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Old 28-11-2019, 10:13   #16
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

We did a circumnavigation of the world on a 30ft. boat with a Hydrovane and no electronic back up. I always tell people it takes about one thousand miles of sailing to fine tune the sailing balance characteristics of the boat to optimize the windvane use and to minimize the wandering course. It will make you a better sailor on that boat and every other boat you ever own. Getting the sail balance just right before engaging the AP or windvane, then fine tuning, will pay benefits in speed, maintenance, power consumption and comfort by not having it work too hard, whether wind driven or electronic.
After that boat we had a catamaran that we did long distance ocean crossings on. The catamaran shape and sailing characteristics do not lend themselves to windvane use, though some have used them successfully.
The first autopilot that came with the boat failed when the Rudder Feedback Unit (RFU) wore out. I got a replacement that I was told would work, as the model was out of production, but it never did. We carried a CPT unit as a back up and that worked just fine until returning to our home port. Then we replaced the below decks AP with a Raymarine, sold that boat and kept the CPT, that now does the main steering duties on our new-to-us catamaran (for about three years).

I loved watching the Hydrovane windvane waggle back and forth in the wind on long passages, sort of like watching a happy dog wag it's tail.
The windvane was great, if the boat could make over one knot of speed in light wind, the windvane would steer the boat. It would steer the boat in gale conditions, as long as the sails were reefed, balanced and the boat did not break away and surf. Then we would heave to.

The problem with the hydrovane was that the auxiliary rudder, even when locked into position, made reversing into a berth very difficult. I would often just pull the retaining pin and kick the in-the-water paddle off the shaft end and pull onboard with the retaining line. The benefit was that there was no fouling growth on the paddle while in port.
If doing a circumnavigation or other long passages, a windvane with a cockpit pilot back up would be good, otherwise, a good below decks electronic autopilot would be my recommendation.
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Old 28-11-2019, 10:48   #17
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

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Originally Posted by LauraleeG View Post
You were all so helpful in the other thread about the shaft seals, thought I would pick your brains on the next job we have to do on our Landfall38: Self steering!
We are reading about the pros and cons of electronic vs wind self steering, and are currently leaning towards a wind system.
Thoughts on this? Would it depend on the passage planned with the boat ( gunkholing vs Bluewater)?
Give me your ideas please!!
Both
Insure your wind vane is entirely mechanical, works without ANY electricity
Your electrical system will likely fail at the wrong time, gale, gusts, large following seas, probably simply not strong enough for those conditions,
The wind vane systems will take the larger stresses of poor conditions
Both
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Old 28-11-2019, 10:51   #18
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

The best one I have had was a Sailormat from California (the Company is for sale owner retiring bad health) On my 38 I found the Sailormat was slow responding in light air.
So I got an "Auto helm " the small one" recirculating ball small electric ram complete with compass and miniature wind vane. I ended up removing the Sailomat Wind Paddle just the plywood part and hooking the auto helm ram onto the lever usually driven by the paddle( a simple little spring cup hooked over a miniature Trailer Ball that is part of the Sailormat) --- the other end of the ram had a simple clevis and pin joint clamped on the Pushpit middle rail with a piece of Bike inner tube under a pair of Radiator hose clamps.
The electronic compass was mounted on top of the Keel Bolts where the boat moves the least. The tiny AH wind vane ( about 4 -5" long) with a small 1/2 in dia mast 18" long was mounted on the top rail of the pushpit. " Now" the wind shifts the small wind vane moves ( all parts very low inertia) the electronics (all safe and dry down below ) tell the electric ram to extend (Push) so it does and moves the input lever of The Sailormat Which is mounted on the transom . The force Rotates the Alum. foil cross section Oar---- It takes energy from the vessels wake, that it is immersed in, and moves the Rudder VOILA .
The forces involved in rotating the Oar around its span-wise axis (ie changing its incidence to the flow) are just ounces. I was concerned about the power consumption
and it was sow low I could not measure it.
If you want to steer a compass course you switch from Compass to Vane on a small switch down below.
The speed of movement of the electric ram is not high and you can adjust the speed of response (and the power consumed) by changing the length of the small lever arms. My old 38 ( Summer Vatican) was from the end of CCA and beginning of IOR
so the boat was not directionally stable A Middle of the night squall when sailing down wind would make her start to round up ---- The steering system would react but not quite fast enough ---- by the time the electronics reached the end of its travel and sounded its strident "Beep Beep Beep" I was mid flight between the bunk and the Cabin Sole where I gathered my self and rushed on deck. I decided that was about the right setting.
It was a great system I will use it again. Mike Pope
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Old 28-11-2019, 11:19   #19
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

Quote:
Originally Posted by LauraleeG View Post
You were all so helpful in the other thread about the shaft seals, thought I would pick your brains on the next job we have to do on our Landfall38: Self steering!
We are reading about the pros and cons of electronic vs wind self steering, and are currently leaning towards a wind system.
Thoughts on this? Would it depend on the passage planned with the boat ( gunkholing vs Bluewater)?
Give me your ideas please!!
You will need both. Windvane for sailing, autopilot for the long hours you'll spend motoring.
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Old 28-11-2019, 13:35   #20
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

If given the opportunity, I will install both.

