Fits and works on all cruising boats
Our favorite conversation happens when someone drops by at a boat show with a longing face: “I’d love a windvane, but I just can’t install one on my boat because of x, y, and z…”
Unlike many other types of windvane, the Hydrovane can fit and will work on any sailboat.
So often we have easy answers and good news to share. Those sailors leave with a new-found understanding of how Hydrovane is different from other types.
A Hydrovane can easily be fitted and will work on:
- All transom types
- Boats with any steering type (hydraulic, mechanical, tiller)
- Boats with mizzens
- Cruising Catamarans or Trimarans
- Boats that are LOADED with gear (as many cruising boats are)
- Boats with dinghy davits, arches, gantries, radar masts, etc.
- Boats that struggle with some weather helm
Displacement and speed are really the only ‘stoppers’. No, we’re not fitting 70 foot maxis! Of course, the Hydrovane’s ability to steer diminishes with the weight and size of boat. The heaviest boat we’ve fitted to date weighs in at 60,000 lbs (27,000 kg). How well the boat sails, and how well the Skipper can trim, are certain variables too.
We love installation challenges… try us!
Install Off Center – Don’t give up your transom!
Whether you like mooring stern-to in a marina for the ease of hopping off, or love the platform for donning your mask and flippers at anchor – you don’t have to give that up!
Swim steps and drop down transoms are the norm for modern boats and we encourage off center installations. If you have a sugar scoop transom, a platform, or even a nice boarding ladder, just mount the Hydrovane to one side to maintain full use.
Often an off center installation helps accommodate other gear, and also means you have perfectly positioned handholds for getting on and off the boat… your transom becomes more functional.
A number of years ago, various trials were conducted through the University of Southampton to help determine if off center installations affect performance. The tests were conclusive: The Hydrovane is absolutely indifferent as to its location – as long as it has ‘clean water’ to work with, the rudder can produce its certain amount of steering power wherever it is located.
More importantly, however, are the real-life experiences on the water. About 75% of Hydrovane installations in the past 10 years have been mounted off center, and we have hundreds of testimonials from happy customers.
With the change in modern boat transoms, extreme offsets are becoming common place. The only advantages of an amidships installation might be the aesthetics (for some boats) and perhaps a bit more protection provided by the boat’s keel.
Emergency Rudder/Steering System
Second only to keeping the boat afloat, is keeping her pointed in the right direction.
With a Hydrovane your boat will have two complete, independent, steering systems.
The Hydrovane doubles as the strongest Emergency Rudder and Steering System available today.
Other windvane systems may have the option of a retro-fit-able emergency rudder. However, in an emergency situation, having the system in place and ‘ready to go’ saves boats. Not to mention that rudder loss is not the only potential issue to prepare for…
Consider these scenarios:
- Rudder failure: do you know what’s on the inside of your boat’s rudder? Typical construction is a foam core with stainless strapping, covered in fiberglass. It’s difficult to inspect and if there is any corrosion, you won’t know about it until the worst time.
- Rudder post fissure: crevice corrosion in the steel shaft is often to blame for rudder posts that shear in half. In this scenario the boat is left rudderless.
- Steering quadrant failure: most boats have a back-up tiller, but when was the last time you tried to use it? Sometimes it’s in a difficult position (such as in an aft cabin, for a center cockpit boat) and would be impossible to use in bad conditions.
- Cable breakage: do you have spare cables and do you know how to install them?
- Hydraulic steering malfunction
In planning, ask yourself:
- How long would it take you and crew to get back to port?
- How would you be able to avoid fatigue as you deal with the situation?
- Without a proper emergency system in place, would you be able outrun or steer well enough in bad conditions?
- What if you lose steering close to shore?
Stories with happy endings
We hear accounts from our customers all the time, and here are just a few of them
A BAD YEAR FOR STEERING/RUDDER FAILURE CROSSING THE ATLANTIC
We are now in Martinique. After installing the Hydrovane, we left Tenerife on December 11 2016 and after 18 days at sea we arrived in Martinique.
At 1100nm from Martinique during the night with 30/35 knots of wind and 3 to 5 meters waves we heard 2 big noises like something hitting the boat on the side and almost immediately the autopilot stopped working and the boat went beam to the waves. The steering wheel was blocked and we could no longer steer. Not right not left.
So we put down the sails, started the motor and used the Hydrovane to steer! When the day came I reestablished the sails and we finished the trip with the Hydrovane without any problems.
