OCC Forums

Self Steering


By Gianluca - 9 Sep 2015

I am looking into a self steering mechanism. After reading the websites of Hydrovane (http://www.hydrovane.com) and Monitor wind vane (http://www.selfsteer.com), I would like to hear what OCC members use specially in heavy boats, over 20T.
I noticed that there are at least 5-10 products to consider so it would be nice to hear other self steering product opinions.
I appreciate any info (the good, the bad and the ugly).
By DariaBlackwell - 13 Sep 2015

We have a Bowman 57 and love our Monitor windvane. We learned why and were grateful that it came with a replacement post as the forces in storms did indeed stress the system. This is Alex repairing one of the issues mid-Atlantic while we were hove to. I 'll get Alex to give you more of the technical perspective.

By Alex_Blackwell - 13 Sep 2015

To roll it back a 'bit ', when fitting Aleria out for crossing oceans, we went to the boat shows and interviewed all the current manufacturers. We had already put a windvane at the very top of our list.

The net result was that our Bowmann 57 a 57 ' cutter rigged ketch weighing in at about 29 tonnes, was simply too big and heavy for most of the systems. Only Scanmar instilled confidence in us with the Monitor. They were the only manufacturer that had a boat of our size on their books. This is what we purchased, and I did the entire installation myself.

We have since sailed many tens of thousands of miles with the Monitor doing all the steering. It does, of course need frequent adjusting as the winds shift - all these systems sail to the apparent wind.

Bear in mind, that even with your sail plan perfectly balanced, which we have learned to do, the steering forces are immense - particularly in a choppy, confused sea. Daria mentioned a tube that broke - it is meant to break if the forces become too great. We broke several, and we now carry 3-4 spares at all times.

We have learned, that when the forces are too much, near coastal and Biscay come to mind, we revert to manual steering or we engage the electronic autohelm, which has very different functionality.

Scanmar also offers an emergency rudder, which can be attached to the monitor frame. We have this, but have never used it, as we were able to repair our steering while underway each time it failed.

I no longer have my interview notes, but if memory serves me, Hydrovane is an excellent product for smaller boats, one I would recommend looking at.

Fair Winds
By stuartletton - 13 Sep 2015


When I bought our 30,000lb Island Packet 45 in Boston USA we researched what we could find to decide on which vane to buy. Primarily because of its emergency rudder potential we opted for a Hydrovane.

24 hours out of Boston heading for Scotland the main vertical tube started sliding down the brackets. Unable to fix it hanging off the back we returned to Boston where my professional engineer friend who by chance we had on board completely re-built and re-mounted the system (which the boatyard had fitted)

Back in place and back on passage we found the bolts holding the main tube to its mounting bracket "gripped" the inner steering tube causing the system to bind. Loosened off, the main tube started slipping again.

To make a bad situation worse, the horizontal tube mounted on the transom bracket started pulling out.

End result, we hand steered to Azores where once again we re-built. On second leg home, exact same problem.

Sold it on eBay as Hydrovane quite unhelpful and bought a Monitor which has since steered us beautifully on 3 trans Atlantics.
By Gianluca - 4 Oct 2015

How many years have you had the monitor installed?
By Gianluca - 4 Oct 2015

When did you purchase the Hydrovane?
By stuartletton - 4 Oct 2015

I purchased the Hydrovane in March 2008. Sold it on eBay July 2008. I installed the Monitor in 2010
By Alex_Blackwell - 4 Oct 2015


We have had our Monitor since early 2008. We have done 3 Atlantic crossings with it plus numerous other passages with it steering virtually the whole time.
By Wild Bird - 11 May 2017

We have a Windpilot self steering system. Hope this experience will be helpful to others with similar systems. All self steering systems that use lines to the wheel are designed for approximately two turns lock to lock. The rope drums on these systems are all very similar diameter and the servo pendulums swing through similar angles.
We had difficulty getting the Windpilot to put enough lock on the wheel to correct the course in waves. Our steering is 3.5 turns lock to lock. The Windpilot or any other wheel steering system could not generate the lock to correct the course. We tried everything to balance the boat but it simply could not create enough rudder movement. We did solve the problem though. By installing 1:2 pulleys on the steering lines we doubled the line movement so it turned the wheel twice as much. All of a sudden the Windpilot performs brilliantly in all conditions! We even have the adjustable attachment point on the pendulum arm at maximum and it still has enough power to give us all the steering we need. It is amazing to watch it in big waves just pour lock on to correct. Really please with this simple modification that has transformed our Self Steering performance. If you have similar issues give it a try
By Charles.Shelby - 25 Feb 2019

I am current researching a self steering solution for my Pearson 530 45T Ketch Rig sailboat. Does any one have any performance data on a really heavy boat?

By Dick - 25 Feb 2019

Hi Charles,
Ketches are always a challenge for self steering gear, but your boat is common enough so that others may have tried it. I would try Hans at Scanmar in the US as they are the vendor for Monitor windvanes and may have worked with your design boat.
Good luck and let us know what you find out, Dick Stevenson, s/v Alchemy
By DariaBlackwell - 27 Feb 2019

I can second Dick's suggestion. We have a Monitor on our Bowman 57 ketch and have been impressed with its performance and Scanmar's service - the best we've ever experienced. See Alex's post below.