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Wind Speed and Direction - On the cheap but not frustrating

2998 Views 32 Replies 15 Participants Last post by  mal5033
Can you post some details about your wind systems - especially if you added a system to a 40+-year-old boat?

I would like to add a wind speed/direction system. I have nothing for wind right now but would like to wire the mast before we splash this summer. I found some mast cable, and the display for an old Datamarine system on ebay for around $200 but the transducer is almost $900.

Thank you!!
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My experience: the old Datamarine & Raymarine (e.g. ST60 and even older, as well as newer) displays work great and work forever. The sending devices do not. And they aren't the greatest problem.

Speed wheels last me ~10-15 years. The last time one failed I looked at the specs, and it was rated for XX revolutions, which equated (for me) to something like two years' use. Laugh. Obviously they have lasted longer for me.

Wind instruments anecdotally might live five years; many do not. I'm sure others will say theirs is 15 years old; my experience and observation indicates they don't live long. There have been numerous reports of the Raymarine wireless wind devices dying after a year or two, so while wireless is easy, I am apprehensive.

Aside from device failures, my experience is that 90% of failures are in the wiring. This applies to both connectors and direct-wire. The wires flex over time, and break. I'd happily spend the cash to replace a failed display, but that's never my problem- it's the cabling which has to be pulled out and replaced. With pre-attached connectors, often the connector end(s) has to be run through holes (e.g., bulkheads, pedestal tubes, pods) meaning the connector has to be cut off, wire run, the connector is re-attached, a real PITA.

I'd stay away from any used speed/wind electronics except displays, and maybe depth transducer. There is no cheap way to do what you want, except what Don L said. If you're not racing, you don't need wind speed or direction, and anyone with any experience can use their face and Mark I eyeball. Windexes are inexpensive, low-tech, and easy to install, go that route for wind direction indicator.
@OntarioTheLake Thank you for this excellent, informative and very objective comment!
My former boat had a Datamarine windspeed/direction instrument that is now 40 years old. The speed function didn't work, but the direction function did. I have never felt a need to know windspeed, except as a matter of curiosity. The best indicator of when to reef or change a sail is the behavior of the boat. The wind direction function is most useful for sailing at night, because you often can't see the wind vane and tell tales at night, but the wind direction indicator can tell you how to steer the boat to keep the sails in trim at night, especially when closehauled.

Personally, I wouldn't spend $800. or more for a wind instrument for a used boat. Wind direction makes night sailing a little easier, but you can get by just as well, even in long distance night races, with a $10. flashlight. If I was buying a new boat I would probably order it with full instrumentation.
Thank you very much for posting this! You're right - it seems like the wind gauge is under-used or non-operational on most of the boats I've seen.

I think any decent wind instrument (mast head transducer, display unit, wires) will cost around $1000. If you spend just a little more, you can get a complete wind, speed, depth system (Raymarine I50 / I 60) for $1250 or so.

I would not waste time and money on a used system.

Good luck,
Way more than I want to spend. Based on other comments, I may consider becoming a better sailor and skip the electronics. Thanks!
I'm guessing that you contacted DMI and were quoted the price for a new sender. Did you ask if they had any used or rebuilds? You'll also need the bracket.
They replaced the LCD on my depth meter pretty reasonably, works like new.
DMI fixed and calibrated my depth and speed instruments last year. (It was a great experience!) I asked at the time about wind and he only quoted for a new sender. It would definitely be worth a call to ask about used ones... Thanks for posting!
From my research (calling the companies), the max distance the wireless ones go is 50 feet, and at times not even that far. For sure none would work on my 71' main mast;
That makes a lot of sense, especially if the wireless is Bluetooth. Thank you!
NASA Marine sells a relatively inexpensive transducer and display for ~$290 shipped to US: Nasa Clipper Wind System V2 (010.023)

@colemj Thanks for posting this. I never heard of the brand before you dropped the link. Reviews say that the cable is tender and is the weak point of this system. The wireless version, however, gets rave reviews and looks like it can be acquired in the US for around $300.
You beat me to it.

My RM died and I replaced with a NASA wireless unit. About a year but so far so good. I run it through. Yacht Devices router and then it drives my ST-60 units. AND I get it on all my iPhone and Android chart apps.

Look ti buying direct from NASA in the UK. I found that the most coat efficient method.
@hpeer Thank you for posting your experience with this brand. I am unfamiliar with these and doing research. Do you know what the wireless signal is? Bluetooth? 802.11x? proprietary?
I'd like to avoid setting up a router on my boat.
Wifi, nothing special.

The wifi goes to a base station that outputs 0183 NMEA. They sell compatiable instruments, very reasonable.

I bought one, not sure the other set up would work, but it did just work. So I still have my RM 60+ master and remote.

I mounted it on my radar mast. Because I have a steel boat and may not reach the base. And because at 72 I don't need any more stuff on the mast head where I have to climb to fix. Seemsnto work just fine where it is, maybe reports a little less than mast head, but direction seems spot on.
@hpeer Perfect! That should be compatible with my navigation laptop. Thank you for posting this information.
$35 Hand held anemometer semi-permanently attached to backstay of my Montgomery 17 with 2 carabiners and a piece of shock cord to make it self leveling.

View attachment 147082
@heinzir Really wishing I had a split backstay! Thanks for posting this ingenious idea!
We've used a lot of stuff for wind direction and boat speed over our (approaching) 50 year sailing life. I remember using a drag behind knot meter that would pull a plunger to approximate speed at one time. I truly appreciated the keep it simple attitude but I admit I am spoiled by the newer stuff (including GPS, which was not always around to help)
The windex has always been a part of it and I had the stiff neck to prove it. Having had questionable performance with the instruments on our new (to us) boat, we scrapped it all and installed a 9 inch Raymarine Axiom MFD, an !-70, and a new autohelm. I am amazed by the performance of this setup (I probably am jinxing it by saying that). It does way more than I need and I am still learning its capabilities. I still use the windex and lower shroud streamers but am finding I use the display more now.
I used the existing mast-top and hull sending units with adapters. It cost a few boat-bucks but it was money well spent.
@mal5033 Thanks for posting this. In my "someday-life" I hope to have a modern, standard set of gear. For now, I have my toughbook, OpenCPN and whatever things I can figure out how to hook into it. Finding a budget-friendly wind speed/direction transducer is a real challenge. Windex, yarn, face, ears are all have now. Before I put the mast up for the summer, I'd really like to get a mast head unit mounted, if at all possible.
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