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  1. #1
    pgurnett is offline Registered User
    Location : Oswestry, Shropshire.
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    Oct 2007
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    Default Autopilot or windvane?

    What is the general consensus of having a windvane or autopilot or both? Cost considerations play a big part in self-steering purchase, and there is no "cheap" approach. An electric autopilot seems to require investing in a hi-output alternator, regulator/controller and substantial battery bank. A wind vane requires none of that but is not cheap nor will it do as well downwind? What are your thoughts? [img]/forums/images/graemlins/confused.gif[/img]

  2. #2
    captainslarty is offline
    Location : Currently La Coruna Spain
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    Aug 2007
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    Default Re: Autopilot or windvane?

    Both...

    6002 S2G with rotary drive.. Hydrovane, with ST1000 tiller pilot fitted for motoring or light airs.

    So thrice....

  3. #3
    jimbaerselman's Avatar
    jimbaerselman is offline Registered User
    Location : Greece in Summer, Southampton in Winter
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    Apr 2006
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    3,861

    Default Re: Autopilot or windvane?

    Wind vanes are fine for long passages in steady winds - trade wind stuff. They have little value close to land, with more variable winds and pilotage issues. They're also fragile things in a Mediterranean mooring situation.

    Autopilots usually use much less power than a fridge, so if you're generating for a fridge, that'll be adequate. And they have great convenience when short handed close to land - or when you're motoring.

    So it really depends what situations you're aiming to handle. They are largely complementary machines, suitable for different situations.
    JimB
    http://jimbsail.info helps Skippers plan Europe Cruises

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
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    8,741

    Default Re: Autopilot or windvane?

    Depends on your type of sailing and your boat - I've both and there are definite differences - it's not either or.

    I sail about 3500nm a season, mainly single-handed, the boat is tiller steered.

    The windpilot I have is a Navik - perfectly good at steering the boat if a little fragile - but that makes it lighter.

    A 29'10" waterline length is about the limit of the navik's power.

    All windpilots are utterly useless in surfing conditions, unless your boat is a staid, undercanvassed plodder, you have to choose the conditions carefully.
    Mine only operates in apparent windspeeds above 10knots, but for running under the spinnaker it is slightly better than the autopilot and for beating it's better - making to windward in gusts and never being taken aback by small shifts. However, with a non-overlapping sail the boat needs no pilot of any kind on a brisk beat - you can steer by sheet tension, with the tiller maintained sightly to windward by shock cord.

    I make a point of only using the wind pilot offshore, variations caused by wind-shadows and the volume of traffic make it too hair-raising.

    The autopilot is an early Autohelm 4000ST - the all-in-one pilots I found to be too liable to malfunction due to water ingress. The control head is just inside the mainhatch, the fluxgate compass under the saloon table and I have two actuators and two separate mounts (though only use one at a time). I've had either actuators pack up or an end-pin fatigue. Usually I have alternate actuators serviced annually by Raymarine - new brushes, replacement leadscrews and seals are the only parts I've needed in 16 years, whilst lighting and LCD have both needed replacing in the control head.

    The disadvantage of any pilot wind or electric is that they cannot anticipate behaviour as can a good helmsman - hence the possibility of gybing when you have quartering seas. the advantage is that they are tireless, whereas a helm starts deteriorating after about 40" and is dysfunctional after 120" continuous in brisk conditions.
    Additionally the electric autopilot need to have the sails reefed early, as its travel is insufficient to correct any skittish behaviour (a good discipline).

    If I had to choose between the two I'd definitely settle on the electric autopilot as being the more useful for most cruising sailors - though I have the NMEA pilot-to-GPS connection I tend not to use it, having seen what happens to light aircraft flying under autopilot from radio-beacon to radio-beacon (that dates one in this era of GPS).

    A word of warning - the marketing people in all companies are incorrigibly optimistic, the engineers more realistic - always go one model up on the claimed pilot handling capability.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2003
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    289

    Default Re: Autopilot or windvane?

    jimb - "Wind vanes are fine for long passages in steady winds - trade wind stuff. They have little value close to land, with more variable winds and pilotage issues."

    Use our Aries frequently around W coast Scotland. Many's the time I've smiled in wonder as it magically helms thro' the bad stuff. So long as you have a safe CTS and watch XTE it's a valuable short handed friend.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2007
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    90

    Default Re: Autopilot or windvane?

    I agree about the 2 systems being complementary. Disadvantage with tiller arm pilot is that it can jump off its mount in a roll. Not sure what could be done about this.
    Now - which wind vane system do you recommend? Our boat is small-ish (Sadler 29). We are contemplating a short-handed trip from La Rochelle to the Med. via the Spanish rias. (Any advice on the general trip welcome too.)
    Jenny Jones
    Snork Maiden

  7. #7
    captainslarty is offline
    Location : Currently La Coruna Spain
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    Aug 2007
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    Default Re: Autopilot or windvane?

    Hi Jenny
    WHEN are you thinking of sailing ???

    The NAVIC is a good choice for the sub 10 Mtrs boat... any servo pendulum will also do.. usually more powerful than the HV, but not a need usually. In your boat size, I think you could reliably buy any type.

    Dont miss La Coruna.. super.. if you can, spend a few weeks here.. also, dont miss THIS ria... many do... its a stop off.. nope, its a super city.. secluded marina, quiet... local produce everywhere.. everything one ever needed for the boat.. but, you need to search !!!!...

    The rias are, well, great,,.. but not the B all and END all of this coast.. you will miss a lot if you head for the infamouse rias,, a bit like the yanks visiting england for the first time.. you GOTTA do stonehenge... Wells.. Stratford.. etc etc ad infinitum....


    The EXPERIENCE is here in LC.... if you sample it, you KNOW Galicia more than if you spent 6 months here.

    Then, if ya must.. go and explore a wide river with nothing but a bar and a few cafes.. great.. if eating out every night.. but no.. most dont do that... so you are sat at anchor.. great !

    The more ya stay the more ya save.. we have it down to less than 6 euros a day ... negates the need to move on quickly unless you have a time window....

    If it FEELS GOOD....................................

    Do It,,,

    Old message.. same impact.... dont let any sod tell ya they know better....

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
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    8,741

    Default never

    had the arm jump off the pin in 15 years (or about 40,000nm) on a roll or anything except a sharp upward pressure.

    The Navico end and pin were much better than the Autohelm one - 1st a nice rounded shoulder, instead of a fatigue-provoking 90degree ridge and a press fit onto the pin.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Posts
    1,379

    Default Re: Autopilot or windvane?

    They have stopped making navic.

    Have a look at the windpilot that looks a nice bit of gear and have a look at the sea feather i fitted one of these to an albin vega and it really is a well made piece of kit.

    Rob
    I'm so busy thinking "Can I" that i never stop to think "Should I"

  10. #10
    vyv_cox's Avatar
    vyv_cox is offline Registered User
    Location : North Wales, sailing Aegean Sea or Menai Strait
    Join Date
    May 2001
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    15,189

    Default Re: Autopilot or windvane?

    We have had a Windpilot Pacific for more than 10 years. Excellent in the Atlantic where it was used frequently. In the Med we found it less and less useful, as wind became more variable, and more of a nuisance as stern swimming became more enjoyable and stern-to berthing became more attractive. We have now removed it and it's for sale. Good condition, one careful owner.
    Answers to some technical queries at http://coxengineering.sharepoint.com

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