If ocean passages, definitely the windvane. It costs no power and it never fails and autopilots will fail at some point.
For day-sailing, an autopilot is great.
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Old 28-11-2019, 13:57   #21
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

Anyone that thinks a windvane never fails, hasn't spent much time in areas where cruisers end passages. Welders and machinist get lots of business when the seasonal flock arrives.

They maybe more reliable than an autopilot, but they aren't as infallible as some seem to think.

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Old 28-11-2019, 14:10   #22
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

I have both electric and a Monitor Wind Van. I never use the electric because the Monitor is so good, matter fact it can steer the vessel better then me and never gets tired. The worse the weather the better it works and if it should ever need repair (thousands of ocean miles without) I can repair it myself with no special tools or skills. Canít imagine being without it, even works while motoring as long as there is 5-8 itís appairait wind to activate the wind vane. Best piece of equipment Iíve ever owned.
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Old 28-11-2019, 14:16   #23
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

Vanes will on rare occasion fail. But when they do, they can usually be fixed or jerry rigged by the sailor, especially if they have the recommended spare parts onboard. The most common failure by far is when one of the control lines fails due to chafe - when this happens, just replace the chafed line. We also had one of the pulleys routing the control line to the wheel fail. Replaced it from our stock of spares and we were back in business.

On the very rare occasion that they can't be fixed while underway (heard stories of it but never actually saw such a failure with my own eyes), they can usually be repaired by any local welder upon arrival.

On the other hand, when an autopilot fails, unless you have a spare of the component that failed, you're sort of out of luck until you get somewhere that you can get one sent to and then have to wait for it to arrive.
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Old 28-11-2019, 15:46   #24
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

Have sailed a lot of miles with an Aires, WindPilot Pacific Plus, and a WindPilot Pacific Light. First two were on long keel boats and would steer the boat if it would sail.

The WindPilot Pacific Plus is an auxiliary rudder vane which has added benefit of arcing as an emergency rudder if needed. As others have said it does make maneuvering the boat in tight quarters an issue but have worked around it spoofing the self steering to help turning the boat. N ever have had a boat that would back where I wanted it to go.
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Old 28-11-2019, 20:28   #25
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

Other things to consider. If you sail solo, a mechanical autopilot can be very helpful allowing you to prepare the boat as you approach your dock as it will follow your route. I also use it to keep the boat facing the desired wind angle while going to the mast raising the main or reefing.
Also, I use a hydraulic autopilot (Lecomble & Schmitt) rather than electric and i have been very impressed with the quality. Flawless operation over 11,000 miles so far. Worth the extra expense in my view.
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Old 28-11-2019, 21:35   #26
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

Lots of various information here. Here is my 2c worth.

Look at the Golden Globe boats. Lots of issues with wind vanes. They are not infallible, wont steer to waypoints/tracks, and don't work well downwind in fast boats that accelerate a lot in waves - they operate in apparent wind, and take the rapid speed increases as wind shifts, then they try to steer to correct the "course change", when in fact there isn't one.

Look at the modern short handed race boats, from mini 650's to Vendee globe boats.
There are issues with ALL the production tillerpilots, irrespective of brand. They are lightweight, and not reliable as primary auto steering. The Mini 650 guys know this, as do the vendee globe boats. They use under deck pilots, mostly NKE or B&G. The drive units are electric worm drive rams, or hydraulic.

IMO hydraulic is more reliable, keep the electronics below deck and dry.

Decent modern autopilots steer better than a person uphill and down. They follow a compass course, can allow for leeway, set and drift, sail to wind angle as well. They auto switch from Apparent wind to true as the wind goes aft. The top end ones have crash recovery and gybe prevention systems, and they are very robust.
I've personally done over 40,000 Nm with a B&G unit, electric reversing pump over hydraulic ram. No apparent wear in the ram at this point. The pump has had new brushes, and the computer has been replaced once. This unit is stronger than a man.
However, like all steering, manual or auto, the boat needs to be well balanced, and sailed intelligently, so as to minimize loading and power consumption.
Windvane sails to apparent wind angle only, but uses no power.
Consider your vessel type, and the type of sailing you wish to do, then choose...
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Old 28-11-2019, 22:24   #27
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

you gotta have both period. no wind motoring electric...passages in open water windvane.
never never make the mistake of using a windvane near shore and cat napping,sure disaster with a wind shift!
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Old 29-11-2019, 02:03   #28
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Unhappy Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

Wow, so informative... and indicates so much we dont know!!! How do you learn all this stuff? Gotta say..feel a bit ( lot) intimidated right now.
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Old 29-11-2019, 03:56   #29
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

We used a Windpilot for thousands of miles both under sail and motoring. It worked!
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Old 29-11-2019, 04:11   #30
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Re: Electronic Autohelm or Self Steering Wind Vane?

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We used a Windpilot for thousands of miles both under sail and motoring. It worked!
Same with an aging aries

And a much less reliable basic tiller pilot for the option of motoring in the calms.
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