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  #1  
Old 10-31-2013
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Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

I have a Bristol 29.9 which I sail single-handed on the Chesapeake Bay; she's a great boat for what I'm doing now, but I have dreams of "sailing beyond the sunset" and I don't feel that she's big enough for me to follow them. She is enough boat for me to try out the cruising lifestyle, though, and she's perfect for me as long as I've also got a shoreside home.

Single-handing means I need an "iron helmsman" of some sort. I have a Raymarine wheel pilot which does a decent job, but it's thirsty for amps, especially if there's some motion on the boat. Even set at the lowest response level, "Otto" reacts to every roll, with a constant "bzzzt - bzzzt - bzzzt" when I'm close-reaching in that Chesapeake chop. It demands a lot of my batteries; the modest solar-panel array I've got on the boat isn't enough to keep up with it; I don't have a lot more good real-estate for more solar panels, and I'm pessimistic that more solar would keep up, anyways.

So I'm pondering the notion of adding a Cape Horn wind-vane. It looks like the best choice - the cleanest, least-cluttered wind vane out there, with no lines to trip over and dodge in the cockpit. But installing it is major surgery, with a two-inch hole in the transom for the main mounting tube, braces inside and outside, and control-line leads in the aft lazarette. And if I do "move up" to more boat, some day, the Cape Horn would not be moving up with me.

I don't see myself moving up in the next one or two years, though.

Buy now, sail now - or wait for a "move up" that may or may not take place?

Any thoughts?
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Old 10-31-2013
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

Our primary autopilot is an Aries windvane. Steers better than I can, never complains (unlike me) and takes nothing but a little TLC every once in a while. I've never used a Cape Horn, but I have no doubt they are terrific. That said, they are not cheap. And the boat surgery is significant. If money is no object, then I'd go for it. If money is limited, and you really are planning to move into a different boat in a year or two, then I'd hold off.

As an alternative, you could look for a used vane. There are lots of Aries and Monitors out there. You might be able to find a decent one for good price. They use a different approach (a servo-pendulum) than the integrated Cape Horn, but they do the same job.
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Old 10-31-2013
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

I've had two boats with Raymarine electronic autopilots and about the same battery system: 2 group 24s with 20w or 30w solar panels. I never found keeping up with the load to be difficult.

Are you sure that you are balancing the sails and that the autopilot is well calibrated? You should be able to get your ST2000 (or whatever you have) properly adjusted so that it isn't in constant use. Response level isn't the only setting, gain and other settings also help the autopilot learn how quickly your boat reacts to rudder input. Check the manual and go through the setup process again if the autopilot is constantly working.

The wheel pilot on my newer boat has a much better automatic setup procedure than what was on my ST2000, but both are capable of working well.

If I were cruising across oceans I would put on a windvane. They are the best systems for reliability and performance on the open ocean. For coastal cruising a standard electronic autopilot works pretty well.
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Old 10-31-2013
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

We've got an Aries windvane and Raymarine pilot. Reality is that we only use the Aries when on passage. Other than that we stick with the AP.

If you are not passage making (and I'd consider any port to port hop a passage) then get more solar and stick with the AP. Get yourself a fair dinkum WV when you have that over the horizon boat.

But but but .... if you cannot overcome the power usage problem then maybe look for a less expensive WV ? Many years back I had a Plastimo WV on a 28'er and that worked exceptionally well. A mate with a 26'er sailed from Oz to India with the same model. The Plastimo unit was an exceptional buy $ for $.

Two thoughts .... if your Wheel Pilot is constantly bzzt bzzt bzzting I'm wondering if you need to adjust the thing. It shouldn't be quite that active I'd have thought.

Secondly .... it is quite possible to make any boat with decent tracking ability to self steer using main sheet adjustment. Yes you have to keep on top of it and its not as reliable as a WV or an AP but with steady wind you can sail for hours without touching the wheel.
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Old 10-31-2013
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by RickWestlake View Post
I have a Bristol 29.9 which I sail single-handed on the Chesapeake Bay; she's a great boat for what I'm doing now, but I have dreams of "sailing beyond the sunset" and I don't feel that she's big enough for me to follow them. She is enough boat for me to try out the cruising lifestyle, though, and she's perfect for me as long as I've also got a shoreside home.

Single-handing means I need an "iron helmsman" of some sort. I have a Raymarine wheel pilot which does a decent job, but it's thirsty for amps, especially if there's some motion on the boat. Even set at the lowest response level, "Otto" reacts to every roll, with a constant "bzzzt - bzzzt - bzzzt" when I'm close-reaching in that Chesapeake chop. It demands a lot of my batteries; the modest solar-panel array I've got on the boat isn't enough to keep up with it; I don't have a lot more good real-estate for more solar panels, and I'm pessimistic that more solar would keep up, anyways.

So I'm pondering the notion of adding a Cape Horn wind-vane. It looks like the best choice - the cleanest, least-cluttered wind vane out there, with no lines to trip over and dodge in the cockpit. But installing it is major surgery, with a two-inch hole in the transom for the main mounting tube, braces inside and outside, and control-line leads in the aft lazarette. And if I do "move up" to more boat, some day, the Cape Horn would not be moving up with me.

