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Old 19-01-2010, 12:37   #1
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Sailing with a Monitor Windvane

Hello All. We are in the midst of refitting our boat for the trip down to Mexico this summer. One of the pieces of equipment we're unsure about (and have never had experience with), is a windvane steering unit. Our immediate plans include Mexico (Sea of Cortez), Hawaii and back to the U.S. west coast. 3 years probably.
Most people we speak with are advising us to purchase a robust ($) autopilot and that's it. Others say a windvane combined with an above decks autopilot would be the ticket.
Although I clearly understand the theory and operation of the windvane, I have no firsthand experience using one. So I would appreciate some advice from those of you who are in the know!
Our boat is a Union 36, the windvane we would consider purchasing would probably be a monitor.

Men and Ships rot in port.
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Old 19-01-2010, 12:51   #2
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By all means get a wind vane and learn how to sail with it. It will take a while but is worth the learning curve. I don’t claim to a lot of experience with a Monitor, owning an Atoms myself, but if it had not come with the boat I would probably gone with the Monitor.

While a good auto helm is hard to beat for some situations, I would much prefer to sail with the wind vane; it’s quiet, does a great job, holds you on the wind rather than a compass heading and uses no energy which the auto helms suck up in kilowatts.

No, it won’t work in light airs, especially downwind but by this time in life you probably realize that there is no Santa Claus either.

Learn to sail with it, purchase or make some of the little parts that tend to break (my Atoms has several!) and learn how to fix it. It can work as an emergency rudder with a little jury-rigging and that’s a plus too.

Um Saudade

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Old 19-01-2010, 13:50   #3
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The wind vane should be on the must have list, the autopilot is optional. Using a vane is no big deal, you'll pick it up easily if you know how to sail. ( If you don't then why are you even thinking of this trip)

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Old 19-01-2010, 13:57   #4
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vane v. Otto

Here's a good article on wind vanes vs. auto pilots. Make sure you review the Gooch link.
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Old 19-01-2010, 14:27   #5
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We had a monitor on our Lord Nelson 35 and loved it.

The main thing in getting good performance in medium to lighter air with a vane is eliminating as much friction as possible from the entire steering system including the leads from the windvane.

Also, you will find that balanced sail trim is important.
The windvane will tell you when to reef as well.
One should try to "Die Young" as old as possible.
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Old 20-01-2010, 12:01   #6
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Thanks everyone for the input! I have read the websites mentioned and we've decided to go with the Monitor, and keep our wheel autopilot for motoring.
Men and Ships rot in port.
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Old 20-01-2010, 12:08   #7
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I use to bend the frames for Monitor. They will have the frames available for your boat, so it should be an easy fit. I would think the ideal situation would be to have both. Since the autopilot is only needed when the wind strength is down. Then it's possible to buy one that's a wee bit less capable than in normal sailing situations......i2f
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Old 20-01-2010, 12:29   #8
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I'd never be without a vane, and all of the comments above I'd agree with, especially about sail trim. We had a Monitor (excellent gear and great firm to deal with) on our last boat which was a fast fin and spade Frers design and never had an autopilot at all.

But there are times when the vane doesn't work so well - close to land where there are lots of wind effects from the shore, or squally conditions, for example, when you can be up and down every five minutes to re-trim the vane. Some people find this frustrating at first, but stick at it and you'll get to know the gear really well, and know how to set the boat up to reduce the nuisance factor - or stick the autopilot on.

We have a vane (Windpilot) on our current boat, together with a powerful and expensive autopilot. But the autopilot has already quit once within a few thousand miles, and I cannot even imagine how we'd break the vane.....

Best of luck with the Monitor.
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Old 20-01-2010, 15:20   #9
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Monitors have very good name among the people I met who used them. Monitor would be my pick. The second best may be the German alloy stuff (Pacific) BUT it is alloy so it might be very good unless you are planning on cruising places where spares are NOT available.

I imagine you have wheel steering so perhaps the choice for you would be the bigger Pacific - it has its own rudder so you do not have any lines running to the wheel. Very neat.

An auto as a back-up would be a nice to have. The bigger the better an all under model with the "G" (rate gyro).


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