It would be nice to have some type of self-steering system on Emet. When we went for our first gulf sail, it became immediately apparent how tedious it is sitting for hours upon hours at the wheel. Even before I had confirmed this through practice, I knew it and had been looking for a self-steering system.
My list of requirements was:
- Consumes no power
- Has to accommodate our davits
- Easy to use
- Easy to install
- Simple and rugged design
So, I began looking. And it was exhausting. There are a pile of options, which I suppose is a good thing. There has even been a book written about this subject due to the number of options and . . . complexity? . . . of it all.
This was high on my initial list. As a matter of fact, it was all I was looking at. I completely avoided looking at any type of electrical system. Let’s see how they do on the list.
- Affordable: Not for us. But, it depends on your definition. Most new systems are between $4,000 and $6,000 for a boat our size. I could buy two new main sails for that price. You could possibly build your own.
- Consumes no power: Yes.
- Has to accommodate our davits: Possibly, but then you lose some of the simplicity and ruggedness.
- Easy to use: Once you learn how to use them, yes. There is a learning curve.
- Easy to install: Possibly. Depends on the design. Some are definitely not.
- Simple and rugged design: Possibly. Depends on the design, though every manufacturer touts hundreds of thousands of blue water miles covered with nary a failure.*
“Windvane” is a very broad category, there are subsets of this category: auxiliary rudders, trim-tabs-on-auxiliary-rudders, trim-tabs-on-main-rudders, servo-pendulums. And then once you decide on the subcategory, there are design specifics from each manufacturer that dictate a further look. There were a few systems that would accommodate the davits. One was a trim tab on the main rudder that worked through a cable system that was attached to the vane. I believe there was another one, but once I saw the prices on all of these, I resolved to find other options. Building my own was going to be a last resort.
When I saw the prices on the windvanes and my options were limited due to our davits, I resolved to take a look at the modern self-steering systems. There are again many options out there from the big names: Simrad, Raymarine, Garmin, Furuno, and B&G to start. There are also options from some smaller and more specialized companies: CPT, WH, and Alpha to name a few.
I originally took a look at the Raymarine EV-100 wheel drive autopilot. Several friends have these, actually it’s earlier model cousin, on boats much larger than ours. I figured it was worth a look. http://www.raymarine.com/view/?id=6866
- Affordable: Definitely. At around $1200 for the whole system, this was easy on our budget
- Consumes no power: No. But, how much? I remember looking for the specification and couldn’t find it.
- Has to accommodate our davits: Yes.
- Easy to use: Yes.
- Easy to install: Yes.
- Simple and rugged design: Depends on who you ask. Mfr-“Simple robust clutch engagement mechanism.” Users-I’ve read blogs where people keep whole additional systems as backups. Our friend that has sailed with it for years has spares and has rebuilt his system 4 or 5 times.
The recommended maximum boat displacement for the EV-100 is 16,500 lbs. Emet unloaded has a displacement of 17,580. But, both of the people I knew with this system had boats MUCH heavier than ours. I resolved to keep looking.
I came across the CPT Autopilot while browsing a forum I think. It all runs together these days. Seems most people that have them have favorable reviews for the unit. http://www.cptautopilot.com/
- Affordable: Mostly. At around $2000, we can do this.
- Consumes no power: No. The manufacturer says that typical draw is 0.4 amps.
- Has to accommodate our davits: Yes
- Easy to use: Yes
- Easy to install: Yes
- Simple and rugged design: Appears so.
So, this is the system that I have settled on. We’ll add another Trojan T-1275 battery for a total of 3 which gives us 450 amp hours. Plus, we’ll have a start battery that we could add to the system through the battery selector which would add another 80 or so amp hours. At 530 amp hours, we have 265 amp hours to use on a regular basis. Our biggest draw is the refrigerator. We can always turn the stat up if necessary to conserve.
List of Websites for the Systems I Looked at
This list is not comprehensive and is in no particular order. I never looked at the systems by Simrad, Furuno, B&G, Garmin, etc. That’s not to say that they’re not acceptable or even great. I just had no interest in the systems that I envision they offer. There were plenty of other alternatives and I don’t need or even want a system that connects to every single other system on our boat (it couldn’t anyway, because we don’t have a “system”). And these companies, based on my viewing of their other gadgets, are not in the business of selling spartan and economical systems that do ONE thing and do it well.
Blue Anarchy Sea Collective >> Self Steering Without A Windvane
Welcome to Hydrovane Self Steering – Hydrovane
The Steersman – Sail powered self steering gear for yachts
A few Superlatives
NORVANE Self-Steering Wind Vane. Stainless steel, servo-pendulum. Powerful, sturdy and reliable for sailboats 20ï¿½ to 60ï¿½
Voyager Self Steering Inc., maker of sailing wind vanes
South Atlantic Windvane Self Steering
Self-Steering Gear — Build a trim-tab based wind vane or autopilot self-steering system for your boat
Sea Feather Wind Vane Self Steering | Dartmouth, South Devon
FLEMING | There and back for 40 years
PelagicAutopilot | Sailing Autopilot Technologies
Alpha Marine Systems – Home
SelfSteeringBasics_WMT_2014_0127 – SelfSteeringBasics_WMT_2014_0127.pdf
WH Autopilots (at the time of this writing, this website was down, but it was a system that I looked at)
*I exaggerate here so you get the marketing point of effect.