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View Poll Results: Best Single Handed Cruiser for Windward Caribbean?
42' Cabo Rico 0 0%
43' Hans Christian 0 0%
39' Shannon 1 12.50%
36' Robinhood / Cape Dory Cutter 3 37.50%
Other (Specify) 4 50.00%
Voters: 8. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 26-11-2008, 06:10   #16
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Another ditto for Fishspearit.

Cam - I am no longer a member here. Look for me on other forums...same name.

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Old 27-11-2008, 06:36   #17
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Originally Posted by Jmolan View Post
My vane is a constant companion. I would hate to rely on eletronics when something that is almost mystical steers my boat better than I can most the time....:-)
It looks like you have an autohelm. What made you pick that over say, a hydrovane?



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Old 27-11-2008, 07:26   #18
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My yacht was built for a couple to sail to Australia and back. It did just that and I intend to do the same.
It has been set up with two completely independent Autohelm 7000. This does not save money compared to an autopilot wind vane combination, but has been done to allow a stern design that would not be possible with a wind vane.
It is not as redundant as a separate autopilot and windvane combination, but is close. Its hard to imagine a senario where all electrical power is lost given 3 battery banks and multiple seperate sources of electicity. I think the chances of other diasters such as main engine falure or loss of the rig will keep me more awake at night than the risk of 2 autopilot failing.
Just another option to consider.
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Old 27-11-2008, 09:32   #19
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Most autopilots have a steer to wind function, but that requires wind data from a masthead transducer. The power consumption of an autopilot increases with the steering effort, which is higher on heavier, fin-keeled boats and less on others. Autopilots can respond quicker and stronger than vanes, which are virtually useless on catamarans. On the other hand Vane steering runs continuously, night or day, sunshine or rain, but autopilots need juice.
Vanes are easiest to install on transom hung rudders, and work best on boats that can be trimmed hands off for minutes at a time. More complicated helm arrangements require more ornate and complicated mechanical contraptions, making a simple autopilot and wind instrument the way to go.
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Old 27-11-2008, 10:04   #20
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I have found windvanes to be a PITA. If you are planning long voyages,then it may make sense. A good quality AP is one of the most useful things on a boat. Unless you are on a long crossing with steady winds, the Windvane will be a lot of trouble, and as you say an albatross hanging on the back of the boat. You say you are going to set up for heavy batt charging anyway. You will be charging for the fridge etc daily. Bottom line: Carribean, west coast and Mexico: AP. Crossing to the south pacific or europe... maybe windvane. If I had to choose between t hem : AP handsdown. Dont worry about the windvane option for your AP, you need to be on watch anyway. Your boat will tell you if the sails need reset. Going down the west coast of Baja, a singlehander ran onto the beach due to falling asleep with his windvane steering. Wind changed and the vane steered him right onto the beach. Total loss, they were trying salvage what they could when I departed the area after responding to his distress calls. With either system, you need to have a balanced boat when sailing. any wind shift or change in wind strength will require windvane adjustment. I have spent more time mounting windvanes on 3 differenet boats than using them without fuss, but then again, I never did a 3 week sail to the Marquesas either. In leftover heavy seas, after the wind has moderated, the vane is affected each time you go over a swell and start down again etc...
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Old 27-11-2008, 10:35   #21
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My vote is for the windvane. They are reliable and relatively easy to fix at sea or at the dock. They do inhibit the use of stern mounted dinghy davits but having had a friend's dinghy swamped on stern mounted davits in a following sea I am convinced that dinghies don't belong there in the first place.

As to an autopilot, several sailors I know have the Alpha Marine 3000 and wouldn't live without it. Hal Roth I believe circumnavigated the globe with one without a single failure. Personally I am a follower of the philosophy that simplicity is the best policy so I would go with the windvane. As a number of posters have pointed out there are a number of good ones on the market and you can usually find a used one on EBay or Craigslist.
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Old 27-11-2008, 11:09   #22
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I agree on the balanced boat being a key ingredient but one other factor is hull design. I do have a Cabo Rico 38 and with its full keel it is remarkably stable when it comes to holding a course.

As an anecdote: When I was bringing the boat home a friend was on watch. He informed me that the autopilot was broken. When I asked why he thought that, his response was that the wheel wasn't moving. I then asked if he had noticed that although the wheel wasn't moving, neither was our course. We were zipping along at 7.5 kt on a beam reach at the time.

