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Old 22-09-2016, 12:58   #1
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Wind vane alternatives

I am gearing up for going to points south and want to get a decent wind vane that is mechanical in nature. Problem is I have a center cockpit and find it hard to spend $5-7k for a little rudder going into the water with a piece of plywood on top of it. I am all for simplicity and redundancy (my mantra as a living as a marine contractor) but wonder what other options are out there. Has anybody connected a servo pendulum to a hydraulic cylinder so I can tie it directly to my rudder quadrant (already have electro-hydraulic auto-helm)? How about using hydraulics for master-slave configuration using a trim tab configuration? Hydraulics offer a pretty easy way to get rid of all the friction and alignment problems that seem to be connected with some of these systems. It seems it would be pretty simple to mount a horizontal axis sail in a area of clear air connected with hydraulic lines to a trim tab auxiliary rudder. These are just thoughts but wonder if anybody has done this. I am an engineer and will probably fabricate and put pencil to paper for something like this but just wanted to see what has been done if anything.
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Old 22-09-2016, 16:19   #2
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

Dunno... I'm surely not an hydraulics expert, but all of the hydraulic systems that I have been involved with seem to have significant friction involved with seals. Friction is what kills performance in wind vane steering systems, so I'm at least a bit dubious about your proposals.

OTOH, some years ago I designed and built my own aux rudder/trim tab steerer. Once I got all the parameters correct, it steered our previous boat on the order of 50,000 miles at sea and coastally. At the time (1985) it cost me about 300 bucks in materials. Trim tab was driven by s/s wire routed through teflon tubes. Nowadays I would use Dyneema instead, and it would be even better.

For an engineer such as yourself, this seems like a do-able project.

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Old 23-09-2016, 01:19   #3
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

I second Jims thoughts, the smartest systems for a hydraulic steered boat are the aux rudder/trim tab ones. That work pretty well in my experience.

Look at the scanmar autohelm type for inspiration. Or something like the cape horn gears that are integrated into the quadrant.

Another easy fix is a bypass valve and an emergency tiller on deck. Hook up any standard servo pendulum system directly to the tiller.

Interested to hear what you come up with.
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Old 23-09-2016, 01:41   #4
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

Why re-invent the wheel? One can buy a used Monitor Wind Vane for about $2K or less. There is one for sale right now in the classified section of this forum (not mine).

If you like the challenge of designing and building one for yourself, go to it. But the cost and "opportunity cost" of doing so looks like a poor trade off to buying a tried and true product, bolting it on the boat and going sailing.
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Old 23-09-2016, 02:28   #5
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

I built an aux rudder servo pendulum windvane for my center cockpit, hydraulic steering ketch - huge amount of work, not much money but it occurred to me about half way thru that a much simpler setup could have been a servo pendulum wired to the tiller i fitted to the rudder to lock it in place so the aux rudder can take over, combined with a bypass valve on the hydraulics. By the time i figured that out i was too far into the aux rudder thing to change course. I also thought about a windvane to hydraulic setup - fantastic idea for routing the power but i couldnt think of any existing hydraulic equipment i could modify for the purpose.
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Old 23-09-2016, 05:54   #6
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

It would be an interesting project. Since the loads and consequently pressures are comparatively low I would use largish bore pneumatic cylinders and hoses with a hydraulic fluid (maybe a water based engine coolant) rather than hydraulic, they are lighter and tend to lower friction losses.
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Old 23-09-2016, 06:27   #7
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

As I understand it windvanes connected to hydraulic wheel steering generally don't work well because there is some bleed in the hydraulics between the wheel and the rudder. That is the wheel position relative to rudder position changes over time. Friction in the system is also an issue.

This is why boats with hydraulic steering systems use auxiliary rudder systems that do not engage the primary steering system at all.
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Old 23-09-2016, 06:32   #8
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

If I where you I eould try the sheet-to tiller method. There are som good youtube videos and sites that explain it (and a book by John Letcher is available online.

When it works, it works even better than wind vanes and electric pilots. The sheet-to-tiller reacts on wind changes before it has affected the boat.

The main point is that it is cheap and easy to handle.
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Old 23-09-2016, 08:09   #9
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

A conventional windvane connected to the emergency tiller (as already suggested) is a good method , but the emergency tiller must be easy to access. If it is on deck then it will work. The reason I mention this is that one of my previous boats had the emergency tiller down in the aft cabin where it would have been terrible to use for any type of steering. An aux rudder may be easier, but I wonder how you lock the helm with hydraulic steering, since there is often a little creeping that would keep changing your trim? Please let us know what you decide on since it will be of interest to anyone with hydraulic steering. Best of Luck. _____Grant.
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Old 23-09-2016, 11:12   #10
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

