Hydraulic or Cable Steering? - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 11-13-2009
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Hydraulic or Cable Steering?

Hello sailor!

I own a 1975 35ft Hallberg-Rassy Rasmus that currently has an old Vetus hydraulic steering system. We have had a lot of problems with this system and have tried bleeding air, adding more fluid...etc. The boat is full keel and a bitch to maneuver ANYWAY, not to mention when it takes 15 turns of the wheel to get the boat to steer one way or another.

My question is this - we are planning on departing next September to live aboard and cruise the world for 2-3 (or more?) years (Windtraveler) and I'm concerned about this issue. I know hydraulic can be fixed but I have read that:
a) Vetus is notorious for being completely unhelpful and
b) I know that our model is no longer made and no longer supported by Vetus
c) I have heard people that REALLY know hydraulics are few and far between

So with that in mind, I am sort of thinking that switching over to cable steering might be better because:
a) it is pretty straightforward and
b) can be fixed (relatively) easy in a pickle (if you carry extra cable, etc).

Does anyone have any experience with this? Any opinion as to what would be better for what we are planning to do?
Do we fix the old system?
Do we get a new hydraulic system? (suggestions?)
Do we scrap it and go with cable?

Thank you in advance!

Brittany
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Old 11-13-2009
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You will probably find that if you go to cable you will enjoy sailing a bit more due to now having some Feel to the wheel. After tillers I went to wheel cable on 2 similar boats for 9 years and I just finished my 4th year with hydraulic. I got used to the ZERO feel of hydraulic but I do miss the Feel of the cable. As for rebuilt or new hydraulic even though repair is not as straightforward as cable you may get 10... 15... ? years of trouble free operation. I am only going by second hand info from out on the Nauticat list... but they are not a weak system. Just some comments.....
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Stan - thank you! I definitely hear you on the 'feel' issue - that is for sure! No feel at our helm AT ALL.

So a nice, new hydraulic system could run trouble free for 10-15 years!? Really!? I figured it'd be a pain in the ass to maintain, but seems like maybe not?
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Old 11-13-2009
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Old 11-13-2009
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i have never worked on Vetus hydraulic steering systems , but the ones i have worked on worked OK after leaks were taken care of. the reservoir has to be topped off with oil after the air is bled out. due to slight leakage in the wheel pump, the wheel is not in the same position every time the rudder is centered, so you have to have a rudder position indicator.
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Hydraulic certainly has it place but I would recommend cable for your situation provided that it isn't too complicated of a swap. I am not familiar with the specific boat but as long as the cable runs are not bad and you can make the current pedestle work, I would think that cable would give you more feel and be easier to inspect and repair.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by captbillc View Post
due to slight leakage in the wheel pump, the wheel is not in the same position every time the rudder is centered, so you have to have a rudder position indicator.
That's something I'm going to have to look at seriously this winter. My possible problem - or lack of one - actually is that I have 2 steering stations with No Switch so they are both always active. If I turn the pilothouse wheel as I walk by it to enter the pilothouse I have altered the center spoke - rudder center alignment at the cockpit. I do think I have a leak/slippage somewhere though because I find the centering going off a bit while sailing when I'm sure the other wheel is not part of the issue. Yes a rudder center display is a necessity for me. I kick in Auto and re-align when needed.
Now... as to my comments about reliability.... mine is a '99 that I have used for 4 years with Zero Maint..... but I don't know what transpired in '99 to '05. As for summer use compared to world cruising...... well.... I'm sure I do a lot more 'lock to lock' wheel turns docking and sharp tacking turns on a day sail on the bay than would happen in many days out at sea. Just more comments with no real opinions or depth of knowledge claimed.
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A couple of other tradeoffs for your decision making:

(1) Hydraulic steering limits your ability to use many kinds of self-steering, esp. most windvanes, which means you're pretty much driven to using an autopilot, with its attendant complexity and energy drain. With pretty much any kind of direct-drive steering, windvanes become an option.

(2) Edson has come out with a geared steering system that fits in a pedestal, which they call a CD-i (or CDi). I have no experience with it but it looks like it might be more reliable than a cable system.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lshick View Post
A.... Edson has come out with a geared steering system that fits in a pedestal, which they call a CD-i (or CDi). I have no experience with it but it looks like it might be more reliable than a cable system.
We have this system in our boat....rock solid, it's about 6 years old now.

http://www.edsonmarine.com/support/P...5CDiManual.PDF

For aft cockpit boats with good access it should be relatively easy to install, the pedestal is going to be close to re and re. The rudder post lever and the link connector are very solid, and the feel is tiller-like.

If this works for your situation I'd recommend it highly. In our case the only drawback is we lost about 5-10 degrees rudder travel over the cable setup but I suspect they'd have different sized levers to optimize that.
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