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Old 08-08-2015, 12:17   #1
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Windvane vs. autipilot

For sailing offshore which is the better choice? I know historically the windvane has been better hands down but I have heard good thigs about the new autopilots like the ev-100.

Has anyone tried one or both and can compare? I have a tiller and my boat is 9000 empty. Can the raymarine ev-100 handle high winds and rough seas?
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Old 08-08-2015, 12:42   #2
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

You need both. Windvanes are very cool machines but you need wind and you can't (or maybe should not,) motor with one.
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Old 08-08-2015, 13:00   #3
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

Our last boat was 27'/7000lb and the Raymarine 1000 tiller pilot worked well and would I'm sure handle the extra 2000lb you have; that said, when we renewed it we fitted the 2000 model for its extra oomph in big seas/heavy weather. We did a lot of long-haul/offshore sailing though and probably wouldn't have paid the extra if we were only day/weekend sailing with just the occasional long passage.


Windvane or Electronic? Do a search on here and you'll find several threads with posts arguing for and against; we're definitely in favour of wind steering, but you need the right boat for them to work well and be making several long, offshore passages to justify their cost. The bigger/faster a yacht is, the less well wind-steering performs, so a 28-footer is 'good' on the downside, as well as being expensive, most windvanes are heavy - 60-80lb is a lot to hang on the back of a 28-footer; I know there are now a couple of firms getting decent results from lighter weight (and lighter-priced!) windvanes in Europe now, but I don't know if any are exporting to N America - no personal experience, but Google 'Sea Feather' 'Mr Vane' and 'Hebridean', Plastimo made a good/lightweight unit called the Narvik, but not for the last 15 or 20 years, though there is the very occasional one still appears on the second-hand market. As a generalisation, the further you are going offshore, the better a windvane will perform and the stronger the wind, the better it will perform; that's the #1 reason why we're for windvanes, when the wind's hit 25 knots and is still climbing and the seas are cutting-up increasingly rough, your electronic autohelm will be finding it more and more difficult to cope, your windvane meanwhile is getting into its stride. Hand-helming when a windvane can't cope is hot, flat, boring work, doing so when the autohelm crys enough is just when you want to be hiding down below-decks.
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Old 08-08-2015, 13:17   #4
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

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Originally Posted by northoceanbeach View Post
For sailing offshore which is the better choice? I know historically the windvane has been better hands down but I have heard good thigs about the new autopilots like the ev-100.

Has anyone tried one or both and can compare? I have a tiller and my boat is 9000 empty. Can the raymarine ev-100 handle high winds and rough seas?
How comfortable are you on relying on a unit that requires significant production of electricity to function?

Answering that question will answer your question above.
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Old 08-08-2015, 14:03   #5
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

I'm a proponent of self steering. Simple to use, don't need to be fed electrons, usually can be repaired anywhere by duffers in the remote instance of something breaking, and they don't make noise. They work better with tiller driven boats though many use them satisfactorily with wheel steering. They can be easily fitted to most boats, installed my last one by myself in the rain in a couple of hours. A great emergency boarding ladder if you find yourself in the ocean without another way to get back on board. Can be hooked up to cheap tiller pilots to steer to a compass course with minimal electrical drain. May not work under power, however. The harder the wind blows, the better they work. Have 5 figure miles sailing with a vane and no complaints. May not work well with boats with high acceleration values like light weight surfers and multi-hulls. Have seen them on boats from 25' to over 50', though vast majority on boats under 40'. That may have as much to do with the wallet of the owners as suitability of the vane. There are vanes for all types of boats. Lighter weight ones for smaller boats from WindPilot, Cape Horn and many others and ones for bigger boats from the same suppliers. Last but not least, the vane helps to balance out the boats trim from the all chain rode that any cruiser should be using.

Auto pilots steer to a compass course which is nice in confined waters. Work under power. The more challenging the conditions, the poorer they work and power consumption goes up exponentially. Electrickery with all its attendant evils and fragility. Wheel and tiller pilots are easy to install. Below deck pilots are way way harder. If it breaks, takes a fully equipped electronics shop to repair and new circuit boards and components.

