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Old 20-03-2010, 20:09   #1
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Ditch the Aries Wind Vane or Not?

Ahoy! I am cruising on my Adams 31' centre cockpit grp sloop in the Andaman sea and Indonesia. I have owned the boat for 3 months and it is fitted with an Aires wind vane on an extended transom mount, to clear the back swept main rudder. I have never used it and it is quite heavy and gets in the way of embarking and disembarking of the stern swim ladder. It is connected to a rudder arm at the top of the rudder shaft, so the ropes are easy to handle.

I have installed a Raymarine smart pilot X5, interfaced with wind/speed/depth and a Raymarine A50 chart plotter and a wheel autopilot with a pilot controller, makes single handing a breeze.

The question is! Should I dump the wind vane and put in a dingy mount for my 3m zodiac, save towing it everywhere, can't store it on the deck. I already have a targa arch for the sola panels and wind genny, or try and use it?

If I sell it, with original manuals, what are they worth in usd? It is in very good condition, with a wheel mount as well.

The only problem I can see with the electronic autopilot is the power consumption, which I haven't checked yet, but it does not seem to be a problem! What advice can you offer? are the wind vanes "old hat" now? and only used by "salty types" on long ocean passages? I really need the transom clear of all that paraphernalia!!

Cheers from Keith.
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Old 20-03-2010, 20:18   #2
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I say ditch it. Ugly, heavy, obsolete. Better to carry the weight of the vane in diesel to make electricity than dragging that oil derrick around 365 days a year. Yes, they can be readily sold on eBay for good money, dunno how much. I'm not sure I'd replace it with the dink...but that's just me. Turn down the RESPONSE on the autopilot as far as you can stand to save power.
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Old 20-03-2010, 20:46   #3
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Ahoy Daddle, same thoughts as myself! "Great minds think alike?" Have turned it down to 1, but it stills hunts the slack in the cables, no movement of the rudder, you can lock it in standby for hours at a time and it steers itself! Any other adjustments, like rudder gain?
Just can't help thinking that there must be some reason why so many boats lug them around?
Chers from Keith.
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Old 20-03-2010, 20:59   #4
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Depends on where you want to go with the boat. If it's a just a daysailer or short weekend/vacation cruises, you probably wouldn't appreciate the Aires.

If you are going anywhere where you'll be out for more than a day at a time, the Aires is priceless. It will steer the boat 24/7, reliably, without complaint and doesn't eat much. An Autopilot will fail when you need it the most, probably not last more than two years of long distance, use in any case, require you to spend a small fortune in solar/wind/batteries, and/or run your engine everyday.

An NOS Aires just sold on ebay for around $1200
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Old 20-03-2010, 20:59   #5
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Vanes are very salty, and romantic. It ends there.

You should try to reduce the slack in the cables. Servo systems hate slack. Also check slack between the quadrant and the rudder position sensor. RUDDER GAIN as low as possible too.

Yes, sometimes STANDBY is the best mode. Perhaps with a piece of bungee holding bow down a bit.

If we're way out there I suppose we should really carry a complete spare autopilot. But we're still way ahead of the windvane clutter.
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Old 20-03-2010, 21:21   #6
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Surfmachine, if you want to sell the Aries, I would definately take it off of your hands for a reasonable sum.

I myself would not go offshore without a reliable wind vane gear, either Aries, Monitor, Cape Horn, Sailomat, etc.
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Old 20-03-2010, 21:36   #7
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If the electric A/P quite mid-ocean:

A good boat will go to weather or reach, usually, with just a bungee cord.

Downwind, on a modern light boat, the apparent wind is very often too light for a vane.

Many, many boats are crossing oceans without vanes. And those that have them very rarely use them. I've had one, it worked great at times, but it's just was not worth it's weight, maintenance and clutter. In my opinion.
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Old 20-03-2010, 21:43   #8
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I sure would like to hear SimonV's thoughts on this
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Old 20-03-2010, 22:38   #9
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Thanks guys, I already have the 400watt eclectic energy wind genny, plus 140 watts sola panles and 300 amp hours of deep river batteries, so plenty of juice on tap and stored up!
No rudder position sensor fitted, you can see the top of the rudderstock sticking out of the deck for the aires attachment and emergency tiller.

I realise that the autopilot chews the energy, but soooooo easy to use, one flip of the lever and back to manual, great for my single handed sailing, it is only a 31' yacht with a narrow transom. Makes plotting a route and following it a breeze, plus a huge load of watch keeping and no crawling back to the stern to reset ropes when the wind changes at night. I will be doing mainly coastal passage making along the west coast of Indonesia, where the wind is pretty variable. I plan to sail her across the Indian Ocean up to the med and back to aussie one day.
Will the raymarine wheel pilot work all day, every day for 10 days at a time? It did steer faultlessly for the 12hr passage from Patong beach to similan islands yesterday, mostly light down wind, where the aires does not work.
Keith.
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Old 20-03-2010, 22:40   #10
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If I was sailing offshore, I would keep the Aires.

During our circumnavigation, we sailed 99% of the time using our Autohelm 7000 autopilot. It worked great, but consumed 4 amps when actively correcting the course. Autopilots are very hungry crew members that must be constantly fed amps to be happy and fully functional.

