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Old 09-09-2012, 21:28   #16
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

Which is what I thought initially too. But I am getting scared by a few posts that said "My electronic AP failed me when I needed it most". No worries like I said for noow I have a functioning albeit old AP and am refitting for extending voyaging so I have plenty of time to mull this over.
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Old 09-09-2012, 21:39   #17
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

If you have an outboard rudder you can build the best trim tab vane ever designed for peanuts, but it will cost you the davits. Check out the Searunner Construction Manual by Jim Brown. Mine sailed the boat perfectly from 6 to over 60 knots of wind even in huge following seas.
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Old 09-09-2012, 22:29   #18
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

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Originally Posted by Lojanica View Post
My intent is cruising to remote locations. My conundrum is as you say---once settled into a new locale davits are useful. Deck stowing of the dinghy is fairly painful, although I can get more creative and make it easier for sure. Realistically I know deep down I need the redundancy of dual self-steering but will have to suffer through the dragging and stowing the dinghy. I have an older hydraulic unit but it needs replacement as it is unreliable.
Perhaps nesting dinghies or folding boats instead of heavy RIB inflatables are a better choice? A beefed-up topping lift and the use of the boom can convert your mast to a crane; add an electric windlass and some blocks and you have a powered crane.

Davits are a hazard at sea and I've had one snap on me in trivial conditions (not overloaded, a mere five feet of sea). Never again. Lashed on deck or atop the cabin is the way to go, and special chocks with tie-down points is better still.

The windvane and the AP are the belt and suspenders of self-steering. 90% or better of "at sea" time is NOT at the helm. On a delivery in the Atlantic, we had the Spectra line of the windvane chafe through and the AP tear off its mounts. Both were fixed, but that stretch when we had to hand-steer through a part gale...not pleasant. Of course, when it really squalled up, we had to hand steer through that, but having the self-steering option was right below "sufficient water" in the scheme of things.
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Old 09-09-2012, 22:30   #19
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

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i sail a ketch. i find my hydraulic autopilot is awesome and needs no assistance. uses minimal electricity and doesnt interfere with my mizzen boom or sail. is exceptional in high wind situations and does a great job.
some folks like extra stuff--i dont. some windvanes are excellent equipment and some dont work.
but i dont have everyman's sailboat..
To be fair, however, a ketch can be made to self-steer pretty well, leaving the AP to work less than, say, a tall rig sloop.

Proper sail trim is the start of good assisted steering. You don't want the vane or the AP to fight, but to guide and glide.
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Old 09-09-2012, 22:47   #20
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

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OK. Next. Gotta double ender. Autopilot needs replacement. No windvane. Also want dinghy davits on rear.

Bottomline I can't really comfortably have davits and a windvane. So my question is: Can an autopilot be a good enough standalone solution for blue water and if so which one? I heard these were really reliable-----Wagner magnetic heading hydraulic units----especially if oversized considerably.

Thx.
depends on your travels and goals.... you will use davits almost daily. If you have good enough charging, i would go with the AP ( and I have on two large boats) I have had 3 monitor windvanes which didnt see that much use compared with the AP. Maybe if I was going to sail the pacific to the tuamotus etc a windvane would be the thing. But as far as comfort and improving your cruising, the davit and AP win hands down.... unless you're a minimalist cruiser.Just draggiing the dingy on board is not a reality. You will spend 3-4 hours doing it; cleaning the bottom of goo and baby barnacles, putting everything away, lashing it down, deck obstuction etc etc... With davits you dont get that growth because you pull it up every night. I was amazed how useful they are when I inherited the first set i had on a boat I bought. After that... no more windvane... JMHO, most boats are at anchor 90% of the time... often getting a windvane set takes time and patiance, and sometimes doesnt work at all... an Ap takes 15 seconds.
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Old 10-09-2012, 01:48   #21
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

seems a little odd to me ... You can have a windvane inbetween dinghy davits. You are only going to use the windvane on long passages, where you would be best advised to store the dinghy lashed down on your deck and out of the way. When not in use you can demount the windvane and store it below. That way it won't interfere with your dinghy davit use for short trips.

It was said above ... AP for coastal cruising, and a windvane for passage making seems like the best solution ... providing you are going to be passage making.
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Old 10-09-2012, 01:51   #22
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

I must say I'm a fan of windvanes. I sail just coastal and use my windvane 99% of the time, even short tacking I have the vane set on the next tack in 20 seconds or so going up wind, probably a little longer setting downwind. My yacht is a halftonner and a delight to sail. There is no skipper that can drive a boat to windward as good as a windvane. I have a home built SS horizontal servo system on my yacht and a new one under construction at the moment. The new one built in SS is the Rolls Royce version with the best of everything, probably only $200 in bits but enormous amount of man hours in labour.

The only downside of a windvane is they are addictive. Hard not to just sit there and watch it work.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:21   #23
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

FWIW:

On our previous boat (an old IOR one-tonner) we had both an A/H 3000 wheel pilot and a home made trim tab/aux rudder vane. We did 86000 miles in that boat, and the vane steered very nearly 100% of the miles at sea. When coastal the a/p was the helmsman of choice, but once off soundings, on came the vane -- no noise, no electrical consumption, no worries, mate!

