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-   -   Windvane vs. autipilot (https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/f47/windvane-vs-autipilot-150864.html)

northoceanbeach 08-08-2015 11:17

Windvane vs. autipilot
 
For sailing offshore which is the better choice? I know historically the windvane has been better hands down but I have heard good thigs about the new autopilots like the ev-100.

Has anyone tried one or both and can compare? I have a tiller and my boat is 9000 empty. Can the raymarine ev-100 handle high winds and rough seas?

model 10 08-08-2015 11:42

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
You need both. Windvanes are very cool machines but you need wind and you can't (or maybe should not,) motor with one.

bobnlesley 08-08-2015 12:00

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Our last boat was 27'/7000lb and the Raymarine 1000 tiller pilot worked well and would I'm sure handle the extra 2000lb you have; that said, when we renewed it we fitted the 2000 model for its extra oomph in big seas/heavy weather. We did a lot of long-haul/offshore sailing though and probably wouldn't have paid the extra if we were only day/weekend sailing with just the occasional long passage.


Windvane or Electronic? Do a search on here and you'll find several threads with posts arguing for and against; we're definitely in favour of wind steering, but you need the right boat for them to work well and be making several long, offshore passages to justify their cost. The bigger/faster a yacht is, the less well wind-steering performs, so a 28-footer is 'good' on the downside, as well as being expensive, most windvanes are heavy - 60-80lb is a lot to hang on the back of a 28-footer; I know there are now a couple of firms getting decent results from lighter weight (and lighter-priced!) windvanes in Europe now, but I don't know if any are exporting to N America - no personal experience, but Google 'Sea Feather' 'Mr Vane' and 'Hebridean', Plastimo made a good/lightweight unit called the Narvik, but not for the last 15 or 20 years, though there is the very occasional one still appears on the second-hand market. As a generalisation, the further you are going offshore, the better a windvane will perform and the stronger the wind, the better it will perform; that's the #1 reason why we're for windvanes, when the wind's hit 25 knots and is still climbing and the seas are cutting-up increasingly rough, your electronic autohelm will be finding it more and more difficult to cope, your windvane meanwhile is getting into its stride. Hand-helming when a windvane can't cope is hot, flat, boring work, doing so when the autohelm crys enough is just when you want to be hiding down below-decks.

avb3 08-08-2015 12:17

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by northoceanbeach (Post 1886313)
For sailing offshore which is the better choice? I know historically the windvane has been better hands down but I have heard good thigs about the new autopilots like the ev-100.

Has anyone tried one or both and can compare? I have a tiller and my boat is 9000 empty. Can the raymarine ev-100 handle high winds and rough seas?

How comfortable are you on relying on a unit that requires significant production of electricity to function?

Answering that question will answer your question above.

roverhi 08-08-2015 13:03

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
I'm a proponent of self steering. Simple to use, don't need to be fed electrons, usually can be repaired anywhere by duffers in the remote instance of something breaking, and they don't make noise. They work better with tiller driven boats though many use them satisfactorily with wheel steering. They can be easily fitted to most boats, installed my last one by myself in the rain in a couple of hours. A great emergency boarding ladder if you find yourself in the ocean without another way to get back on board. Can be hooked up to cheap tiller pilots to steer to a compass course with minimal electrical drain. May not work under power, however. The harder the wind blows, the better they work. Have 5 figure miles sailing with a vane and no complaints. May not work well with boats with high acceleration values like light weight surfers and multi-hulls. Have seen them on boats from 25' to over 50', though vast majority on boats under 40'. That may have as much to do with the wallet of the owners as suitability of the vane. There are vanes for all types of boats. Lighter weight ones for smaller boats from WindPilot, Cape Horn and many others and ones for bigger boats from the same suppliers. Last but not least, the vane helps to balance out the boats trim from the all chain rode that any cruiser should be using.

Auto pilots steer to a compass course which is nice in confined waters. Work under power. The more challenging the conditions, the poorer they work and power consumption goes up exponentially. Electrickery with all its attendant evils and fragility. Wheel and tiller pilots are easy to install. Below deck pilots are way way harder. If it breaks, takes a fully equipped electronics shop to repair and new circuit boards and components.

