in the centered position, during the ~3 second boot up sequence).

If you do get an WH pilot, I really recommend mounting the control box down below and using a remote outside at the wheel. We had a problem in the heat of the Coral Sea where it would heat up in the sun and start to freak out. And it wasn't 100% weather proof, the switches corroded slightly and got stuck in one position, and the display fogged up.

However, it did usually work, on a boat that circumnavigated (and then some). For me, I feel the modern ultimate is probably something like a Garmin with the naughty bits inside sealed IP65 cases.

And either two of those, completely redundant, with a 110% electrical system that can be easily reconfigured around failures and multiple ways to charge it, or one of those and a windvane.
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Old 17-05-2013, 11:05   #20
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

msponer - thats great advice and I appreciate your real world experience. I've heard good things from some folks here in SF area, and the old school electronics I thought might make it easier for self-repairs. But, I'll consider your Garmin recommendation for sure.
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Old 17-05-2013, 11:11   #21
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

interesting topic. Ive been thinking about a backup plan if our autopilot fails.
Its a lagoon 380 cat with a Raymarine smartpilot. The main components are
1 raymarine st 70 control head
2 raymarine SPX course computer
3 drive unit
So my question is what if the autopilot fails 3 days into an Atlantic crossing and I don't want to hand steer the remaining 20 days? should I carry spare parts for any of these or should I have an independant backup system?
What works and what is simple? (apart from a wind vane)
can a simple tiller pilot be rigged to the wheel or emergency tiller?
mostly it would be downwind sailing so not too heavy on the hardware.
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Old 17-05-2013, 11:20   #22
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

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Originally Posted by SaltyMonkey View Post
msponer - thats great advice and I appreciate your real world experience. I've heard good things from some folks here in SF area, and the old school electronics I thought might make it easier for self-repairs. But, I'll consider your Garmin recommendation for sure.
See if someone with one will let you open it up and look inside, to judge for yourself. My father in law is an electrical engineer (VP-E at a public company that makes industrial robots), and was also not impressed with the engineering or fabrication. There were burn marks on the circuit board from soldering that was done way too hot, and big cold blobs in other places. And etc. We were also not able to get a circuit diagram to fix it ourselves, so that it was not all surface mount and sealed did not really help us. In the end, it was finding that one of the jumper wires had come off, and finding where it had come from, that let us fix it ourselves -- but I'm not sure a different autopilot would have had that failure.

But, again, I had requested a modification that required Wil to do some hackery, so maybe the chaos inside was due to that. If you get it, I really suggest going with the manual hydraulic solenoid, to avoid needing the hack.
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Old 17-05-2013, 11:25   #23
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

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should I carry spare parts for any of these or should I have an independant backup system?
Spares are better than nothing, but of course an independent backup (that you can easily switch to and know works) is best.

I find it very difficult to do work like that at sea, even if it's a straightforward swapping in of a spare part. But if you have a lot of folks on board -- maybe 3 or more -- it's easier.
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Old 17-05-2013, 11:26   #24
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Wheel pilots should never be used as routine offshore autopilots. On any boat, let alone a larger one.

That is simply an inappropriate choice and application, and not an indictment of electronic autopilots.

Mark
This might be an exception for larger boats:

http://http://cptautopilot.com/
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Old 17-05-2013, 11:42   #25
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

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Originally Posted by msponer View Post
I find it very difficult to do work like that at sea, even if it's a straightforward swapping in of a spare part. But if you have a lot of folks on board -- maybe 3 or more -- it's easier.
Good advice.
It is easy to underestimate the difficulty of even simple repairs at sea.

I don't get seasick and do most of the work on my boat myself, mostly at anchor, but I am still surprised how much more difficult it is with the extra motion of offshore sailing. Heaving to helps considerably, but when planning contingencies lower your expectations of what can be accomplished, or at least multiply the length of time and the effort that you think will be involved.
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Old 17-05-2013, 11:59   #26
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

What is more reliable?
a) Electric rams or
b) Hydraulic rams

I have the Octopus Drive Hydraulic ram which works well, just needs topping up every now and then.
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Old 17-05-2013, 12:16   #27
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pirate Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

Quote:
Originally Posted by monte View Post
interesting topic. Ive been thinking about a backup plan if our autopilot fails.
Its a lagoon 380 cat with a Raymarine smartpilot. The main components are
1 raymarine st 70 control head
2 raymarine SPX course computer
3 drive unit
So my question is what if the autopilot fails 3 days into an Atlantic crossing and I don't want to hand steer the remaining 20 days? should I carry spare parts for any of these or should I have an independant backup system?
What works and what is simple? (apart from a wind vane)
can a simple tiller pilot be rigged to the wheel or emergency tiller?
mostly it would be downwind sailing so not too heavy on the hardware.
Well I rigged a 2000 TP to the rudder of a Catalac I took from Ipswich to Turkey... but that was a doddle.. flat deck and a handy hatch over the rudders..
For the vane you can rig a TP with a pulley system and 4 small blocks to the rudder..
For the emergency tiller it'll depend on the location.. some are downright stoopid...
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Old 17-05-2013, 12:49   #28
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The problem with a wind vane is it's hard to hang a dinghy or put up solar panels.
This is the dilemma I'm going through right now. I'm having to engineer around it. The dinghy is out of the question, no way it'll work.
I hear you on all of that, but steering is arguably more or just as relevant as propulsion. Watching my autopilot do its thing for the last few thousand miles has really made me want the best back there.

My walker bay sits flipped up between the mast and dodger. But I'd deflate / inflate an inflatable each time if that's what it took.

Huge dinghies with huge outboards and the davits to make them fit seem to drive the autopilot - windvane decision more than anything else.

And most folks with wind vanes have autopilots as well. It's not either -or if you ditch the davits.
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Old 17-05-2013, 13:00   #29
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

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Originally Posted by Ann T. Cate View Post
The great things about windvane steering are (and I may miss some, as this is from memory): they are silent; they create no power drain; they are reliable; and if you want, they can be backup, instead of primary. You can build your own. Our two homemade ones steered us thousands of miles.

Ann
Any pics to share?
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Old 17-05-2013, 14:36   #30
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Re: and that's why i'm dropping cash on a windvane

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Originally Posted by rebel heart View Post
And most folks with wind vanes have autopilots as well. It's not either -or if you ditch the davits.
I would modify this to state that most people with wind vanes have a secondary tiller or wheel pilot as backup. I have met very few cruisers with full, rugged windvanes and below deck pilots (which are the equivalent comparisons). Those few that did almost exclusively used their electronic AP and viewed their vane as backup.

A tiller or wheel pilot would be a backup only in the sense that it could occasionally steer the boat in calmer conditions. I would not view it as a "if the vane craps out, we are continuing around the world on the electric now" type of thing.

BTW, I think you are making a good choice, and if somebody's random, yet unknown, failure of an electric AP pushed you there, then that is perfectly fine.

Mark
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