Guest author: Sarah Curry of Hydrovane International Marine
Article from Island Cruising NZ, courtesy of Viki Moore
Once upon a time our tight quartered boat show booth was jammed full of sailors holding cocktails, regaling us with exciting past and future sailing plans as we answered installation questions in person. As we haven’t had the chance to attend boat shows in many months, we felt a run down of the common Q’s we are asked at boat shows would be of interest!
I will preface the installation questions with the obvious: “What is a windvane self steering system?”
- A mechanical autopilot (requires no power)
- Steers a wind based course (an angle to the wind), rather than a compass based course
- This is achieved by setting your course, ie, setting the Vane directly into the wind. As the boat falls off this course, the wind acts on either side of the Vane, pushing it over, and transferring this action through the mechanism below to (most commonly) either 1) an auxiliary rudder or 2) a servo pendulum which acts on the main rudder, to bring boat back on course.
1) My boat has dinghy davits. Can I keep them and install a windvane?
Yes. Davits might just be our favorite addition to our boat, Kaiquest, a Jeanneau SO 43. Will and I are now cruising with twin toddler boys in Mexico, and any gear that makes life easier is cheered at every single use! As long as the Vane can pivot above the dinghy and the auxiliary rudder can turn below, there is no problem to use both at the same time. In fact, the Hydrovane becomes a good lashing point for helping stabilize the dinghy. Like us, you will probably hoist the dinghy onto the foredeck for long passages. Traditional servo pendulum systems will not work with your davits but other types, like the direct connect servo style windvane, potentially make it possible to have both.
2) Can I install the windvane off center on the transom?
With boat design moving to swim steps and now dropdown transoms, this is an obvious question for many. The answer is a definitive YES for auxiliary rudder type systems. Unsure about the concept? It goes way back… The word starboard is historically derived from terms meaning “Steer” and “Side of the boat” – and was the side of the boat steering oars were placed because most sailors were right handed. Whether you mount an auxiliary rudder windvane to port or starboard, you’ll find performance does not change. A centerline installation is most esthetically pleasing for some boats. Servo pendulum style windvane are only suited to a centerline installation.
3) I just installed an arch. Can I still fit a windvane?
Yes. Arches are common on cruising boats. Servo pendulum type windvanes are usually lower profile and can fit easily under an arch. The Hydrovane has a larger Vane than servo systems as that is where it derives its power. We simply configure your unit with a wide, rather than tall, Vane and use a shorter Shaft to ensure there is airspace for the Vane to move freely underneath the arch. Alternatively, we can configure the unit with the Vane above the arch.
4) Can I install and use a windvane on my multihull?
Yes. The reality is that many cruising cats are more about comfort than maximizing speed. What is her displacement? What boat speed is she sailing (relative to wind strength)? Within these limitations the benefits of a windvane can definitely be enjoyed by a cruising multihull. The best position for most types of windvane is at end of a pontoon/hull. This is particularly important for the Hydrovane for optimal rudder leverage.
5) I like the idea of steering redundancy, but why wouldn’t I install a second autopilot instead?
Hey, we love our below deck autopilot; it’s great for motoring and short hops, but that comfort changes when a few hours of usage becomes 24 x 7. The power consumption of an electronic autopilot in big seas compounded over days can be astronomical. This is when mechanical self-steering proves so valuable – it requires no power and the windier it gets the better it steers. Even if the autopilot itself never fails OR if you have a second one, failures of many other systems can stop the flow of electricity and, in turn, render an autopilot useless. Windvanes are very reliable and steering a wind based course means your sails are always trimmed. With an auxiliary rudder type windvane, you are also gaining a completely separate emergency steering system/rudder which every offshore boat should have high on their priority list.
BONUS: So, can I install one of these things on my powerboat?
Lol. We get this one at every boat show… the answer is No.
Thanks to Viki Moore from Island Cruising for this article from Cruise News – The Newsletter of Island Cruising NZ