Currently have a relatively cheap tiller pilot and an auxiliary rudder self steering vane. Have also sailed many miles with a Pendulum Servo Self Steerer. Use the auto pilot under power and the vane under sail. Spend a vast majoriity of time under sail.

builder dan 09-08-2015 02:52

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
I really love my aires vane and have done a few passages with some other variations,but also have a tiller pilot for motoring.Nothing is more boring than hand steering a yacht day and night so anything that helps is ok by me.Windvanes dont suck amps though which is a big plus and they are usually silent.

GILow 09-08-2015 03:14

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
We have what is considered to be a very reliable autopilot. It's about 30 years old now, has done 40,000 miles, so clearly that reputation is justified. The guy who fitted it loved it, and never had a problem with it, AFAIK.

It might go for another 30 years, or it might fail tomorrow. The thing is, I know that if something does go wrong I will NOT be able repair it at sea, despite being very comfortable with electronics. I also know that it is in the nature of electronics to fail suddenly, without warning.

So I am in the middle of adding a windvane to the boat. Ideally, I would consider the autopilot as the backup unit to the windvane.

In my mind, it really does not matter how good the autopilot is, I'd rather have something I can repair myself.

Matt

Mike OReilly 09-08-2015 04:26

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Aries is our principle self steerer. Even for short hop coastal cruising it works well. We have an electric tiller pilot (Raymarine SPX5 GP) for light airs, mostly when we're motoring. Haven't rigged it to the vane yet, but plan to.


Why go fast, when you can go slow

farshore 09-08-2015 06:15

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
I fitted a Hydrovane unit on my Ebbtide 33,
About 10 tons loaded. Originally she had a Auto helm AP mounted to the tiller which worked quite hard to handle the loads. The Hydrovane which has its own rudder effortlessly steered her in any conditions on all points of sail. I built a very simple bracket to allow the autohelm to control the rudder on the windvane while motoring or sailing.
Almost negligable current draw! Best if both worlds and a built in emergency rudder.
Presently I have a new Simrad AP60 on my 35 ton schooner and plan to build a windvane. A near proximity strike by lightning cooked my old AP and every other electronic gadget.....

barnakiel 09-08-2015 11:44

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
As far as I know (based on EU availability of Ray EV-100 units) they are now sold only with the standard arm (no GP version). With a boat at 9000 these are only adequate as a gap filler and in easy conditions.

Remember an AP will need power and quite a lot of it. Remember it is likely to have higher failure rate than a good windvane. The good news is it will also cost a fraction of the cost of a good windvane.

Horses for the courses. We have both, and if I were to cast overboard one of them I would ... keep the windvane. That's from a small boat sailing basically only ocean passages. An AP may win inshore hands down. ymmv

b.

northoceanbeach 09-08-2015 21:21

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Awesome advice. How do you guys like the norvane? It's about half the price

Livia 09-08-2015 22:44

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by barnakiel (Post 1886952)
Horses for the courses. We have both, and if I were to cast overboard one of them I would ... keep the windvane.

That's exactly what I think too. If you can, for long range cruising, both.

carstenb 09-08-2015 22:54

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
We have both, an Airies and a Raymarine. Inshore coastal we use the Raymarine, long haul we use the Vane.

If I had to toss one, I'd toss the Raymarine.

barnakiel 10-08-2015 07:54

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Have not seen one. If you are in California, you may be able to drive to their garage and see what they are like. Or maybe post one of the people who gave them testimonials.

b.

zeehag 10-08-2015 08:18

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
that depends on the otto pile it.. mine is hydraulic mounted on quadrant. when there is no wind, nothing will work unless motoring, then wind vane is fail... mine is electric assist hdl, which means it uses very little electricity when in use, unless there becomes no wind, then it will search.
windvanes do not work with no wind.
wheel mounted steering aids search all the time.
i do not have to change steering modes when underway and need to switch to engine power.
as there is no use for a windvane in low winds and as there is little electricity comsumption, i donot feel need to buy another steering deevise--my otto is adequate and works well in 60+ kts of beam wind found suddenly. eg, chubascos off baja, and other big wind situations.
use what you like, but i find my simrad hdl otto pile it absolutely perfect for use in windy and non windy situations.
for 15000 usd installed, it better even groom my feline.
works fine, but i have to groom cat myself. he wont sit still for otto

Target9000 10-08-2015 10:01

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
We use a Monitor on our 10ton boat. No autopilot. I would say the choice would depend on your cruising grounds, your confidence trimming the boat and dialing it in, and your technical ability and confidence in ALL the systems required to make the autopilot work ; from batteries to charging to wiring etc.