I do love full keels. Both for directional stability and for the ease with which they heave to. I do believe that a fin keel will take a much more active (read power usage) autopilot than a full keel.
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Old 27-11-2008, 11:11   #23
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Is "reliable autopilot" one of them thar oxymorons?
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Old 27-11-2008, 11:19   #24
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I have used both on several crossings. 60K+ with a monitor and autopilot and over 10K with just an autopilot (autohelm 7000 with hydraulic ram). In my opinion which way to go depends a lot on the size of boat, smaller boats with less complicated systems the vane is a better choice, but on larger, more complicated boats perhaps the autopilot is just as good, esp. if you have a back up control head; as it is the one thing that can’t be easily jury-rigged.
I have had both the vane and the pilot fail on passages, the vane was easier to fix underway but of no use at all when motoring. On my current boat the autopilot failed a couple times, both times I was able to make repairs. One required re-plumbing the hydraulic lines to eliminate a bad valve and the other time I had to rewire power to the control head.
All in all if I could only have one of the two I think I would lean towards the autopilot as I would rather steer while sailing and not have to while motoring. (booring!!)
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Old 27-11-2008, 17:54   #25
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Hi If I understood the question correctly you're wondering if an autopilot can be tied to a Windex. No, but virtually all of the modern autopilots, including some of the relatively cheap ones, offer a windvane mode for their autopilots, so you can steer point of sail or compass course. If you have a masthead wind unit it'll generally interface with an autopilot. I've had an Airies on my fin keeled wheel steered 38' sloop for almost 20 yrs. I rarely use it, but have had to rely on it various times for varying amounts of time. It rarely steers with precision but I can always get it working given enough time and patience. In my opinion windvanes are great with tillers and less so with wheels, because you can move the attachment point up and down the tiller and change the steering response/sensitivity. A full keeled boat steers better with a vane than a fin. Autopilots with electrolinear drives for 40' boats are pretty easy on batteries, a wind generator will usually keep up. Good luck George
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Old 27-11-2008, 20:41   #26
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For me the vote would always be for the windvane. Why not an auto pilot? They use electricity and electricity in an environment surrounded by water you can bet that eventually the auto pilot isn't going to work. Most likely when you need it most.

Besides, I think that erector set of a windvane on your transom makes the boat look salty as all get out even if you never leave the dock.
A small boat and a suitcase full of money beat a 40 footer tied to a bank every time!
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Old 27-11-2008, 21:09   #27
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Vane choices

Originally Posted by Maren View Post
It looks like you have an autohelm. What made you pick that over say, a hydrovane?

Maren, this vane came with the boat. However my last Searunner I built a copy of this same gear and it worked great on a 37 Searunner. I do not know much about the other gear you mentioned. It almost looks like a separate rudder set up. Many of the other vanes that use a paddle are unneeded on a Searunner because we already have a outboard rudder and do not need a heavy hand to steer in most an condition.s...
The Auto helm is set up to actuate a trim tab. SO all you have to do is hook up the top part to the trim tab on your own rudder. It works great on a rudder like we have. I am considering replacing some of the tubes with Carbon Fiber tubes to lighten the load on the stern. I actually believe you could build one out of sced. 80 Pvc and it would work fine as these boats steer so easy the loads are not great at all. Never know....:-)
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Old 27-11-2008, 23:32   #28
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Vane Steering in the Dark Ages

About 30 years ago I logged roughly 10,000 miles as a solo sailor in the western pacific. My wind vane was a constant companion and in most respects a better helms person than I. It ate none of my food, did not complain about a damp berth, did not mind being out in the rain and never complained about a long watch. As I build my Ingrid 38 in preparation for a solo non-stop circumnavigation, a servo pendelum vane is a must in my book. I will install a tiller pilot, but it will be a back up to the vane as vane's aren't always at their best when downwind in light air.

If erector sets are a problem, sailboats with all of their rig and lines may not be your cup of tea. I think you'll find that a good servo vane will make your off shore voyaging a pleasure. When you want to cook, you set a course that lets the boat stand tall and straight, cook a great meal, and then enjoy it. When I wanted to sleep I would do the same thing. Set a course that allows the boat to stand up a bit while still making distance in the desired direction. I'd generally reduce sail so that I did not awake to a hornets nest and have to reef in the middle of a squal.

When it comes to going solo, a long keel, a sturdy vane and a good sextant will sledom try to bite you.

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Old 28-11-2008, 03:58   #29
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Originally Posted by 04 Marine View Post
I will install a tiller pilot, but it will be a back up to the vane as vane's aren't always at their best when downwind in light air.
You can actually hook up a small autopilot actuator to your windvane, and use it as the input instead of the wind. You cut off an old vane blade, and connect the servo rod of the autopilot to it. That way you have all the steering action, with a small and low energy consuming unit. This is a good way to cope with downwind light air situations, without having to shell out thousands of dollars for a bigger tiller unit. I have a video clip of the setup and how it works.

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Old 28-11-2008, 05:32   #30
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+1 on "both" for the A/P. We use an ST-6000+ on a 24,000 lb. Baba 35 and it does a very good job. But the energy for the drive comes from the batteries. With a wind vane, there's no battery draw. Either device can fail and either can be easy or hard to fix (although black boxes tend to be harder to fix).

On the sextant thing, a stack of receivers (they don't have to be fancy) and a stack of batteries is certainly a plausible strategy. However, if the satellites start to act up, not much you can do for spares then. By and large, the GPS constellation is unlikely to do anything worse than revert to the bad old days of Selective Availability (fixes good to 15 meters CEP). However, with solar activity on the rise (this is an 11 year cycle - predictions as to how much the activity will affect satellites varies from "utter doom and gloom" to "what's the fuss" - pick your favorite prediction... ), there will be an increasing chance that signals may not be as reliable as they are now, during the present solar minimum. No signals means no GPS. Now how do you feel about a sextant?

There's a theme here - sailing, IMHO, requires a "belt and suspenders" approach. It can be overdone, of course, but suspenders look mighty attractive as your pants are dropping, thanks to a broken belt.

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