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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 25-11-2008, 16:15   #1
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Why Vane steering at all?

This is my first post on CF; here it goes.

I have no experience with autopilot or vane steering. My longest voyage was on a Passport 42í, heavy handed with an 8-man crew, in the cruiser class race (4 legs) from Marina del Rey, CA, USA to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. We had plenty of tiller-men and coffee.

Now Iím looking and listening at anything that will help me decide what boat to get and what gear to have on it (a Cabo Rico 38í would be nice). My main challenge is rigging for single-handed sailing. Iím intending to install enough power generation for moderate to heavy usage.

It seems to me that if one had stout, dependable autopilot steering and a good Windex needle, the wind direction can be monitored and steered by using the autopilotís rudder actuator. Sure some interface program would be needed so that the Windex can talk to the autopilot computer and so the skipper can choose between compass and wind governed modes.

Would not this eliminate the large unsightly Rube Goldberg device hanging off so many yachts and the windage it has? And wouldnít the light and nimble Windex, high on the head, be a more responsive and accurate indicator of apparent wind, especially on a run? It strikes me as an obvious shortcut.

They must have this now. Somebody must be making this kind of autopilot. Where am I wrong about this? I understand that a relationship might develop between skipper and mechanical steering gear after tens of thousands of trusted miles. But isnít that the only reason to keep vane steering? Is the cost for this autopilot ďwind modeĒ add-on more than the installed cost of a vane system? Or are there some intrinsic and subtle accuracy or dependability issues Iím missing. Hell they make helmets out of Kevlar; Iím sure a Windex can be made built proof too.

Please give me a clue. Thanks.
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Old 25-11-2008, 16:54   #2
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This is my first post on CF; here it goes.
That's a great question. The short answer is power requirements and reliability. Autopilots use power each time they make a course correction. Rougher conditions equals more power used.

As for transom erector set, notice how so often it's on the boats which come from other places. A mechanical linkage is pretty reliable and easier to field repair. That is not true of our dear friend Otto. When he gets sick, it’s for quite a while. Sometimes we send him back to Bavaria to see Herr Doktor.

In truth, both are good for differing conditions.
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Old 25-11-2008, 17:17   #3
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The question you ask is an interesting one and comes down to a philosophy. Why at marinas are the typical vessels so loaded with electric devices and miscellaneous gadgetry with owners that feel they need to have every modern convenience under the sun in order to enjoy their boat and then, every once in awhile you see a beautiful traditional gaff rigged cutter with out all the nonsense that has nothing to do with good seamanship?
The reason I sail is to be close to nature and God. Since the time I was child, every time I see the ocean I am in awe. The more complex the systems are on a boat the more attention is required for all this "Stuff" and this insulates me from why I want to be sailing in the first place. So in a nut shell, personally the last thing I want to see is software and computers on the boat. One of the things that's "Neat" about sailing is that we use the wind to get around and with the exception of occasionally turning on the motor I don't pollute an already polluted environment. When you have to make electricity to run "Stuff" there is a cost to the environment. Self steering vanes are anything but Rube Goldberg devices. Having been around for almost a half a century the have become highly refined, highly reliable methods of steering a boat in a wide variety of conditions. Vanes require no electric power, and the good ones very rarely break down. Electric powered autopilots are made in a wide range of offerings. Typically the more serious type of this gear that will be capable of helming in strong sea states are hydraulically powered and use considerable amps to run. When you start coupling to computers, adding software and remote sensors the probability of breakdown increases exponentially. Cabo Rico build beautiful boats, companies like Fleming from Austrailia and Cape Horn from Canada build the latest generation of vanes. These are typically lightweight and refined and on a vessel with a transom like the Cabo Rico would not require all the mounting tubes that you may have seen and would compliment the boat very nicely.
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Old 25-11-2008, 17:27   #4
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Get a vane first, then an A/P. As stated above, electronics will fail, it's just a matter of when. They also need lots of those little electrons and seriously more amounts of them when challenged. The cost of a super large battery bank, solar/wind/aux. gen./engine alternator for charging and at least one complete spare autopilot for spare parts can quadruple the initial cost of an autopilot.

