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  Topic Review (Newest First)
08-19-2008 09:51 PM
ClubOrlov Let's take these one at a time:

1. Bad weather. As I mentioned, my set-up dealt splendidly with very large quartering waves, too much wind, etc. The balanced rudder makes all the difference.

2. Cloudy days. Yes, you get less power from a solar array on cloudy days, but with a balanced rudder, the autopilot doesn't use up much juice at all, so you're still OK.

3. Electrical problems: if you can get 12V to the autopilot, you are still OK. If you can't, then you probably don't have nav lights either, so you aren't even legal. The Simrad stick autopilots seem remarkably robust. I broke one, so I know what it takes, and it takes a lot.

Anything else?
08-19-2008 06:47 PM
sailingdog bad weather, cloudy days, electrical system problems are still pretty common.
08-19-2008 06:26 PM
ClubOrlov Given enough solar panels and a wind sensor, what would be the difference?
08-19-2008 06:02 PM
sailingdog Yes, but a windvane requires no electricity and can keep the boat sailing more efficiently than an autopilot.
08-19-2008 04:51 PM
What I ended up doing

I thought I'd close out this thread with a description of the solution I eventually worked out.

Instead of making a trim tab and using a wind vane, I redesigned the rudder blade so that it pivoted forward instead of hanging down vertically. This made it very close to completely balanced. I also made it larger, making it possible to steer the boat while moving at half a knot or so. This made is possible to use the tillerpilot (Simrad TP32) under all conditions, from very light winds to gales, including big quartering waves from hurricane Bertha. I added 75W of amorphous solar cells, which are cheap and work even on overcast days, so that I never had to run the engine to provide juice for the autohelm or the nav lights.

For self-steering while going to windward, I added a mizzen. The boat initially was rigged as a yawl, but the mast and other rigging were lost over time. I added a tapered flagpole for a mast, and a 2" aluminum tube for a sprit, and used the original mizzen sail, which is still in fine shape. When moving to windward, the idea is to trim the mizzen so that it is just luffing, and lash the tiller so that it counteracts weather helm and then some. Then as the wind shifts, the mizzen keeps the boat from falling off too far. But I would like to add a wind sensor to enable the autohelm's sail to wind feature. This will be handy not just when beating, but also on other points of sail on the open ocean, when I want to catch a few winks and don't care about the exact course. In all, these changes worked out very well for me, and I had an easy sail, single-handing from Florida to Massachusetts (except for Bertha, but that's another story). While out on the ocean, I think I hand-steered an hour or so total during the entire trip.

Based on my experience, I would give the following advice:

- Skip the windvane; they are expensive and, I understand, don't always work. My whole solution cost me around $1k.

- Redesign the rudder so that it's close to 100% balanced. I used 2 slabs of 3/4" marine ply wrapped in 3 layers of cloth, and it works fine.

- Use an inexpensive autohelm (the TP32 is around $600) and some inexpensive solar panels to power it.
03-29-2008 10:05 PM
Originally Posted by ClubOrlov View Post
As far as the pintle/gudgeon business, I am thinking of eliminating them with a set of interlaced tabs between the back of the rudder blade and the front of the lower section of the trim tab, run through with stainless steel tube and nylon bushings, and staked together with stainless steel rod.
That sounds like a big improvement for flow/drag -- good idea.

Please post results when you get it up and running. Real photos are always helpful for visualizing.
03-29-2008 09:12 PM
ClubOrlov The surface area of the trim tab will be 20% of the effective surface area of the rudder; both the upper and the lower sections of the trim tab will do work. Based on my research, this ratio is traditional and conservative.

The trim tab's action is pretty similar to what the servopendulum achieves - it's a sort of power steering system that deflects the flow, using the motion of the boat to turn the rudder. It will make it possible for the wimpy Simrad (no insult intended; it's a wonderful device, just not that powerful) to drive this boat in quartering seas (which currently require yours truly to man the helm for hours on end, sometimes to the point of utter exhaustion).

As far as the pintle/gudgeon business, I am thinking of eliminating them with a set of interlaced tabs between the back of the rudder blade and the front of the lower section of the trim tab, run through with stainless steel tube and nylon bushings, and staked together with stainless steel rod. That's how the whole rudder is hung on this boat. Built like a tank, I tell you! The rudder even has a swim step built as part of it.

The guy I bought this boat from said: "Most of the steering on Hogfish is done with the feet." At the time, I thought he was being funny; not any more. I've spent too many hours tucked into the cockpit, with both feet on the tiller. This boat NEEDS power steering, which is what I hope to get out of the trim tab, in addition to all the other advantages (more steerage when maneuvering, wind vane, ability to use autohelm more of the time).
03-29-2008 08:34 PM
JohnRPollard Orlov,

Clever design and nice sketches.

I know you indicate the mock-up dimensions are not to scale. How far out of scale are they? I ask because the surface area of the trim tab seems insufficient to usefully steer the boat. Hopefully there's more surface are than the drawings suggest, or possibly your boat is so well balanced that tiny variations in rudder pressure will induce steerage?

Also, I will wonder aloud about the plan to connect the tiller pilot. As I mentioned previously, most steering vane/tiller pilot rigs use the power of the vane to steer the boat on a compass course provided by the tiller pilot, so as to reduce power consumption and wear/tear on the tillerpilot. Your plan seems to be to attach the tiller pilot to the trim tab, and give it less rudder surface area with which to steer the boat. Maybe I'm missing something, but wouldn't that make the tiller pilot work harder?

Finally, I still don't like the idea of mucking up the flow over the rudder with a trim tab and all the pintle/gudgeon mounting hardware. Again, I would want to be able to get the self steering rig out of the water when I didn't need it.

Sorry to come across so critical - I don't mean it personally. I just see some issues with the plan and thought I'd mention them for consideration. You seem to have a knack for this, so I sincerely hope you prove me wrong on all counts and I look forward to hearing how the project goes.
03-29-2008 12:03 PM
A design idea

I did a rough cardboard mock-up of an idea. None of the dimensions are exactly right; it's just to illustrate the principle.

The trim tab is made up of two sections. The lower section is connected to the back of the rudder blade using gudgeons and pintles and to the upper section using a U-bracket and a through-bolt. The upper section's upper end slides through a slot hinged to the back of the transom-hung rudder body. Its middle section is V-shaped and mates with a fork at the end of the trim tab tiller, but only when the rudder blade is down. As the rudder blade comes up, the upper section of the trim tab backs away from the fork. Note that when the blade is down, the axes of the trim tab's top section slider pivot and the bottom pivot are aligned, allowing the trim tab to turn, but as it comes up, the axes are no longer aligned, constraining the trim tab to the same plane as the rudder.

Omitted from the model is the windvane linkage. This would be a bell crank permanently connected to the wind vane tiller about 20% back of the rudder pivot point (adjustable to get the right balance of responsiveness and damping), as shown here:

Here are photos of the model in operation.

This design achieves all of my objectives: make the trim tab integral to the rudder blade; disengage automatically when the blade kicks up; stay in the plane of the rudder when kicking up; and, be really really simple to build.

03-26-2008 11:41 PM
sailingdog Here's an illustration of the problem. The dot-dash-dot line is the trim tab hinge axis, the black circle is the rudder kick-up pivot point.

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