At the end I am happy I did install the Hydrovane, especially that I saw on YouTube that at the same time 2 sailboats almost the same size as mine with the same problem. The crew had to abandon the the ships and left both boats in the middle of the Atlantic and lost everything.
Now I am telling everybody to install the Hydrovane.
… again thanks to the Hydrovane. It saved my boat.
– Jacques, Amel Mango 52
SURVIVING THE QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY STORM
In the Queen’s Birthday storm (6 yacht lost) the Hydrovane saved us days of exhausting steering and allowed us to pump, prepare food, rest, and make needed repairs.
While in the big following seas, averaging over 10 knots under bare poles, the Hydrovane steered, most of the time, while a crewmember simply sat behind the wheel, ‘riding shotgun’. Under such circumstances fatigue is a serious and insidious problem, leading to passivity and impaired judgement and potentially deadly mistakes.
When we attempted deploy a sea-anchor we fell backward off a wave and busted our main rudder’s steering system, but the Hydrovane carried on. I don’t know of any other unit that could stand up to that kind of punishment. With the boat’s main rudder inoperable the Hydrovane, alone, steered us 500 miles to Fiji.
– SV Mary T, Cheoy Lee Offshore Rhodes 41
STEERING QUADRANT CRACKS EN ROUTE TO THE MARQUESAS
At 0900hrs this morning the main steering quadrant failed – it sheared in two places and is need of a good welder.
We rigged up the emergency tiller which we centered, and are steering using the Hydrovane. This works very well considering we are using the manual bilge pump handle as a tiller and we’re steering from the ‘hen bench’. It’s much the same as steering a small outboard motor in a dinghy. Before the incident, we were having a fine sail straight downwind before a 25 kt following breeze, but have reverted to motoring for ease of handling.
So we are now proceeding directly to Atuona for repairs, and expect to arrive tomorrow in the late afternoon. Fatu Hiva will have to wait for another time.
There are numerous things that are on our side. Firstly, the Hydrovane makes steering much more manageable, instead of trying to steer from the bowels of the vessel. Secondly, we are only 145nm from a safe harbour, and most probably a good welder/mechanic. Thirdly, and most importantly, the failure occurred well away from land where we could sort things out in an orderly fashion, trying different steering techniques until we found the best combination. And lastly, after a wicked night of strong squalls, the skies cleared this morning in fine tradewind fashion. Landfall tomorrow morning.
– SV Madhatter, Roberts 44 Ketch
MAIN RUDDER SHEARS OF NEW BOAT DURING ATLANTIC CROSSING
…the Hydrovane did a great job and without it we might have ended up on the shores of Senegal, or before that destroyed by colliding with bigger ships in the ship lane between Cap Verdes and Africa; that was my main worry.
[After the main rudder was lost], we steered as you probably know using the vane, a drogue and close reefed sails. In my personal point of view we would be in severe trouble not having the vane. We needed more gear to steer the boat, that is true, but I think that has to do with the following fact; a heavy boat like mine with semi-long keel but WITHOUT a main rudder will always tend to go up against the wind because the lateral plane (the sideways force….) is destroyed – the main rudder being a very important part. Our mainsail was stuck too so we could not use that either. The whole balance of the boat was gone, making it almost impossible to steer… BUT we made it to Cape Verdes and are proud of that fact.
A heavy boat with everything in place steers with the vane, surely! Before the incident happened the Hydrovane steered beautifully and everybody onboard was amazed by its easy operation and the fact that it seemed to steer better than our old autopilot.
Anyway, I think it is a good story thanks to the Hydrovane.
– SV Modus Vivendi, Motiva 49
CLOSE CALL IN A CHANNEL WHEN STEERING IS LOST
“I have a C&C 39 with a semi-balanced spade rudder. My intent was to go off-shore sailing with my family. To ensure that I did not have to worry about the rudder, I had [an engineer] design me a new, updated rudder. I then had [a boatyard] build the new rudder. And to really be sure, I put a Hydrovane on the back of the boat.
Myself and my two young boys (10 and 12) were entering between the two rock breakwaters of the Nuevo Vallarta channel down here in Mexico. Well, the channel into the marina was running quite a bit of a swell, with breaking waves along the rocks. My youngest son was at the wheel, so I told him to speed up so we could try to keep ahead of the waves and not broach going in.
