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Old 16-09-2013, 16:31   #1
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Self Steering System

If i was to get a self steering system for my boat what would you recommend I've been thinking about getting one from these guys because I heard they are the best. But I want to know what you guys think - I also want to know if there's anything i should be aware of as an owner before purchasing and paying for an installation.
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Old 16-09-2013, 18:32   #2
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Re: Self Steering System

William, before you shell out large sums of money, you might want to let this group know what size and type of boat you have and what your realistic cruising plans are. If you are going to be a coastal cruiser for a few years before crossing oceans, then maybe you should put off the wind vane and buy an auto pilot. If you plan on heading out to the deep blue sea soon , then put your money into a wind vane. There is a search feature on this forum, and if you use it you will find dozens of threads about windvanes. Just remember that everyone has opinions (just like me) and you have to sort through the BS and arguments to come to your own conclusions. ____Welcome to the forum. _____Grant.
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Old 16-09-2013, 19:36   #3
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Re: Self Steering System

Best is kind of relative; I don't think there are a lot of crappy multi-thousand dollar windvanes. Monitor has a whole section of their website to discredit Hydrovane which I think is a little childish. Their defense is "they started it first!", which is even more childish and I don't believe it regardless.

A lot of folks have below decks hydraulic systems but I think that coincides a lot with davits and other "stuff" hanging off the back that would interfere with the large real estate and airflow requirements of a vane.

If you're planning on crossing an ocean, I think a wind vane is a great investment. The lack of electrical requirements, the relatively simple (but powerful and precise) mechanics, and with a unit like a Hydrovane you get a mounted spare rudder which is a big plus.

I have a Hydrovane for sailing and a X5 for motoring. I'm planning on picking up a Simrad TP10 for motoring, since you can clip a small tiller pilot to the rudder of the Hydrovane.

Definitely, as mentioned above, really determine what you'll be doing. We put several thousand miles under our keel with just the X5 wheel pilot. But now that we're in more distant locales and are planning crossing the Pacific in the spring, we put a Hydrovane on.
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Old 19-09-2013, 07:47   #4
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Re: Self Steering System

I've been shipmates with 3 different gears on 4 boats.

The Albin Ballad and later my Contessa 33 (not 32!) had the same Monitor unit fitted. Once set up and tuned it worked remarkably well. With the Ballad, whilst sailing double handed, we missed winning a RORC race, our class and overall by 40 seconds. The Monitor steered, and we trimmed the kite like demons.

The unit was then fitted to the Contessa for more double handed racing and a two year Atlantic Circuit, on which it never missed a beat.

I've sailed a season on a S&S Swan 40, which had a Pacific Plus. Reasonable gear, but poor in light conditions; it needs 4 kts of boat speed and 10kts of wind to perform. The basic construction using bushes rather than bearings doesn't help. It acquired the nickname, The Sulky Hun.

My current boat, a long fin and skeg 37' came fitted with a Hydrovane. After 20,000 miles my views are: The basic problem is that getting the wind alone to turn an auxiliary rudder means it isn't very powerful. It's especially poor in a quartering sea, as the rudder doesn't have the strength to keep her running straight. Forget setting a spinnaker.

The Mickey Mouse way the rudder is attached means manoeuvring in a tight marina is fraught as it can't be lifted out of the water, unlike a pendulum servo gear.

Also, the people who sell it aren't very nice to deal with. I had extensive correspondence with them about the Hydrovane's poor performance. They recommended that a new larger rudder and a suitably strengthened shaft was the answer. Many photographs and accurate measurements were taken.

When the new parts arrived, it was obvious that they were never going to fit.
When I queried this, they said "Oh you must have the 1.25" shaft, it won't fit"
Also, the new rudder was badly warped.

At first they refused to take the stuff back, "you ordered it, we supplied" they said. They changed their tune when I pointed it out it was their boss that specified the alterations in the first place. Nevertheless, they refused to refund my not inconsiderable shipping costs to and from Florida.

All in all, if I wasn't selling my boat, I'd remove the Hydrovane and flog it to some unsuspecting mug and fit a Monitor.

Don't forget another alternative is to have a complete spare below decks pilot. Probably for less cost than a vane gear.

Sorry for waffling on.
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Old 19-09-2013, 09:43   #5
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Re: Self Steering System

Some comments I'd chime in with.

The smaller diameter shaft and smaller rudder were earlier models; they've increased the sizing on both to address the power concerns that you've had. It's a shame the shaft diameter wasn't supplied when you took your measurements, I think a lot of frustrations could have been avoided there.

Regarding its steering power, the Hydrovane is very sensitive to boat balance. If I've got more than just typical weather helm present, I'll trim until I'm fairly balanced. From there the Hydrovane does a great job.

The few times I've heard people disappointed with Hydrovane performance was the earlier (1980's) models that had narrower shafts, smaller wind vanes, and smaller rudders. Those were progressively beefed up to where they sit now.

The larger vane catches more wind, and basically if there's enough wind to sail the boat, there's enough wind for the self steering to work. The larger rudder provides more steerage, and the larger shaft is better able at handling the increased loads.

The inability to "swing it up" is a little annoying, but it just slows down the turns a little more and on the plus side it restricts prop walk a lot so that helps. In the short time we've had it, I've just jumped over the side and unpinned it, and hauled it up with a line. Depending on the installation, especially with sugar scoop sterns, you can just put your hand in the water and grab it.

I've met (and played soccer on the beach, and subsequently broke my foot) with Will from the Hydrovane organization last winter in Mexico. Both he and the rest of the company have always treated me well and provides lots of help.
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