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Old 27-02-2007, 20:58   #1
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how good are wind vanes?

I am thinking of heading of to the lousiades latter this year. i have an auto pilot but was wondering if those of you with wind vanes found that they were fare better then the Auto pilot. i am not concerned about price i just want what is best and safest. Any info would be great.
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Old 27-02-2007, 23:23   #2
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Hi Andy:

I don't have much personal experience with windvanes, but it seems to be a fact that for any passage making on a sailboat, you should use a windvane as primary steering, and an autopilot for secondary, or back-up.

Passage making in this context means long distance cruising, or ocean crossings.

For a few days at sea, like the US East Coast to Bermuda, or the Carribbean, you could probably use a good auto pilot and be happy with the choice.

Auto pilots tend to break, especially the cheap ones.
(Boy, do I know about that)

A heavy-duty hydralic/electric pilot with a complete spare may me an option, but most long distance cruisers would not leave shore without a wind vane.

I did ponder the same question a few years ago and contacted all 10 windvane makers to get all the details and the cost and performance of their units, etc.

My favorite (Based on reading only) was the Hydrovane as it comes with a spare rudder completely intependent of the ship's rudder.

Many long-haul folks swear by the "oil platform in the back" made in California by Scanmar.

So again, for short sails, ya don't need no windvane, for long ones ya do....
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Old 28-02-2007, 01:40   #3
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it depends on the kind of yacht you have ie. how ballanced it is, and your budget. A lot of yachts these days tend to stick to a good autohelm, but you do need to spend the bucks to get a good one. The older Airies are good and quite cheap to buy compaired with a bigger autohelm. Pesonally I like having an autohelm, but if you have a balanced spade rudder you may get away with a cheaper autohelm. We have a windvane that is controlled by an autohelm 2000 rather than the actual wind vane but the airies rudder creates the energy to steer the boat while the cheap autohelm keeps the course. It works exceptionally well and is a cheap option.
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Old 28-02-2007, 03:08   #4
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As a matter of safety I would choose a vane over an autopilot. As weather deteriorates eventually an autopilot will give up, the vane simply produces more power. Vanes are more reliable and dare I say it you will become a better sailor if you learn to use a vane.
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Old 28-02-2007, 04:28   #5
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I have both. If you are unable to balance the boat the wind vane can't work. Wind vanes no electrical power but they are not inexpnsive. They don't suffer from breakdown problems as a rule unless you back into something and smash them.
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Old 28-02-2007, 05:02   #6
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See earlier CF discussions:
http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...vits-2348.html
http://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...poliot-59.html

Electric Auto-Pilot:
Steers in light/no wind, downwind, and while motoring.
Steers to magnetic course (just as you plot), rather than to variable winds.
Makes minor course corrections easily.
No vulnerable & obstructive overhanging gear at the stern.

Wind-vane Self-Steering:
No electrical power required, and no vulnerable electronics.
Generally more reliable.
Steers better as conditions get worse (stronger wind).
Not affected by magnetic or electrical or RF interference.

Admittedly written by a Wind-Vane manufacturer, Scanmar offer a pretty fair evaluation of the relative merits, and recommended applications of Electrical vs Wind-Vane self-steering systems:

Windvane vs. Autopilot
http://www.selfsteer.com/windvaneVAutopilot/index.php

Windvanes 101—Crash Course in Selfsteering Systems
http://www.selfsteer.com/windvanes101/index.php

FAQs: http://www.selfsteer.com/faqs/index.php

And, see also:

Sorting Out Self-Steering Options (Cruising World January 2002)
Cruising World - Sorting Out Self-Steering Options

Sel;-Steering Article links (from Hydrovane)
Vane Self Steering - Hydrovane Self-Steering


An Overview of Mechanical Self Steering and Autopilots ~ By John Curry (Hydrovane)
Self Steering - Hydrovane Selfsteer
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Old 28-02-2007, 06:17   #7
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I like the double duty option of being able to use the system as an independent rudder. Scanmar offers this option too.

You hear lots of stories about people losing the rudder and having to jury rig (everything from warps to spinnaker poles with boards form the V-berth) to get home. Stories of those that don’t get home too. It would be really nice to have a second option that is quickly and easily put in place.
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Old 28-02-2007, 06:26   #8
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I'd be curious to know the breakdown for passagemakers. Does anyone have a sense (or numbers) for how many cruising sailors on long passages use either windvane or autopilot vs. those who hand steer the boat? (Singlehanders excluded)
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Old 28-02-2007, 07:00   #9
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Nobody hand-steers on a trans-oceanic passage.
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Old 28-02-2007, 07:05   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay
Nobody hand-steers on a trans-oceanic passage.
Hmmm. I think we might have a disagreement on that one.
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Old 28-02-2007, 07:23   #11
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In addition to fully crewed passagemakers who have gone without, I'm sure there have been more than a few others who have had their autopilot/vane malfunction early on, forcing them to hand steer for the remainder of the passage.
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Old 28-02-2007, 10:15   #12
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No disagreement Kevin - now that you’ve convinced my that I way overstated my position.
Dam, I hate being wrong.
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Old 28-02-2007, 10:35   #13
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windvane steering

Although a little bigger learning curve than using an auto pilot the draw on batteries is a big issue. Autopilots use enough juice to insure the need to wake the beast we all hate/love daily. Yuk! And when its rough you can hear that poor motor straining. Sailing with a windvane is really sailing.
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Old 28-02-2007, 10:44   #14
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I sailed 34 days from Mexico to the Marqueasas with a wind vane and had no problems at all. Don't have experience with the autopilots but have heard horror stories. I just bought a used Capehorn windvane for under a thousand bucks from this forum. Of course that is in the states shipping to Oz might cost too much.
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Old 28-02-2007, 11:28   #15
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I particularly like the stories that Joshua Slocum tells in his book, "Sailing Alone Around the World." As he tells it, Spray was very well balanced. He'd get her sheeted in just so, tie the tiller in place, and would sail for days without tending the helm.

My PSC34 is also very well balanced. Going to windward, I can trim the sails, set the rudder at about 5 degrees, then kick back on the foredeck to watch the water pass by. She'll hold a steady course to the wind all day. Wish I could do the same off the wind, though.
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