As we entered between the two rock breakwaters he started yelling that he could not steer. I grabbed the wheel and – nothing. We were veering off towards the rocks of the breakwater at close to 5 knots. Thinking the steering cable broke, I hit the autopilot. I could see it turning the shaft and still nothing.
People started waving us off and passing pangas started yelling at us to get away from the rocks. I put the boat hard in reverse and then the waves started hitting us. According to the depth sounder we should have hit bottom, and I thought we are either going to be smashed against the rocks or we were going to get knocked down. From backing hard into the waves the cockpit started to get flooded.
Then I remembered the Hydrovane right behind me! I pulled the pin and pushed the tiller over hard, and before you knew it we are back in the channel, and at the slip.
Looking at the boat from the side we saw that the main rudder was completely gone. We later found it drifting in the channel. The shaft had sheared off, perhaps from corrosion from some as yet undetermined source.
This was the day before yesterday and just wanted to say ‘thanks…’
– SV Outrider, C&C 39
Simple to Operate
The Hydrovane is an Auxiliary Rudder system, meaning it has its own rudder that is independent of the boat’s main steering system. Once engaged, the large vane becomes a wind direction sensor, and also provides the power to drive the Hydrovane rudder.
Being independent, there are no lines connected to the main steering, so set up and operation are simple.
Four Easy Steps:
- Trim the sails to the course – so the boat is comfortable holding that course
- Set the vane with its leading edge into the wind – as if “in irons”
- Lock main rudder in the ‘on course’ position that compensates for, or eliminates any weather helm
- Click the Hydrovane into gear – just move the ratio knob from neutral into gear
… The Hydrovane rudder is then steering the boat!
As the boat falls off course, the apparent wind angle changes and drives the vane over. The movement of the vane is linked to turn the Hydrovane rudder down below to bring you back on course.
In a word, fantastic… with sails and the boat’s rudder in trim, it was dead simple to engage and adjust, achieving a stable helm almost instantly.
– Elan 434
Apparent Wind Based Course
All windvanes steer an apparent wind based course (as opposed to a magnetic compass course). As the wind shifts, your course will also shift. A wind based course is ideal for offshore sailors because it means your boat is always trimmed properly. In the tradewinds, we’ve experienced days on end without having to touch the vane. It is blissful.
To adjust your heading, simply pull on the ‘remote course setting line’ that is set up within reach of the cockpit, to adjust the angle of the vane to the wind. Trim your sails.
“Lucy” is truly an amazing device, reliable and strongly built which afforded the crew a lot of comfort: knowing that also at night we did not have to worry about an accidental jibe, would stay on the same wind angle and had much time for other things like navigation, cooking and sleeping.
– Hallberg Rassy 45
Incredible Performance – Heavy to Light
In tough conditions, don’t rely on an electronic autopilot or manual steering! The windier it gets, the better any windvane will perform.
The Hydrovane is proven in over 50 years of ocean voyaging, and certainly in heavy conditions. Nothing improves a boat’s stability in a storm more than locking the main rudder in a fixed position. This ability is unique to auxiliary rudder systems like Hydrovane.
In the Queen’s Birthday storm (6 yacht lost) the Hydrovane saved us days of exhausting steering and allowed us to pump, prepare food, rest, and make needed repairs. While in the big following seas, averaging over 10 knots under bare poles, the Hydrovane steered, most of the time, while a crewmember simply sat behind the wheel, ‘riding shotgun’.
– Rhodes Reliant 40 Owner
Winds were reported at 55 knots, and waves in the region were at least ‘boat length’ high and quite steep with the currents. This was an awful night and I was very afraid for myself, the boat and my equipment – I had new found respect, trust and comfort in the Hydrovane after that.
– Contessa 26 Owner
Our passage from Hawaii to San Francisco included a heavy gale in the last 600 nm with winds up to 50kts true (according to B&G). ‘Irene’ stayed on the same point of sail, with a triple-reefed main and a storm stays’l, while we stayed below, only popping up every 15 minutes to scan the horizon and marvel at the size of the waves.
– Kelly Peterson 44 Owner
Believe me, single-handedly, single-handed in storms up to Force 12 was not fun and I would have betrothed myself to my “Harry” Hydrovane once I got back to land safely!