Currently have a relatively cheap tiller pilot and an auxiliary rudder self steering vane. Have also sailed many miles with a Pendulum Servo Self Steerer. Use the auto pilot under power and the vane under sail. Spend a vast majoriity of time under sail.
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Old 09-08-2015, 03:52   #6
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

I really love my aires vane and have done a few passages with some other variations,but also have a tiller pilot for motoring.Nothing is more boring than hand steering a yacht day and night so anything that helps is ok by me.Windvanes dont suck amps though which is a big plus and they are usually silent.
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Old 09-08-2015, 04:14   #7
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

We have what is considered to be a very reliable autopilot. It's about 30 years old now, has done 40,000 miles, so clearly that reputation is justified. The guy who fitted it loved it, and never had a problem with it, AFAIK.

It might go for another 30 years, or it might fail tomorrow. The thing is, I know that if something does go wrong I will NOT be able repair it at sea, despite being very comfortable with electronics. I also know that it is in the nature of electronics to fail suddenly, without warning.

So I am in the middle of adding a windvane to the boat. Ideally, I would consider the autopilot as the backup unit to the windvane.

In my mind, it really does not matter how good the autopilot is, I'd rather have something I can repair myself.

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Old 09-08-2015, 05:26   #8
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

Aries is our principle self steerer. Even for short hop coastal cruising it works well. We have an electric tiller pilot (Raymarine SPX5 GP) for light airs, mostly when we're motoring. Haven't rigged it to the vane yet, but plan to.


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Old 09-08-2015, 07:15   #9
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

I fitted a Hydrovane unit on my Ebbtide 33,
About 10 tons loaded. Originally she had a Auto helm AP mounted to the tiller which worked quite hard to handle the loads. The Hydrovane which has its own rudder effortlessly steered her in any conditions on all points of sail. I built a very simple bracket to allow the autohelm to control the rudder on the windvane while motoring or sailing.
Almost negligable current draw! Best if both worlds and a built in emergency rudder.
Presently I have a new Simrad AP60 on my 35 ton schooner and plan to build a windvane. A near proximity strike by lightning cooked my old AP and every other electronic gadget.....
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Old 09-08-2015, 12:44   #10
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

As far as I know (based on EU availability of Ray EV-100 units) they are now sold only with the standard arm (no GP version). With a boat at 9000 these are only adequate as a gap filler and in easy conditions.

Remember an AP will need power and quite a lot of it. Remember it is likely to have higher failure rate than a good windvane. The good news is it will also cost a fraction of the cost of a good windvane.

Horses for the courses. We have both, and if I were to cast overboard one of them I would ... keep the windvane. That's from a small boat sailing basically only ocean passages. An AP may win inshore hands down. ymmv

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Old 09-08-2015, 22:21   #11
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

Awesome advice. How do you guys like the norvane? It's about half the price
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Old 09-08-2015, 23:44   #12
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

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Horses for the courses. We have both, and if I were to cast overboard one of them I would ... keep the windvane.
That's exactly what I think too. If you can, for long range cruising, both.
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Old 09-08-2015, 23:54   #13
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

We have both, an Airies and a Raymarine. Inshore coastal we use the Raymarine, long haul we use the Vane.

If I had to toss one, I'd toss the Raymarine.
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Old 10-08-2015, 08:54   #14
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

Have not seen one. If you are in California, you may be able to drive to their garage and see what they are like. Or maybe post one of the people who gave them testimonials.

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Old 10-08-2015, 09:18   #15
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Re: Windvane vs. autipilot

that depends on the otto pile it.. mine is hydraulic mounted on quadrant. when there is no wind, nothing will work unless motoring, then wind vane is fail... mine is electric assist hdl, which means it uses very little electricity when in use, unless there becomes no wind, then it will search.
windvanes do not work with no wind.
wheel mounted steering aids search all the time.
i do not have to change steering modes when underway and need to switch to engine power.
as there is no use for a windvane in low winds and as there is little electricity comsumption, i donot feel need to buy another steering deevise--my otto is adequate and works well in 60+ kts of beam wind found suddenly. eg, chubascos off baja, and other big wind situations.
use what you like, but i find my simrad hdl otto pile it absolutely perfect for use in windy and non windy situations.
for 15000 usd installed, it better even groom my feline.
works fine, but i have to groom cat myself. he wont sit still for otto
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