I don't see myself moving up in the next one or two years, though.

Buy now, sail now - or wait for a "move up" that may or may not take place?

Any thoughts?
Considering the cost of the vane gear, even the Jean-du-Sud, ($3460 CAN) plus the added bits and pieces you'll need (roughly $500), plus the cost of installation (unless you are an accomplished craftsman yourself), you'll be looking at roughly $5,000 USD, or more, for an installation on a boat that you don't intend to keep that will add only a modest value when you do sell; and, which you only intend to own for another year or two, in an environment where you can only realistically sail in comfort for 6-7 months a year. That sounds like an awfully expensive self indulgence compared with the alternative of simply increasing your battery and charging capacity and getting your autopilot properly dialed in as others have suggested, above. We sailed a 29 foot boat with an ST4000 for 15+ years, powered by a couple of deep cycle Group 27 batteries when not under power, and managed to cover most of the west coast from San Francisco to Mexico without difficulty. There is no reason why you cannot/could not do the same with your existing arrangement as noted above.

But, of course, if you have money to burn, and/or are merely looking for exogenous validation of a choice you have already all but made, buy all means, go for it. Or not.

FWIW...
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  #6  
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

Quote:
Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
Considering the cost of the vane gear, even the Jean-du-Sud, ($3460 CAN) plus the added bits and pieces you'll need (roughly $500), plus the cost of installation (unless you are an accomplished craftsman yourself), you'll be looking at roughly $5,000 USD, or more, for an installation on a boat that you don't intend to keep that will add only a modest value when you do sell; and, which you only intend to own for another year or two, in an environment where you can only realistically sail in comfort for 6-7 months a year. That sounds like an awfully expensive self indulgence compared with the alternative of simply increasing your battery and charging capacity and getting your autopilot properly dialed in as others have suggested, above. We sailed a 29 foot boat with an ST4000 for 15+ years, powered by a couple of deep cycle Group 27 batteries when not under power, and managed to cover most of the west coast from San Francisco to Mexico without difficulty. There is no reason why you cannot/could not do the same with your existing arrangement as noted above.

But, of course, if you have money to burn, and/or are merely looking for exogenous validation of a choice you have already all but made, buy all means, go for it. Or not.

FWIW...
It's worth my examining, to be sure! (And if I'm 'merely looking for exogenous validation' I'd better examine THAT even more closely. As in, kick myself in the nuts over it.)

When I'm bashing upwind on the Chesapeake Bay - as I was doing, a fair amount, this summer - "Otto" pushes the wheel one way when the boat rolls to port, and pushes it back the other way when the boat rolls to starboard. Bzzzt ... bzzzt. Bzzzt ... bzzzt. It appeared to me that the flux-gate compass, which is mounted near the waterline, close to the mast, and (as far as I could determine) away from any magnetic influences, was dictating this behavior.

I set the response level to "1" and I got the same behavior. Was it because my sails were unbalanced? I adjusted them as closely as I could to a neutral helm, but it didn't seem to help. That response level was the only thing I could adjust on the new Raymarine autopilot.

Maybe more solar panels would keep up with this, and they would be less expensive (though no less permanent) than a Cape Horn wind-vane. Maybe I could add a bigger battery-bank, too ...

Last edited by RickWestlake; 10-31-2013 at 10:57 PM.
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Old 11-01-2013
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

What model of Raymarine autopilot do you have? The ST2000 and X5 that I've used have many more settings than just response level.

The manual for that unit can be found here: Raymarine Manuals and Product Documents

Look up the rudder damping setting.
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Old 11-01-2013
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

I have had good luck getting my wheel pilot to calm down while under sail by decreasing the rudder gain setting. It's possible to lower it enough that the pilot doesn't hold course well so you have to experiment and I find that different settings work better for different sailing/motoring situations.

Failing that, I'd go for the bigger battery bank over the vane. It's a very cheap upgrade compared to the cost of the vane and it will give you side benefits beyond autopilot longevity.
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

If adjusting the wheel pilot doesn't help with the power consumption, another battery bank is much cheaper than a wind vane and any future buyer would probably much rather have the extra amps.
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Old 11-01-2013
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Re: Wind-vane now? Or wait for next boat?

What ^^^^ said.

Fix the auto, trim the sails, add more power generation/storage capability etc.
A wind vane in the bay is overkill.
I don't even have AP, just trim the sails and lock the wheel on my current boat.

That wheel pilot should be drawing between 1 and 5 amps, so if you take the high side of that 5amp per hour, and you are sailing on the Bay daytime only let's call it 50ah a day.
Add a battery 110amp and you add a day of underway, charge it at the dock. Keep in mind that's worse case, no solar, never start your engine. 1 battery, one day.
Note I'm not including the lights, radio, etc.. of the daily draw on the battey - I'm addressing only the AP.

Motor an hour into and out of an anchoring hole every day at reasonable RPM and add a realistic 35 amps back to the batteries.

What you need to do is figure your energy budget - then look at your wallet.
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