– Contessa 32
We sailed about 250 miles of the trip with deeply reefed sails in winds from 15 to 50 knots!! For the first time, we had to run downwind, under bare poles in gale force 8 conditions, with gusts to 50 knots – and don’t get me started on the sea conditions! Have you ever swallowed your tongue?
Oh, and iVane, our wind-steering partner. What a gem! It steered 230 hard miles without even nut rations. I don’t fully understand the genious of iVane, but I do fully appreciate its indomitable – even insouciant – response to provocative seas. I should see if it can do Wx forecasting.
– Hallberg Rassy 39
Just two days ago, we were sailing from Bora Bora to Suwarrow Atoll in 10-12 foot following seas with only a double reefed main up. We hit speeds of over 12 knots as we went up and down in the swells. One minute we were on the top and then sliding down the face at breakneck speeds. All the time, ‘James’ kept us right on course.
– Liberty 458
‘James’ just got us from Funafuti in Tuvalu to Pohnpei (1688 nautical miles) doing 98% of the steering. That included 35-40 knots of wind and 20-25 foot seas on a broad reach. We only had up our small forestaysail and took three reefs in the main and we were still going well over 7 knots most of the trip. What a champ.
– Liberty 458
Frictionless in Light Airs
All windvanes have all the power they can use when the wind is strong… the real differentiator is performance in lighter airs.
The Hydrovane is a near frictionless system, which means it can still steer with very little apparent wind – down to a few knots. This continued ability to steer (where other windvanes would not be able to hold a course) is because of its internal engineering and the fact that, being independent, it doesn’t need to overcome friction in lines nor in your boat’s main steering system.
This is undoubtedly the best piece of kit I’ve had on any boat ever. It replaced a much older servo pendulum gear and is just amazing in the band of wind and sea conditions it covers. In particular, its ability to steer safely on a dead run even when surfing is incredible, as is its light weather performance. I kept thinking, it just can’t be this good.
– Westerley 33 Ketch
We have sailed about 4800nm with it since we installed it less than a year and a half ago. The trips have had the wind in every quarter, and on average 3-4 squalls a day. The winds have ranged from very light (8 – 12kts) to heavy (40 – 55kts). The Hydrovane has handled it all.
– Maple Leaf 50
‘Henry’ (after the Navigator) has now completed 3 Transatlantic circuits plus a wee diversion up through Norway to Svalbard to chat with Walrus. Without complaint he has successfully steering my Rustler 36 through all weathers and conditions including the tail end of a hurricane and downwind for several days in very light airs. If he could just make cups of tea…..
– Rustler 36
Advantage of Two Rudders
In addition to having the Emergency Rudder, the combined effect of two rudders working together (your boat’s main rudder, and the Hydrovane rudder) is perhaps the most significant performance advantage of a separate auxiliary rudder system.
For downwind sailing in particular, the main rudder can provide the greatest yaw resistance only if it is fixed. Think about all that extra wetted surface area below the water.
To this natural stability the nimble Hydrovane rudder is tempered to the conditions resulting in yet further yaw dampening – which means a more comfortable ride, a straighter course and less potential to lose control in bad seas and risk: broaches, crash gibes and knock-downs.
Not only that, you will often lock off the main rudder in a position that is slightly off center – to eliminate weather helm.
Overall when Helga is working she is amazing. Her ability to sail the boat smoothly and quickly astonished me even after reading various reviews before we purchased. My wife is a bit prone to seasickness and we clearly notice the difference as soon as Helga is engaged or dis-engaged.
– Hallberg Rassy 412 Owner
Save Wear on Boat’s Main Rudder and Bearings
Sailors who cover many miles often think of this first!
So, I must tell you, and I mean this sincerely, the Hydrovane is simply a game changer for Quetzal. It’s just great and performs better than I expected…
One other feature of the vane that I really appreciate is that it eases the load on the rudder and rudder bearings. Quetzal was built in 1986 and I just did a big rudder job, rebuilding the rudder and changing the bearings; a big job. But by keeping the wheel locked, the rudder bearings have been loading on these recent passages, which is just fine with me.
– John Kretchsmer, Offshore Sailing Instructor, Kaufman 47
The Hydrovane Rudder
For nearly 30 years the rudder has been made of solid nylon poured into a mold. It is likely the largest piece of solid nylon you will ever see! Over the years as cruising boat size has increased, various improvements have been made – now larger and thicker for bigger and faster boats – producing more power with less force required to move it.
The Large Windvane
Yes, that is a flying fish!