As a side note... A very small tiller pilot rigged to a vane's pendulum weight is said to be able to blend the two pieces of kit admirably though we haven't tried it yet nor needed to.

northoceanbeach 10-08-2015 13:49

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
I will go with both. I already have the tiller pilot although a smallish raymarine 2000+. I just helped install a norvane on some Canadians boat that set off to Hawaii. I thought the quality looked good but never got to actually test it.

Matt Johnson 10-08-2015 14:41

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Amazing how often you see little boats with windvanes (no autopilot) on their stern and the owner hand steering to their next anchorage. No vanes even attached up top or the rudder is flipped up and out of the water.

How often have you heard anyone say that their windvane has steered their boat 99% of the time over years of cruising? You'll hear this statement often from people with proper autopilots, but never from one with windvane only. (We're closer to 99.9% over the last 15,000 miles.)

If you are only crossing oceans then you may actually use a vane. But most cruisers like to go from anchorage to anchorage once they reach their destinations... and by the time you're at your next anchorage, the vane is finally set-up and ready to work.

I've just purchased a Cape Horn windvane as a back-up to our hydraulic autopilot, since it was the lowest cost option for redundancy. I hope to not have to screw around with it at all, but it'll be hanging from the stern if I really have to :)

Matt

conachair 10-08-2015 14:51

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by funjohnson (Post 1887794)
If you are only crossing oceans then you may actually use a vane. But most cruisers like to go from anchorage to anchorage once they reach their destinations... and by the time you're at your next anchorage, the vane is finally set-up and ready to work.

Takes not to many seconds to hook up my Aries and set the direction , then just sit back an enjoy the view to the next anchorage , steers better than I do :)

laika 10-08-2015 15:06

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by northoceanbeach (Post 1887278)
Awesome advice. How do you guys like the norvane? It's about half the price

It's well made, relatively lightweight and Phil and his wife are awesome to work with. I've only used it on two short runs having just installed it, but no complaints. Nothing negative from other reviewers I've heard. Offers a good selection of mounting variants to suit the boat.

I was going between a hydrovane and the norvane. Saved $3G and am not disappointed yet.

northoceanbeach 10-08-2015 18:36

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
I just installed a huge solar panel on the stern so I would have to rework that. I was hoping you guys would say go with an autopilot an maybe even a second control arm or backup. That would make things easier and cheaper for me

GILow 10-08-2015 19:02

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by funjohnson (Post 1887794)
How often have you heard anyone say that their windvane has steered their boat 99% of the time over years of cruising? You'll hear this statement often from people with proper autopilots, but never from one with windvane only.

Err... have to disagree here. Many of the respected and experienced long distance cruisers on CF do state they rely primarily on the windvane for long trips.

Matt

GILow 10-08-2015 19:15

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by northoceanbeach (Post 1887954)
I just installed a huge solar panel on the stern so I would have to rework that. I was hoping you guys would say go with an autopilot an maybe even a second control arm or backup. That would make things easier and cheaper for me

This thread might offer some assistance, it certainly resolved a lot of the issues for me, albeit indirectly.

https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums/...rn-106572.html

Matt

Matt Johnson 10-08-2015 19:20

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by GILow (Post 1887960)
Err... have to disagree here. Many of the respected and experienced long distance cruisers on CF do state they rely primarily on the windvane for long trips.

Matt


Correct....on long trips!!! It's the rest of the time that's the problem.

GILow 10-08-2015 19:51

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by funjohnson (Post 1887972)
Correct....on long trips!!! It's the rest of the time that's the problem.

Probably true, can't comment from experience yet, but I would ask the obvious... what is a "long trip" in this context? More a rhetorical question than anything else... but I suppose a couple of hours?

I don't deny the convenience of pressing the course hold button on our autopilot, but I can't imagine that the windvane I am currently building will take more than ten minutes to get right.

Matt

roverhi 10-08-2015 20:27

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
The self steering vanes, Aries and WindPilot Pacific Plus, on my boats have steered the boat if the sails are up. I don't drive under sail whether it's a couple hour daysail or a 24 day passage. When I had the boat in Alameda would use the vane to short tack out the long channel not touching the helm till the engine came on to put the boat back in its slip. Don't know why anyone would not use their vane the same way.

Got my first pilot a couple years ago and use it only when the engine is on so I've got the alternator to feed it.

Quote:

Originally Posted by funjohnson (Post 1887794)
How often have you heard anyone say that their windvane has steered their boat 99% of the time over years of cruising? You'll hear this statement often from people with proper autopilots, but never from one with windvane only. (We're closer to 99.9% over the last 15,000 miles.)

