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obelisk 12-18-2009 08:23 AM

Used Aries Wind Vane -- Should I go for it?
Hi all,

My Raymarine autopilot crapped out again--the second time in two months and I have about had it with all things Raymarine (mostly customer service!). The Type II mechanical rotary drive unit is still under warranty but has been nothing but trouble, so I've been thinking about the wind vane option.

Yesterday I walked into Camou, a second-hand boat shop in Buenos Aires and there was a three year old Aries staring me in the face. I pulled it into the aisle and played with it, brought together all the pieces and everything appears fine. It has hefty SS mounting brackets that will work on my transom with minor mods and also has the wheel adapter. However, it comes with a $1900USD price tag. From the quotes for a new unit that I got from Sail-o-Mat ($5000) this seems like a pretty good deal. What should a lightly abused, used unit run?

I think I'm ready to ditch the hassle and amp draw of the below decks pilot but any words of advice or warning are appreciated.


btrayfors 12-18-2009 09:17 AM

It's a good price if the Aires isn't damaged.

Understand that a wind vane isn't the same as an autopilot. An autopilot will guide your boat whether there's wind or not, while a windvane requires a substantial amount of wind to do its thing.

That said, I love my Aires. It's guided me over many sea miles and, the harder it blows, the more the Aires likes it (unlike autopilots which often are overwhelmed by big seas).

Windvanes don't use electricity, don't talk back, work 24/7 happily, and don't drink the beer. Great things to have aboard on ocean passages. Not much use for short trips.


obelisk 12-18-2009 01:38 PM

i'm on the atlantic leg of a circumnavigation and heading south where it's going to blow plenty! i'll get the autopilot warranteed so that i have self steering when the wind dies or in tighter areas but for passages the aries will do the hard work. btw, i got the price down to $1700USD.

thanks! **wonders how to collect that many american dollars in Buenos Aires** western union, i guess but it's expensive.

any suggestions?

Paul_L 12-18-2009 01:48 PM

51ft is a big boat to be controlling with an Aries. I'd suggest you find someone with a sistership or similar and see if they have experience with the vane.
See Evans comments on vanes and bigger boats: Systems

Paul L

obelisk 12-18-2009 02:16 PM

Yes, it is on the upper end of the size range for the Aries. A call to Mactra in the UK confirmed what the website reads--that it's ok for boats up to 55'. HOWEVER, i have been burned by being on the upper end of the size spectrum before.

is there a better option out there for larger boats? monitor and sail-o-mat both have similar ranges.


Paul_L 12-18-2009 02:27 PM

You might talk to the guy at Sail-o-mat and see if he can give you the honest scoop. But finding a sistership with experience would be great. If you are going to go to a new vane at $5k, then you might consider a more bullet proof autopilot - your Raymarine experiance is not that uncommon.

Paul L

obelisk 12-18-2009 02:49 PM

The reason I went with the raymarine Mechanical Rotary was that I already had a dedicated quadrant and Raymarine was the only chain-and-sprocket I could find--dumb not to have just gone with a thiller arm and a Simrad linear hydraulic.

Just got off the phone with Guy at Aries USA in CA and he thinks the unit should work great. of course, that is no substitute for finding someone with a similar boat and asking their opinion but otherwise it is hand steering all the way down to Patagonia and up to Puerto Montt.

Neither Simrad nor Raymarine here have an acceptable autopilot drive unit in stock and gave me order times of 40 and 60 days respectively.

Paul_L 12-18-2009 02:56 PM

I'm sure the vane will drive the boat in many conditions just fine. You may have to reduce sail and slow the boat down in some conditions to get the vane to stay in control.

Paul L

obelisk 12-18-2009 03:25 PM

Definitely will have to keep the rig balanced and maybe under a little less sail than usual but that trade off for not having to hand steer 3 on, 3 off will be worth it. I'm going to give it a shot and be the guinea pig.

If results are unsatisfactory, it'll go back to the consignment lot.

thanks for all the discussion!

btrayfors 12-18-2009 03:58 PM

I think the Aires would be fine. It has a LOT of power, especially when the wind blows hard. Never a moments hesitation in 45 knot winds and 18' seas on a 400 mile leg to Grenada one year. I made 3 extra vanes for mine, but never needed them.

BTW, re: autopilots, check out W-H Autopilots Simple, well-engineered, very robust and very reliable. Good telephone support, too.


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