A vane, on the other hand doesn't eat. If something should go wrong, you can actually see what the problem is and probably fix it with parts and tools at hand. Pendulum servo types need a good set of control blocks, low stretch control lines, a spare wind vane and rudder and Bob's your uncle. We did over 10,000 miles on our Aries with it steering about 98% of the time. We had to replace the original blocks and control line once. What little maintenance we had to do we were able to accomplish in really out of the way places with a pen knife, allen wrench, and a few wrenches. BTW, the Harken blocks that I used to replace the questionable original blocks did another 20,000 miles after we sold the boat.

The Windex is really superfluous. You should be able to tell wind direction by just the feel on your face. You certainly don't need windpoint electronics, etc if you have a Windex.

About the only thing a vane won't do is steer well when powering. Since we almost never powered, not having an A/P wasn't much of a hardship.

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Old 25-11-2008, 17:43   #5
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Originally Posted by porttack View Post
This is my first post on CF; here it goes.



It seems to me that if one had stout, dependable autopilot steering and a good Windex needle, the wind direction can be monitored and steered by using the autopilotís rudder actuator. Sure some interface program would be needed so that the Windex can talk to the autopilot computer and so the skipper can choose between compass and wind governed modes.



Please give me a clue. Thanks.
Many of the autopilots made will receive NMEA data from a wind direction indicator and steer to an apparent wind angle. My old ST4000 has this mode. I've never tried it as I don't have NMEA wind instruments. I have the ST4000 for no wind while the engine is producing power, and I have purchased, but not yet installed a hydrovane for sailing.

John
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Old 25-11-2008, 17:45   #6
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To me it is a question of use. I have stood the helm for 17 hours in less than perfect conditions, due to a faulty autopilot and a frightened mate, it was no fun. My passages (aside from the Crossing) tend to be short around the Bahamas, so an autopilot is fine. I will reinstall solar panels (taken out by a storm), I have a noisy wind generator (looking at new blades). I have a large battery bank to run my new autopilot. If I were considering longer passages, like Hawaii , the Pacific or Europe, I would without question install the windvane I picked up used.
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Old 25-11-2008, 20:58   #7
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Oh Yea!

A shot of single-handing just before hooking up. Just kick the vane off and hove to to retrieve dinner.
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....:-)

Does it look ugly? I don't think so...:-)
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Old 25-11-2008, 23:19   #8
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In a perfect world you would want both,unfortunately this is rarely the case.I have built homemade windvane/auxillary rudder systems for less than $500.,but like the $5000. ones they do wear out and break like anything with moving parts.An autopilot has less moving parts,weighs considerably less,causes no extra underwater drag,works when sailing or powering,uses minimal electricity,easier to dismantle for repair/replacement,takes up less space,no underwater corrosion issues.I wish I had a vane also,but lack of space on stern won't allow for it very easily.With hard Bimini,vane height would be substantial.The main advantage of auxillary rudder is just that,back up steering in case of main rudder failure.Auto pilots have been around a while,and they only get better.Raymarine has the NMEA wind instrument/vane attachment for their system,an $800. add on to basic autopilot cost.For an extra $400. you can have a pocket remote to make adjustments from anywhere within range,even at the masthead!With solar and wind power, green energy is close at hand.We rely on electronics for everything onboard,why single out autopilots as chief culprit?Simplicity is in eye of beholder.
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Old 26-11-2008, 00:36   #9
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An autopilot [...] uses minimal electricity
For what it's worth, when I run my belowdecks hydraulic ram autopilot it makes a very significant dent in my daily power consumption.