Grant and all, Thank you for the suggestions so far. My problem with my center cockpit is distance getting control lines to the wheel. My quadrant is in the aft cabin under my bed so rigging to an emergency tiller won't work either. I'm trying to investigate using hydraulics since the distance from the stern to the quadrant is very close, obviously. Routing hydraulic lines to a cylinder off of quadrant would be very easy and still allow my better half to sleep (very important!). I also have a swim platform and davits off my stern that I would like to keep. I also would like to broach the subject of dual offset auxiliary rudders on either side of swim platform, much as in newer competitive boats being sailed. Not to mention my boat is also a ketch so I have other issues with mizzen boom being in the way. I have fabricated the swim platform myself (3/4" aluminum plate) already and it would not take much for me (nice to have your own fab shop and welder!) to add side bearings on swim platform to accommodate this concept. I would possibly use same hydraulic idea but only using one master cylinder in a remote location to receive clear air on a horizontal vane.
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Old 23-09-2016, 14:01   #11
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

Quote:
Originally Posted by masthugg View Post
If I where you I eould try the sheet-to tiller method. There are som good youtube videos and sites that explain it (and a book by John Letcher is available online.

When it works, it works even better than wind vanes and electric pilots. The sheet-to-tiller reacts on wind changes before it has affected the boat.

The main point is that it is cheap and easy to handle.
I'm afraid that this is simply not true. Sheet to tiller (not applicable to the OP's wheel steered vessel anyway) is nowhere near as stable as either a vane or an autopilot. It can hold a constant apparent wind angle for a while, but as conditions change (sea state, wind strength) it will inevitably wander from one's desired course. It works better on some points of sail... most decent boats will sail close hauled even without s2t hookups, and with it, do quite well. This is not true for most boats off the wind.

Long ago, I was faced with a dead autopilot two days into a passage from Kauai to SF in my Yankee 30. I managed to construct a working s2t arrangement, following Letcher's general ideas, and it steered us the remaining 2200 miles home. It was not a "set and forget" system like an a/p or a vane, rather it required monitoring and adjustment on a regular basis as things changed. Sometimes as frequently as every few minutes, sometimes it would maintain course for a half hour or more... but one had to be on watch, on deck, looking at the compass frequently.

So, IMO, sheet to tiller is in no way a substitute for either an a/p or a vane.

Jim
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Old 23-09-2016, 15:15   #12
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

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Originally Posted by onthewateralot View Post
Grant and all, Thank you for the suggestions so far. My problem with my center cockpit is distance getting control lines to the wheel. My quadrant is in the aft cabin under my bed so rigging to an emergency tiller won't work either. I'm trying to investigate using hydraulics since the distance from the stern to the quadrant is very close, obviously. Routing hydraulic lines to a cylinder off of quadrant would be very easy and still allow my better half to sleep (very important!). I also have a swim platform and davits off my stern that I would like to keep. I also would like to broach the subject of dual offset auxiliary rudders on either side of swim platform, much as in newer competitive boats being sailed. Not to mention my boat is also a ketch so I have other issues with mizzen boom being in the way. I have fabricated the swim platform myself (3/4" aluminum plate) already and it would not take much for me (nice to have your own fab shop and welder!) to add side bearings on swim platform to accommodate this concept. I would possibly use same hydraulic idea but only using one master cylinder in a remote location to receive clear air on a horizontal vane.
Design wise I think you are on the right track and if it could be implemented a low pressure hydraulic system would allow the wind vane section to be mounted anywhere on the boat and even be movable. One might say clamp it to the windward davit to get it into clean air or even to the windward rail if you were reaching.

Notionally one would build the vane section with a small cylinder powering the actuating cylinder on the tilting servo rudder and the servo rudder using a cylinder to actuate a second main rudder cylinder beside the existing cylinder on the quadrant for the existing hydraulic steering rather than valving and piping into the existing hydraulic steering system. One could probably pipe and valve into the existing system but it adds a lot of complications.
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Old 23-09-2016, 15:23   #13
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

Have you considered the Hydrovane? It uses its own rudder to steer so there is no more friction for a center cockpit than for an aft cockpit.
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Old 23-09-2016, 15:33   #14
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

Twin rudders would work. Best make them kick up or fusable incase of impact damage, they are pretty vulnerable. Or even if you run aground and lay over..

The simple proven way is to use cable control lines in slipery tubing like the autohelm unit does. I guess bike hydraulic brake systems could easily be adapted. The loads on a trim tab are pretty light.

I have seen the ropes from an servo pendulum connected directly to the quadrant on one boat. There was a tensioner led aft to the cockpit to engage and release the lines.

Id be worried about hydraulic oil creep as well. But I guess if all the seals are good it shouldn't.

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Old 23-09-2016, 16:12   #15
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Re: Wind vane alternatives

I have a friend who owns a Cabo Rico 34 (I think, might be a 38). He has a Monitor wind vane. But he rigged it in a manner similar to the Cape Horn brand of wind vanes, installing a separate quadrant in the steering bay for the control lines. He really disliked all the lines to the helm. It would work very well, I think, for a center-cockpit yacht. With hydraulic steering, you'd need to detach the hydraulics somehow when you engaged the vane.

If you're opposed to an auxiliary rudder system (Hydrovane, Wind Pilot Plus), consider a Sayes Rig. It also doesn't require running lines to the helm. But would also require a way to disengage hydraulics.
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