The Aires requires zero amps. (I had an Aires on my Westsail 32)

But if I wasn't sailing offshore on long voyages, the Aires would not be of much benefit. When we motored across the windless Java Sea, the Aries would have been of no benefit.
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Old 20-03-2010, 23:02   #11
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On my previous boat, I ran the fridge and the A/P for a week without recharging. 500Ah battery bank. 500/7/24 = 3A average draw for both beer and steer. Very little power. I know because the diesel ate it's bearings and I ran without solar or wind power. At night used just the white all-around until we saw someone else.
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Old 21-03-2010, 13:24   #12
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If you are talking the Raymarine wheel pilot, they are not robust enough for long term ocean use. Yes they will probably do fine for a long passage but the wheel drive isn't designed for 24/7 long term use. The under deck pilots are more robust and are designed for long term use but a whole lot more bucks and installation hassles. Of course, if you take a complete other Wheelpilot autopilot as backup, it will probably get you around trhe world by replacing the parts that break with the spares and replacing the spares. Just be prepared to make the repairs at the most inopportune time and possibly sail long distances out of the way to replenish the spares.

We did more than 10,000 miles with an Aires on our Westsail 32. The vane steered the boat if we could sail and we sailed all the time. Engaging the vane couldn't have been easier and making course corrections was just pulling a string from the companion way or anywhere else in the cockpit. The few things that went wrong with the vane were cheaply and easily corrected with simple tools in the middle of nowhere.

By contrast, my Raymarine 4000+ has eaten its drive motor after one passage and the compass is about 60 degress out. To engage the pilot have to go through about the same number of procedures as the Aires and can only change course at the control head. A remote would make it easier but that's more money and another thing to muck up. Repair of the Wheel Pilot has cost me more than $500 in parts plus $100 an hour labor from an electronics tech with a fully equipped shop to check the system out. Since I've got an unbalanced rudder, steering force required at speed is quite high so it chews through the amps real quick.

Yes, we are seeing a lot more boats who rely completely on their autopilot. It's because boats have gotten larger, most with wheels, and owners with more bucks than brains. If your sailing is short hops from one well equipped yachting center to another and you have a lot of electrons going to waste, an autopilot works fine. For a long ocean passage like may be in your future, I wouldn't do it without a windvane.

BTW, the Aires wouldn't steer dead downwind with the spinnaker up. But it would steer with our wing and wing set up. We didn't really like going dead downwind so didn't sail that point of sail often. We usually sailed on a broad reach, made better time and had a much better ride than we would've going ddw.
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Old 21-03-2010, 15:27   #13
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G'Day Surfmachine,

HEre's yet another opinion: if you are going offshore solo, I think that redundant self steering systems are a serious must have. It's one thing to have an lone autopilot go dead when there are several crewmembers to take up the steering load, but quite another if you are on your own and days away from an anchorage.

We had both a homebuilt vane and a wheel pilot (with 3 backups) on our previous boat. The vane steered us somewhere around 50K miles at sea, the pilots around 20K miles, mostly coastal, and our hands did the remaining 20K. The box score was:autopilot failures about 10 over 17 years, windvane breakage twice, and hands never! The biggest difference was that when the vane failed I fixed it myself, when the a/p died it required outside help from a tech with the appropriate parts.

Autopilots, especially above deck ones, are not very reliable in the long term. The Aires, admittedly a bit clunky, is extremely reliable. When you are solo sailing, you are ultimately reliant on some form of self-steering. To me, this adds up to a no brainer: keep the vane!

Cheers,

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Old 21-03-2010, 18:26   #14
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Jim's point above is something to consider. Anyone who hand steers 25% of the time gets my respect. A look around the several dozen boats here, all are long distance blue water cruisers by circumstance, shows about 5% with windvanes. This must be an odd sample as windvanes are surely more popular than 5%, no? Regardless, it demonstrates that many cruisers feel autopilot-only is a reasonably reliable choice.

Vanes are very cool devices. If I was in the mood to have a more salty experience I'd ditch the A/P...ya can't really love them.
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Old 21-03-2010, 18:54   #15
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Originally Posted by daddle View Post
Jim's point above is something to consider. Anyone who hand steers 25% of the time gets my respect. A look around the several dozen boats here, all are long distance blue water cruisers by circumstance, shows about 5% with windvanes. This must be an odd sample as windvanes are surely more popular than 5%, no? Regardless, it demonstrates that many cruisers feel autopilot-only is a reasonably reliable choice.

Vanes are very cool devices. If I was in the mood to have a more salty experience I'd ditch the A/P...ya can't really love them.
The original poster stated he has a Raymarine X5 wheel pilot. These are not high reliable, 24/7, passage making autopilots. He also stated that he doesn't know how to use the vane. Vanes take a bit of a learning curve. Once mastered, they are amazing in their simplicity and usefulness for offshore passages. The Aries should drive the OP extremely well. Plus it is paid for.

As far as your odd sample, what is the size of the boats you are sampling? As boat size has creeped up over the decades, the number vanes has decreased. The cost of a good below deck autopilot plus spares can easily run over US$6-7k. The amount of juice to run them is significant and a pain to generate, especially on a small boat.

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