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Old 06-11-2016, 21:39   #1
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Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

I have read everything I can find on the web about the Hydrovane self-steering gear, including lots of discussions about what its shortcomings should be: primarily not enough power to steer large/heavy vessels, especially boats with long keels. That said, I've read a number of accounts of the Hydrovane working fairly effectively for such boats, and I've found almost none that report that the Hydrovane actually failed heavy vessels.

We are considering buying a Hydrovane for our 20-ton 45' wooden ketch (traditional hull design with a full keel). If you have experience with a Hydrovane on an equivalent boat, and especially if there were serious shortcomings, we'd love to hear from you.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to tell us your experience!

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Old 07-11-2016, 01:05   #2
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

Don't have a Hydrovane but a WindPilot Pacific Plus which is also a auxiliary rudder self steering vane. I bought it used off a 44' boat, think it was a long fin keel design. Owner said it had steered the boat from the East Coast through the Carribean and up to SF without any problems.

I've got it on a 35' full keel boat and it steered DDW to Hawaii in lightish conditions without a problem. DDW in those conditions is the hardest point of sail for a self steering vane and it worked just fine steering all the way. Only change I made was a larger 8"x4' wind vane so as to be more sensitive in light air conditions.

The WindPilot vane uses a servo pendulum rudder to steer the auxiliary rudder. The Hydrovane uses only the force of the wind vane to steer. Seems like it might have trouble in light air but people that have them claim they work just fine.
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Old 07-11-2016, 20:16   #3
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

Thank you, Roverhi

I love what I've read about the WPPP, and I have no doubt it would steer our boat well. Your story certainly supports that conclusion! I'm hoping to hear enough about the Hydrovane that I can buy it instead--without the servo pendulum component, it's both simpler and cheaper (but maybe not as effective).
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Old 07-11-2016, 20:52   #4
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

Thank you, Roverhi

I love what I've read about the WPPP, and I have no doubt it would steer our boat well. Your story certainly supports that conclusion! I'm hoping to hear enough about the Hydrovane that I can buy it instead--without the servo pendulum component, it's both simpler and cheaper . . but of course we're wondering if it's as effective.
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Old 07-11-2016, 21:22   #5
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

crossed the atlantic last year with a hydrovane from cabo verde to trinidad. It was absolutely the best. Never had a problem steering a 40 ft. boat in normal tradewind conditions all the way across. The only problem we had was a day where we went through huge mats of seaweed that had to be constantly taken off the hydrovane's rudder.

The hydrovane relies on first balancing the on the boat you are sailing. You cant have too much weather helm or it wont do a good job. But assuming you can balance your boat (and of course if you are sailing a passage where a wind vane would be useful, that is a given) it is extremely easy to set up and to use. Just a couple of light lines to steer port or starboard.

I am looking into getting one for my own boat. They arent cheap but they are well worth it
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Old 08-11-2016, 10:47   #6
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

We have a 40 foot steel ketch with a long keel and wing on it. We fitted a hydrovane in 1997 and have used it on 3 transatlantic crossing since.

Excellent bit of kit, runs down wind without gybing in all weathers. Very very occasionally in very rough weather with large cross seas that throw the boat around we have found we needed to use the helm to help it out but miles better than the electric autopilot which would have given up long before
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Old 08-11-2016, 15:52   #7
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

Caitlin, I've no experience with the Hydrovane,but lots with an auxiliary rudder/trim tab vane that I designed and built for our previous boat. That experience really has little bearing on your request, so I'll only say that it steered our retired IOR one-tonner for many tens of thousands of oceanic and coastal miles. That boat had far less inherent course stability than most traditional, long keeled vessels.

But, I think you can get some idea of how your boat will react to a Hydrovane by doing a little thought experiment: First, how big is the HV rudder compared to your boat's rudder? Second, in the conditions that you want the HV to work, how much steering input does manual helming require? That is, do you need to add or subtract several degrees of rudder frequently, or can you mostly just tweak it a little now and then to stay on course?

If the latter, I believe the HV will do a great job. If the former, then the smaller rudder on the HV will be working pretty hard to input as much turning force as your larger ship's rudder does, and response may well be pretty slow.

