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Old 11-05-2007, 20:38   #16
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Location: Vancouver BC
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Yes, I've been researching windvanes, but no, I haven't found any conclusive evidence that one or another is objectively "better".

Because my boat is rather small, with a displacement loaded of about 6200 pounds and a water line length of 18', many of the windvanes are simply too big. My rudder is inboard, with a curved blade, so a number of designs do not adapt easily. But the hull does have a transom and tiller, so other designs will work rather well.

One criteria I have decided on is allowing the electric autopilot to use the windvane. Basically this amplifies the force and sensitivity of the tillerpilots, so they use less electricity while steering a better course, and they'll steer a magnetic course rather than a course relative to the wind. The downside is they steer a magnetic course rather than relative to the wind, so you can end up very poorly trimmed.

Last summer I learned a bit on how to get the boat to sail using sheet-to-tiller. My test gear was not purchased for the job, so it was not very sensitive and the results were not particularly happy making, but I did prove to myself that in light-to-moderate I can get it to maintain a course without any form of self-steering. For my boat I can also tie off the tiller and convince it to sail a general course with just the sail trim, but that's only good for relatively short period of time.

My opinion at this point is that self-steerers are like boat rigs: most can do the job rather well if you take the time to get to know yours, and if you go to far away places you will find a diverse collection of gear that got people there, proving that any one of them work. All of them appear to have long-term maintenance/wear issues, and you need to know what parts will fail and take spares, but only the things which wear/fail. Two common at sea repairs for many of the designs are control lines and vanes; and these are designed to fail because if they don't something much more difficult to fix will break instead. So learn how to inspect, maintain, and replace at least the controls and the vanes, and plan to inspect at least daily; make it part of the daily log.

I plan to do my navigation on paper charts. I will bring my better sextant, but I will also have 3 GPS aboard and those are my primary nav tool. I will be using MacENC on my laptop as well, when I can. Because I live in the cockpit when solo sailing, and do not go below except when I must, I won't be using the laptop much at all.

The most important electronic nav tool for me is the depth sounder; I plan to purchase new instruments (log, depth) for this trip, so if anyone can give advice I'd appreciate it. My favourite depthsounder was a lovely old flasher I had on one of my previous boats; I used it enough to be able to tell quite a bit about the bottom from the sounder. The current digital is unreliable at best, and tells me nothing about the bottom, and I've touched at least once every summer with it, though I haven't been stuck yet.


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Old 11-05-2007, 22:46   #17
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Hilo, Hawaii
Boat: Cheoy Lee Sigma 38,1968
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According to Hal Roth, and others, I'm sure, the limiting factor with windvanes is friction, how many gears, pulleys etc the lines must make to reach their destination. Therefore sailing downwind in light airs seems to be the area in which friction overcomes the power of the apparent wind. I sailed a Cal 24 all over the midwest, Chesapeake, gulf coast for 20 yrs and spent many wonderful hours fooling around with a jibsheet to the tiller and a bungee. John Letcher's book on sheet to tiller steering was quite good, if I could only find it again. I'm still unpacking from the move from Oklahoma to Hilo. I had a great old fishfinder on my Cal, for weeks after I hooked it up we would spend all our time looking at all the underwater stuff: fish, shallow places out in the middle of a lake where you never imagined it would be only 6 ft deep. It finally died after 15 yrs. Have you looked into ssb? I'm watching some on e-bay, trying to determine if it's worth less reliability and cost of a used unit vs. higher cost of a new one and possibility of no problems. I wonder how much people actually use a ssb or ham radio. My dad was a ham he would talk to anyone anywhere, anytime he could sneak out to his shop. What kind of boat did you say you had? Sounds like you are pretty organized, and are planning well. Hey my b.d is dec 12, I'm a dreamer too. In the 7th grade I found this big chart of the pacific at the one room schoolhouse where I attended, and found a tiny island in the pacific (howland or baker island) and decided to go live on it. ( I think they are bombing range targets) good thing I didnt go there. Aloha, Ron

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