In my experience vanes are NOT hard to get working if you have the boat reasonably balanced... which you should have anyway! And in our cruising experience, we've seen a lot of folks with stuffed a/p's, but few with non-working vanes. Draw your own conclusions here! I'd agree that with a good installation a modern a/p can be pretty reliable, but if it stops working the village blacksmith can't fix it for you.

If you are voyaging to distant and possibly primitive areas, having both is a really good idea. Davits? Well, I'm not a fan of using davits under way at sea... seen too many bad outcomes from that practice. So, as another has said, at sea, where the vane is so useful, the dink belongs on deck, not hung out in the breeze (and big seas). We have a big radar/solar arch that could easily have davits added, but we haven't done so for that very reason. Putting our 3.5 metre RIB on the foredeck takes us about 20 minutes, using the spinny halyard to hoist it, and a little longer to reassemble and launch it upon arrival. For short day sails in protected waters we often do tow it... bad example for others to follow, but it works ok. At anchor if we want it out of the water the same spinny halyard and a couple of bridles of junk rope lift it up alongside in a couple of minutes (admittedly not as good for motoring around as davits).

Bottom line? IF you are a serious cruiser, making ocean passages and especially if to 3rd world destinations, a wind vane will be a great thing to have, and the missing davits will not impinge on your pleasure.

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:37   #24
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

Fewer and fewer long distance cruising boats are sprouting wind vanes these days.
Autopilots and electrical systems have become much more reliable and it is now very common for blue water boats to rely on these systems.

It must be a powerful under deck pilot, the wheel systems dont have have enough durability.
For a backup a second independent autopilot is a good idea IMHO.
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Old 10-09-2012, 06:14   #25
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

I have both but since I'm a coastal cruiser I can't comment on the choice for offshore passages. I can comment on the suggestion that a nesting dinghy may be easier to stow than an inflatable. It isn't in my experience! I built a Spindrift nesting dinghy to replace the small Nutshell pram I had with the expectation that we would break it down when travelling and carry it on deck. In reality we found it very inconvenient and ended up towing it since it was too big to carry on deck in one piece. After a rather disasterous towing event we now have an inflatable which is great. Stows on deck, lifts with the spinny halyard. It's all a tradeoff. Good luck!
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Old 10-09-2012, 07:38   #26
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

I like vanes, but I would never own a boat without an autopilot. Even though I hate, hate, hate motoring, I would hate it 10x more if I had to steer when motoring and for that a vane is useless.

Below decks autopilot and a vane is the obvious first choice, but if funds are limited I would choose the autopilot because it can steer when sailing and when motoring. Just choose your autopilot wisely as they are not all made equal.

Also, I would strongly recommend against towing your dinghy in anything but the most sheltered waters. Long ago, when I didn't know better we swamped a dinghy in the San Juan Islands of all places. Not to mention how much the dinghy will slow you down. Too many stories of parted painters, painters caught in the prop, dinghies flipping upside down, etc. to justify towing your dinghy as the standard procedure.
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Old 10-09-2012, 09:03   #27
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

You can have it all if there is space. Davits are great for daily use/icw type travelling, not for offshore use. If using the windvane, the dinghy will be on deck. As mentioned by others, never tow the dinghy offshore...they make a wonderful drogue and the sight of an 11' swamped dinghy coming out of the wave face behind you aiming for your windvane is rather disturbing...never did that again!
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Old 10-09-2012, 09:54   #28
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

It is possible to connect a (relatively) inexpensive tillerpilot to a windvane, for use when motoring, or steering downwind in light air where the windvane may not hold course very well. Or for that matter, if you want to steer to a compass course. This puts essentially no load on the tillerpilot, so it consumes very little electrical power, and doesn't wear out.

I've seen this done, and I've briefly played with it myself, but I currently don't bother, since I have both the Monitor windvane and a perfectly good below-deck autopilot.
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Old 10-09-2012, 10:12   #29
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

One thing I haven't seen mentioned about davits - they make your dinghy a little bit harder to steal than the next guys. Wouldn't want my dinghy hanging on them during a passage, but when in harbor, having a very easy way to get the dinghy out of the water means you probably will. The harder it is to get out of the water the more likely you'll leave it there, where it will grow things and be a target in those parts of the world (i.e. all of them) where some people may see it as available for the taking.

Our boat is easily steered, and has gone through a series of wheel pilots in its life. Yes, we have had to make one passage where the thing broke down and it was not possible to repair on the boat, but you have to be on watch anyway...
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Old 10-09-2012, 11:53   #30
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Re: Windvane vs. Hydraulic Autopilot

I've seen two comments about the benefit of davits for keeping your boat out of the water. I thought it was commonplace to lift your dinghy out of the water alongside the boat using a halyard, both for theft prevention and too keep it clean. That's what we do. No need for davits to accomplish this.
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