My observation is that all aux rudder vanes wander a bit more than servo-pendulum types, especially downwind with quartering seas. The servo reacts immediately when the stern of the boat slews (as when it lifts to a quartering swell), well before the apparent wind shift can drive the air blade and its associated gear. This provides a rapid steering correction. The aux rudder types must wait until the apparent wind shift drives the trim tab, and then there is a significant delay while the trim tab drives the rudder in the appropriate direction. This delay allows the boat's course to wander a bit. It will do a fine job of averaging the correct coursse... just more embarrassing woggles in the wake! This effect is more noticeable in boats with less inherent course stability of course. Could be a non-event if your long keel keeps you straight most of the time.

I really miss our old vane! The various electronic auto pilots we've used on our current boat do a good job of course-keeping, but they burn lots of electricity, they're noisy in the aft cabins, and there is always the specter of electrical failure or electronic gremlins in the back of our minds when on passage!

Good luck with your decision,

Jim
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Old 13-11-2016, 20:45   #8
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Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

I have a Hydrovane on my Morgan 383, and I am with Jim. When my boat is balanced, it is great. If I am hand steering and requiring several degrees of rudder to maintain direction, I am not balanced and the Hydrovane struggles. I reef and get balanced and I'm fine again. I have a modified fin and skeg hung rudder, not a full keel, so you may balance better, but what Jim says about the water on the quarter v. the latency of the wind altering the course makes sense.
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Old 26-12-2016, 09:33   #9
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

Steered the boat on five Atlantic crossings without a hitch. Have now bought a new one for the new boat and the rudder is one third bigger than the design twenty years ago. The engineering is a marvel to behold. Only thing on the boat that is built like a tank. It will not fail.
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Old 26-12-2016, 14:22   #10
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

Had one for a few years and put about 10,000 offshore miles on it. Worked fine in most conditions but it's not as quick or as powerful as a servo pendulum vane. Weakest point is a gusty beam reach. I found I sailed underpowered often to allow the vane to keep up. Worked fine downwind and better than expected in lighter airs. The big selling feature is the emergency rudder capabilities. Well built and nicely finished but also the most expensive to purchase. Make sure your transom is properly reinforced as this vane puts a very high load on the mounting system, much more than a servo pendulum vane. I'd recommend it but personally prefer a servo pendulum but that's just me.
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Old 26-12-2016, 18:06   #11
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

I've had one for 7 years on previous boat. The freedom 33 is a light boat and the hydrovane worked extremely well.
Im in the process of buying brackets to install it on my current boat. This one displaces alot more so not sure how well it will go.
As Robert said the big plus is the auxiliary rudder. Having an emergency rudder already installed is reasurring( for me at least), secondly having a second auto pilot that's not electricity depend is also something that I like about it.
The only downsides I see are, expensive and the red vane covers don't last long in the sun.

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Old 26-12-2016, 19:39   #12
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

Our boat is similar displacement to yours and we have a centreboard so it is sort of like a long keel. We came down to choosing between a Hydrovane and a Monitor. Talked to the Hydrovane people at the Annapolis show and they were sure their unit would work with our boat even though we are right at their limit. Decided to go with a Monitor instead since they are often used on boats much heavier than ours (and yours). Could not be more pleased with our choice; the Hydrovane could have been fine too, no way to know.

People mention balancing the boat - this is essential for any sort of vane steering. If you can't get the boat balanced no vane will work for you.
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Old 14-01-2021, 15:04   #13
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

Quote:
Originally Posted by AiniA View Post
Our boat is similar displacement to yours and we have a centreboard so it is sort of like a long keel. We came down to choosing between a Hydrovane and a Monitor. Talked to the Hydrovane people at the Annapolis show and they were sure their unit would work with our boat even though we are right at their limit. Decided to go with a Monitor instead since they are often used on boats much heavier than ours (and yours). Could not be more pleased with our choice; the Hydrovane could have been fine too, no way to know.

People mention balancing the boat - this is essential for any sort of vane steering. If you can't get the boat balanced no vane will work for you.
You made the right choice. The servo pendulum type has more power. That is very important. It out weighs all other considerations.
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Old 14-01-2021, 15:50   #14
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

As RobertSailor said, be very wary of the high loads the Hydrovane imparts to your transom. Was your transom designed for these loads?
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Old 22-01-2021, 10:06   #15
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Re: Hydrovane Windvane Experieince?

I crossed from CV to Trinidad with a Hydrovane on a Beneteau 1st 41. It was absolutely the best. After a bit of a learning curve it steered the boat for two weeks without a hiccup.
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