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We rely on electronics for everything onboard,why single out autopilots as chief culprit?
All my electronics can fail, and I still have a good shot at reaching my destination. If my autopilot failed and I didn't have the windvane it could turn into a very difficult trip, expecially if I was shorthanded.

I've had both windvanes and autopilots break -- generally the windvane is easier to repair at sea. If I had to take just one, while I could understand the argument for the autopilot, I would still choose the windvane.
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Old 26-11-2008, 01:05   #10
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Back to basics

Welcome aboard and great first post

Ask yourself which provides better (and cost effective) redundancy.

A. Two independant electronic systems (including battreies and charging sources)

B. Two independant mechanical systems.

C. One electronic system and one mechanical system.

Now ask which system is easier to repair under way and which system does more that one function.

There is no "right" answer for all of us but the right answer for me is "C"; however if I could only choose one system, it would be the best mechanical system I could afford.

All sailing is a compromise, you have to feel right about your own decisions and live by them.

BTW, I believe redundancy is in the top 5 concepts of seamanship
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Old 26-11-2008, 01:37   #11
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Quote:
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This is my first post on CF; here it goes.

[...] enough power generation for moderate to heavy usage [...]

[...] autopilot steering and a good Windex needle [...] interface program [...] computer [...]
Many potential sources of failure, and expensive. A vane is by no means free, but will probably be cheaper in the long run. You won't have to wiegh down your boat with batteries and generators. The vane is soundless, clean and reliable. If it does break down, it's easy to fix, if you can't do it yourself pretty much any mechanic in the world can make a rod or change a bearing. I use a Monitor and I'll complement it with an autopilot for use when on power. Any old, used powerconsuming thing will work then. The really sane thing though IMO is to use a vane, with an autopilot for backup and use when powering.

I doubt most people in here would set out on a longer voyage without papercharts or compass and only a plotter with electronic charts...

And yeah, welcome!!

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Old 26-11-2008, 03:46   #12
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Without trying to beating a dead mule, Is a sextant required as a backup to GPS for most or is a 2nd, 3rd and even 4th GPS a reasonable backup. If the price today is $800 for the autopilot "wind option", That price can't last long... When almost every engineering effort is to replace moving parts with solid state, how is marine electronics left out... salt-water? I think we should all expect the makers of marine electronics to make better more robust systems for the boating community and price the stuff so we can have redundancy. As for power usage I guess I might as well have a mechanical wind vane on my boat when on the road as a wind generator and solar panel. But when at anchor I think it would be a decent trade otherwise. If LOL means: lots of love then, LOL.
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Old 26-11-2008, 03:58   #13
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Without trying to beating a dead mule, Is a sextant required as a backup to GPS for most or is a 2nd, 3rd and even 4th GPS a reasonable backup. If the price today is $800 for the autopilot "wind option", That price can't last long... When almost every engineering effort is to replace moving parts with solid state, how is marine electronics left out... salt-water? I think we should all expect the makers of marine electronics to make better more robust systems for the boating community and price the stuff so we can have redundancy. As for power usage I guess I might as well have a mechanical wind vane on my boat when on the road as a wind generator and solar panel. But when at anchor I think it would be a decent trade otherwise. If LOL means: lots of love then, LOL.
LOL = Laughing Out Loud

Naa, a sextant probably isn't a required backup, it's a good backup but a portable GPS with lots of batteries kept in a watertight jar is sufficiant I think. A magnetic compass, paper charts, a watch and log are a must, at least in my book.

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Old 26-11-2008, 06:47   #14
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I think it all comes down to what your sailing plans are. For globe-trotting, big long ocean sailing all the time, then a vane wins. For coastal cruising, Caribbean island hopping, etc. I would never want a vane back there. I prefer a dinghy on davits and an autopilot.
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Old 26-11-2008, 06:57   #15
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A balanced boat is key to reducing AP motor run time,longer keel helps here.Dont most have panels and or wind gen. to replenish already existing battery bank?I agree with Fishspearit.
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