If you are only crossing oceans then you may actually use a vane. But most cruisers like to go from anchorage to anchorage once they reach their destinations... and by the time you're at your next anchorage, the vane is finally set-up and ready to work.

I've just purchased a Cape Horn windvane as a back-up to our hydraulic autopilot, since it was the lowest cost option for redundancy. I hope to not have to screw around with it at all, but it'll be hanging from the stern if I really have to :)

Matt


conachair 10-08-2015 22:11

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by funjohnson (Post 1887972)
Correct....on long trips!!! It's the rest of the time that's the problem.

What is the problem?

Over many years the wind vane has steered almost every mile, onshore and offshore. Round about 99% at a guess :)

Mike OReilly 11-08-2015 04:46

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by funjohnson (Post 1887972)
Correct....on long trips!!! It's the rest of the time that's the problem.


As I already wrote, our Aries is the primary self steerer on our boat. If we're sailing, it's in use most of the time. And this includes day hops between anchorages.

There is this persistent myth that vanes are only useful for crossing oceans. Simply not true.


Why go fast, when you can go slow

carstenb 11-08-2015 05:21

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
the only reason I only use my airies on long trips is that it blocks my bathing platform.

It takes about 15 minutes to rig and 5 minutes to unrig. So when we do coastal we use the raymarine.
'
When we're doing coastal we use the engine to set the anchor, go into marinas etc so electricity is no problem

model 10 11-08-2015 05:33

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
[QUOTE=Mike OReilly;1888145]As I already wrote, our Aries is the primary self steerer on our boat. If we're sailing, it's in use most of the time. And this includes day hops between anchorages.

It's the same for us. I have the Aries control lines running inside the hull so it's easy to engage almost anytime.

Snowpetrel 11-08-2015 06:53

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Depends on you! I sail as much as I can and use the windvane 95% of the time. I dislike and mistrust the amount of tech that an autopilot relies on, not just the unit itself but the entire charging and electrical storage system gets stressed. But there is no doubting the simplicity of use and apparent reliability of the better quality autopilots, if properly installed and looked after. For the record I've killed 2 tillerpilots and 3 windvanes. Both autopilots are still dead (water ingress) all 3 windvanes where fixed. One at sea, two in small ports by a welder. The Norvane looks nice (in the photo's). Very much like the flemming units and they work well.

Herodotus 12-08-2015 01:46

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Hi,
I have circumnavigated with both an Aries windvane and a Raytheon autopilot attached to the quadrant on the rudder stock beneath decks. Hardly used the Aries and thus sold it last year.

I found with the autopilot, so long as I balanced the sails - not difficult or onerous (as you would also seek to ensure with a windvane), it handled the boat (masthead sloop rig) very well indeed and in fact the unit "learned" as it got used to my boat which is a 42 ft rudder on a full skeg and vertical twin keel type.

With regards to the electricity utilised by the unit, I found, though having no actual figures, that it was minimal, providing of course, that my sails were balanced. The wind generator, combined with a single panel, 120 watt solar panel, handled everything.

I'm a cruising sailor and, like most seem to be, can be rather lazy on an extended ocean voyage with regards to adjusting the Aries and tweeking the sails. Perhaps it was me but I found that the Aries windvane never seemed to steer as straight a course as the autopilot but tended to wander a little across the course.

I also liked that the autopilot was connected to, and driven by, the waypoints setup in my Garmin GPS (1998 vintage, but recently replaced), however, I never continued to a next waypoint without accepting the course change. I neglected to enter a waypoint from my penciled list into the GPS on a trip around the coast of Turkey once and was about to take a shortcut across a rocky peninsular.

As my ex and I were forced to hand steer across the Tasman Sea from New Zealand to Sydney 20 years ago due to a new autopilot failing three days out, I carry a spare which steers via a belt drive attached to rhe ship's wheel. So far, never needed it excepting after a lightning strike.

My two cents worth,
Ciao
Peter
N.Z. Yacht Herodotus



Sent from my iPad using Cruisers Sailing Forum

Neptune's Gear 12-08-2015 02:06

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
I'm with Peter (above) and Zee. I use a Simrad/B&G electric over hydraulic AP, fitted directly to the quadrant. It can steer a course (compass), to a waypoint (or route) and to wind angle. I use steer to wind quite a bit if going to weather. There are alarms for wind shifts, off course etc. The pilot has steered 10s of thousands of miles, including single handed long distance races.
Remember that electronic pilots is what the Vendee Globe boats use. IMO wind vanes are like sextants - they work, but they have been superseded! Each to their own, of course :-)

Jon Eisberg 12-08-2015 08:42

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Neptune's Gear (Post 1888881)
Remember that electronic pilots is what the Vendee Globe boats use...

