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Old 01-03-2007, 09:23   #31
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Windvane as Backup Rudder

Auspicious wrote:
The issue I have with the back-up rudder idea is that if you are sailing with the vane and something happens (whale, container, whatever) to cause loss of the rudder you'll likely lose the vane rudder as well.

I think there are lots of good reasons to use a vane. In my opinion, rudder back-up isn't one of them, unless you want to count on luck.

You have a point, but in the case of the Monitor, the in-the-water oar doesn't go nearly as deep as the keel, or even my rudder and skeg. So there will be some protection in some directions.

Also, the Monitor has a break-away tube that attaches the oar to the above-water assembly, so even if the oar did get hit, it could probably be retreived on it's safety-line and reassembled with the spare connecting tube. I carry Monitor's "MRUD" emergency rudder, which is has more surface-area than the regular oar, and this substitutes for the oar when the system is being used as an emergency rudder. Some other windvanes will let the oar "kick up" on impact.

Finally (?) there are plenty of rudder failures that aren't a result of collision. I seem to hear more about rudder delamination, bearing failure, rudder-tube failing in a broach -- things like that. In these cases, the windvane/emergency-rudder will have a good chance of getting you to port.

Besides, I still have my spin-pole and hatch-cover. From what I hear, those will take luck to make work well.

Paul Elliott, S/V VALIS - Pacific Seacraft 44 #16 - Friday Harbor, WA
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Old 01-03-2007, 11:16   #32
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I have a Windpilot which uses the boat rudder to steer - no separate wind vane rudder. The faster the boat is moving, the more power the windvane develops to turn the ship's wheel - so in light air it doesn't do much. Likewise, on downwind runs the apparent wind is proportionately lighter so steering is not as efficient. When the wind gets too light, we take off the wind paddle and connect an Autohelm 1000+ tiller pilot. This tiller pilot costs around $300 and is only rated for about 18' daysailers, but it is only moving the wind paddle arm - the current passing the Windpilot oar is providing the steering power, so it works just fine. In October 2006, we motor-sailed from Cartagena, Colombia to Curacao with the tiller pilot steering all the way (with occasional helpful button-pushing by the crew).

It is essential to have the sails well balanced for any wind steering system to function.

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Old 01-03-2007, 12:07   #33
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can you testify that your windvand worked even almost dead downwind in heavy seas? Can you testify that your windvane worked in light airs? Can you testify that your windvane worked well in good wind with a heavy beam sea?
I can to all above. My boat does NOT track well, but it does ballence very well. The -only- problem we had with the vane (Monitor) is in large seas and no wind. We ran into this crossing the equator on the way to and from the Marquesas. At that point the tiller pilot did work better. And I recall it failed once. It didn't like rain and heat, I was able to fix it.

This is 13 years later and I still use the vane. Used it just last fall in fact. It's had Zero maintenance from the day it was installed. No, I tell a lie, the little bungy that holds the paddle up needs replacement about every 6 months.

From his full keeled, well tracking West sail 32 >- to -> My Fin keeled, non tracking J/35.. Seems that's a pretty good spread of performace.

But, nothing beats an autopilot for motoring!

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Old 08-03-2007, 10:59   #34
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I have read these postings with interest, thanks for the reference material, Gord...

A good friend, my brother and I are departing on a circumnavigation this summer (leaving from La Paz), and are in the market for a wind vane. We definitely are looking for a system with and indepent rudder system. From what I can gather, it seems either the hydrovane or scanmar system is what I am looking for? Also, what is the best/most cost effective source for this type of equipment? We will be travelling from Canada all the way down the west coast, so can stop anywhere to pick one up.

Cheers, and thanks in advance!
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Old 08-03-2007, 12:01   #35
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What! Nobody recommending build it yourself! The Cal 34 I took to Hawaii had a homebuilt electric autopilot built by a previous owner, and I built a horizontal pivot windvane from a design in Belcher's book.

The autopilot had one failure on the way there. The actuator arm had two bolts screwed into it to form a fork that you dropped the tiller into. Part way into the trip one of the bolts sheared off. Murphy's law being in effect, I had just dropped into the cabin to get my foulies because I saw rain in the distance. The boat jibed while I was below once the tiller was free. The boom vang rigged as a preventer, prevented the boom from jibing, from the vang to the mast, the rest of the boom jibed. Two hours later after screwing aluminum U channel onto three sides of the boom to put it back together, and 5 minutes to put a new screw in the autopilot we were back to normal, except for our mental state.

What I really liked about the homebuilt autopilot was that the three knobs were labeled P,I,D which makes sense to me, I always have to think about what the terms created for boats mean. Also the P,I,D controls had a lot of range, the ST4000 I have now drives me crazy because the minimum integral you can set is way too long for certain conditions.

The windvane was made out of plywood and a broken laser mast section. The two part mast made the part to swivel the vane sail. The design I picked was for a 30' boat, so between being too small and not a servo pendulum design I was pretty sure it wouldn't have enough power for downwind sailing, and I was right. The autopilot was used for downwind.
The windvane steered us for nearly the entire trip back. Once again Murphy caused the high to move northwest of us when we were supposed to get into the westerlies, and we wound up close reaching on the other tack on our easting. A mechanical engineer told us that the windvane wouldn't last a day out there. The only thing that broke on the windvane was a cheap cast cleat that we found laying around, that as soon as I tried to tighten a line on, the arms snapped off.

Well 20 years ago things were a bit different.

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Old 08-03-2007, 23:08   #36
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We view our Cap Horn windvane as totally indispensible. I agree with most comments above - especially the breakdown of requirements for autopilot v. vane (for light airs with the motor kicking over you'll want to go with an auto pilot - ideally one connected to the vane!). However, if you can only afford one or the other I'd recommend the vane - you can almost always find some wind (especially in an El Nino year).

The only I'd change on the next yacht would be to install a trim tab on the rudder instead of using control lines on the tiller - a great self-contained system.
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Old 10-03-2007, 11:58   #37
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I have a Windpilot pacific plus and a Simrad AP22 autopilot, also a tiller pilot for the wind vane. Being mostly single handed or weak crewed, there isn no way I want to be helming in mid ocean. So far it has worked well in six Atlantic crossings. Mind you it's not a cheap set up, but it works for me.
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Old 12-03-2007, 23:24   #38
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Our new boat has a Sayes rig installed as well as an auto pilot, will be abaord and sailing come April, so I can't add anything at the moment to this thread, but interested if anyone else has one and how they find it?
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Old 25-03-2007, 22:47   #39
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Does anyone know how reliable the autohelm 2000 is? The instruction book says that it is suitable for boats upto 13m or 43ft. I have one that came with my current boat, though I haven't used it. It also has the wind vane controller for use while sailing.
I have no experience with auto helms at all and no nothing about this brand. I would be interested in hearing from people who have used these units.

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