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Windvane Steering Necessary for Long Ocean Passages?
I agree with Jack that the Letcher book is excellent. He has a real gift for taking an incredibly complex subject (aerodynamics and hydrodynamics) and presenting it in a very understandable way. Its worth reading even if you dont try to make your boat self steer. The book really improved my understanding of the forces at work on a sailboat.
I messed around with many of Letcher''s ideas for several years and could get some of them to work some times on my Norsea 27. Any time the wind was forward of the beam the boat could be made to steer herself. Broad reaching and running were quite another matter. That''s where the wind vane comes into its own.
If you are planning on crossing oceans I hope you are going to take routes where the wind is usually behind you. In that case you will probably want a vane.
The vane is much easier to set up and does not require nearly as much fussing as getting the sheet to tiller sorts of arrangements to work. On my norsea I found that I could get the boat to self steer with Letcher''s methods but if I moved my 200 lbs around the boat the self steering would fail.
If you are going to cross oceans a lot I think you will be very happy to have a good vane on your boat.