Well, no vane would come close to being able to steer an Open 60, anyway, seems a bit like pointing out that F1 cars don't carry spare tires...

;-)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Neptune's Gear (Post 1888881)
IMO wind vanes are like sextants - they work, but they have been superseded! Each to their own, of course :-)

Still, there may be times when it sure can be handy to have both available... I've had my vane "supersede" my AP when it failed enroute to Bermuda, but I've yet to experience the opposite...

And although it was not the cause of my AP going dark in that particular instance, it's amazing how one little ol' lightning strike can inform one's perspective going forward, re the reliance upon gear that only functions as long as electrons keep flowing...

;-)

Having said that, if I could only have one or the other, I'd rather go with an AP, and a couple of spares... For the type of sailing I do, an AP still has far greater overall utility, as long as it keeps ticking... ;-)

Adelie 13-08-2015 07:52

Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Other considerations aside I know of one person that directly compared autopilot to self-steering performance and found self-steering to be faster overall. Even though the boat wasn't following the rhumb line and was traveling extra distance it was maintaining best speed through the water by following wind shifts which more than made up for the extra distance.

Jon Eisberg 13-08-2015 08:17

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Adelie (Post 1889759)
Other considerations aside I know of one person that directly compared autopilot to self-steering performance and found self-steering to be faster overall. Even though the boat wasn't following the rhumb line and was traveling extra distance it was maintaining best speed through the water by following wind shifts which more than made up for the extra distance.

You're probably thinking of Tony Gooch, right?

Windvane, Autopilot, steering systems

One thing should be noted, however, about this comparison he made over a dozen years ago... His AP was only set up to steer a compass course, and not networked into his wind instrumentation as many folks now have the capability of doing. I'm guessing the results may have been slightly different, had his AP been programmed to steer to wind, as well...

Adelie 13-08-2015 08:40

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Jon Eisberg (Post 1889783)
You're probably thinking of Tony Gooch, right?

Windvane, Autopilot, steering systems

One thing should be noted, however, about this comparison he made over a dozen years ago... His AP was only set up to steer a compass course, and not networked into his wind instrumentation as many folks now have the capability of doing. I'm guessing the results may have been slightly different, had his AP been programmed to steer to wind, as well...


No, Andy Evans on Foolish Muse from about 7 or 8 years ago.

Yes there are autopilots that "network" with wind sensors but as I recall they are the larger more expensive models. Such a model with the additional wind sensor and "network" would push costs up to near what a windvane would be.

When you are constrained by budget and can afford either a windvane or the higher end autopilot then you have to choose between the more durable windvane or the autopilot that can still steer the boat when motoring. That choice will depend on personal preference, intended use of boat and cruising grounds.


Sent from my iPhone using Cruisers Sailing Forum

Neptune's Gear 13-08-2015 13:55

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Very many (most?) Autopilots have wind steering ability now. For example ALL Navico models except the very basic tillerpilot IIRC. Certainly those found on most offshore yachts. Durability? Also a debateable point... Wind vanes require checks and maintenance as well. Modern (esp hydraulic) AP's are extremely reliable.

gjordan 13-08-2015 19:12

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
I believe the OP is asking about long passages in a 28 foot boat. Most owners of 28 foot boats dont have buckets full of money. That probably means the choice of one or the other. Most small boats dont have independent charging systems, or if they do, a wireing failure can ruin it all anyway. A small boat (28 foot) is not likely to carry enough crew to hand steer without major fatigue becoming a factor. A small boat is not likely to have redundant battery systems, so a simple thing like a bad cell in a battery can make your whole electrical system toast. I have crossed oceans with and without vanes (only with a crew of 3 without a vane) and would always put a vane above an autopilot for passages (both if you can afford it) and find the trust in electrical systems to be much more dependent on your skill, and spare parts, and luck. Too many cruises are ruined by being too dependent on electrons. Just my opinion from 30+K miles of sailing. ______Grant.

Adelie 13-08-2015 21:18

Re: Windvane vs. autipilot
 
Grant, you beat me to it.
A


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