OCC Forums

Hydrovane Windvanes


By debonair - 7 Nov 2016

I have read everything I can find on the web about the Hydrovane self-steering gear, including lots of discussions about what its shortcomings should be: primarily not enough power to steer large/heavy vessels, especially boats with long keels. That said, I 've read a number of accounts of the Hydrovane working fairly effectively for such boats, and I 've found almost none that report that the Hydrovane actually failed heavy vessels.

We are considering buying a Hydrovane for our 20-ton 45 ' wooden ketch (traditional hull design with a full keel). If you have experience with a Hydrovane on an equivalent boat, and especially if there were serious shortcomings, we 'd love to hear from you.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to tell us your experience!

By robwithers - 14 Nov 2016

Hi Caitlin

We had a Hydrovane on our previous boat - a Hylas 44, and I do have views on the subject! Our boat was about the same length, but probably 5 tons lighter - still no lightweight.

We used the hydrovane very effectively on our atlantic crossing. It steered for days on end with just a few adjustments. Obviously, the sails needs to be well-balanced to give the system a chance, and you 'll need to do some playing around at the start to work out the best settings of sensitivity etc - but performance-wise I thought it was great.

However, we also used it during the AZAB race last year. A couple of days out Falmouth we started to get F6-8 NE, which blew us along very nicely but started to build some big seas. Bowling along in these seas, the hydrovane was again coping very well at keeping us on course when there was a loud bang and one of the bolts of the bottom A-frame had snapped. The hydrovane was now waggling about in the waves and I was concerned that it might rip the stern off the boat. After some heroic deeds - that get more heroic after a few drink - I managed to ensure that boat was safe and eventually got the hydrovane rudder off and reached Punta Delgarda using the autohelm and hand-steering.

I corresponded with the Curry family at Hyrovane but they failed to answer the key question to my satisfaction, which was why the bolt snapped. They claim it was an isolated incident, but I know of another skipper to whom it 's happened twice and my feeling now is that I do not trust the fixing bolts to be strong enough in big seas.

I am planning of fitting one of the servo-assisted self-steerers on my new boat.

Hope this helps

By debonair - 15 Nov 2016

Thank you for sharing your experience. You 've given us an entirely new issue to consider. I love the idea of a servo pendulum steering vane, but don 't relish fussing with the lines to the wheel. But we 'll reconsider! now!
By DariaBlackwell - 15 Nov 2016

We have a Monitor windvane and have nothing but praise for the support the company Scanmar has given us over the years. It has a sacrifical post that is intended to break if the forces exceed a certain limit and comes with spares. We 've had to replace the post a couple of times.

We have a Bowman 57, gross displacement 29 tons. Ours was the biggest boat fitted with the Monitor when we first bought it. The Monitor does an excellent job of steering, and yes balancing the sails first is important. We 've crossed the Atlantic three times with it.

And yes, the ropes coming to the helm are at first a pain, but when crossing oceans, we rarely get behind the wheel, so it 's really only a bother near land. We disconnect the ropes when sailing short coastal hops.

The picture is of Alex working on the Monitor mid-ocean while I kept an eye on Aleria while hove to. The next time I tied a rope to his ankle. [attachment=441]IMG_0431.JPG[/attachment]
By awarman - 1 Dec 2016

Hi Caitlin,
We sailed with Hydrovanes since 2002. Both on our previous boat (Ohlson 38 - 18k Miles) and again on our current boat (Hallberg Rassy 42E - 26k Miles) and they work just fine. There is a more complete description of pros & cons on our website, this link should take you to the right section http://sprucettes.weebly.com/self-steering.html. If you have any other Qs just email us on spruce.ohlson@gmail.com.
Sue & Andy (s/y Spruce - Malaysia)
By alshaheen - 4 Dec 2016

I would endorse everything Daria has said about the Monitor. For a big heavy boat a servo system is essential to develop the power necessary to steer the boat, particularly in heavy weather. If you really want to delve into OCC experience with Monitors you should contact Vice Commodore Tony Gooch who sailed his 42 ft boat solo around the world non-stop with a Monitor steering practically all the way.