You only need to carry one Vane and we will recommend the vane that is best for you.
The large windvane is a lightweight ripstop nylon fabric stretched over an anodized aluminum tube frame. Its base is a casting that is attached to the steering unit with a quick release knob – easily spun off in a second or so.
Over the years our Standard Vane has grown in height in order to produce better light air performance. Stowage of the Standard Vane is probably easiest – fits well on the back of a door.
Arches, radar masts, antennas, mizzens etc. can be interfering. For those we provide our Stubby Vane that is shorter and wider than the Standard. It produces comparable power and better accommodates aft deck obstacles.
Extendable ‘XT’ Vane
The XT Vane has been in production since the fall of 2015 and has been a success. It has the same surface area as the Stubby Vane, but has the ability to extend up.
The Hydrovane can already perform in light airs because it has so little inherent friction, but there are conditions when more power is desirable – especially for modern big and fast boats that can sail downwind at 7 knots in a 10 knot breeze leaving little apparent wind for the Hydrovane to work with.
The Extendable Vane allows the user to fine tune for light air conditions by telescoping the vane area up higher, and into cleaner air. This changes the leverage and makes the vane much more sensitive.
Looking at it another way, the XT Vane enables the crew to have the benefit of a large vane which can be reduced in the same way that they would reef sails to suit the conditions. The main difference being that the vane area remains the same but when the vane is extended the leverage increases the force available to move the rudder. When combined with the other features a wide range of additional advantages are available.
Sophisticated Fine Tuning
The Hydrovane is simple to operate, yet sophisticated in capability.
There are two tools for adjusting sensitivity and power for the conditions. All the other major brands have either no such tuning capability, or at best can make only minor adjustments.
This is not to say that the Hydrovane is finicky… Many owners leave their vane and ratio knob at the same setting for most conditions. The degree of tuning is personal taste… enthusiasm to trim!
Ratio Control – Rudder Settings for Power and Angle Applied
There are three settings for the ratio control knob:
- Far right position – Vane disengaged (Emergency Steering – tiller controls the rudder)
- Far left position – 15° rudder deflection – 1:3 power – most power for light air/normal
- Middle position – 25° rudder deflection – 1:2 power – heavier conditions
- Right position – 35° rudder deflection – 1:1 power – least power (no over steering), most rudder deflection – storm conditions
Variable Vane Axis – Adjusts Sensitivity/Responsiveness
Decline the vane to desensitize it. No other system can do this: CHANGE ITS AXIS.
This is a technical issue that needs explaining: It is not so much the change of the angle of the vane – most systems can do that – but when inclining the Hydrovane vane, its axis is also changed. The axis is at the point of linkage that connects the vane to the steering mechanism. Changing the axis changes the physics of the impulse delivered to the rudder.
A major development in self steering occurred when systems adopted a compromise between the power and sensitivity of the horizontal axis and the tempered vertical axis. Most other systems have now chosen a fixed axis of about 20 degrees off the horizontal – a compromise. Only Hydrovane has a variable axis that can be adjusted between perfectly horizontal (when the vane is vertical) and up to 30 degrees off that.
- Normal setting – Vane is vertical – most power, most sensitive
- Partially inclined (0 to 30 degrees) – de-sensitizes the vane
- Fully inclined to 30 degrees – for heavy weather, least sensitive
I was amazed how easy it was to experiment with different vane angles and ratio knob positions to find the groove, so to speak. We settled on the most sensitive ratio knob position with an almost vertical vane in these conditions. I found the gentle rocking motion of the vane to be almost hypnotic… what an amazing piece of engineering!
– Elan 434
Many sailors find that the normal settings with the vane standing tall and ratio knob in the left setting are all that they need – but you may want to fine tune to see just how well the Hydrovane can perform… How straight is your wake?
Set Course Remotely
No one wants to lean over the back of the boat on night watch alone. We run our remote course setting line forward, down the lifelines, and so it can be reached while sitting in the comfortable protection of the dodger.
Remote Course Setting Assembly
The purpose of the Remote Course Setting Assembly is to change or set the course. It allows you to moves the entire upper section of the unit in order to get the leading edge of the vane into the wind. On the desired course the vane should be positioned with leading edge into the wind – ‘in irons’.
To use the remote course setting there is a line that is set-up like a clothesline – an endless loop – to somewhere handy to the cockpit. It’s usually attached by a bungee cord somewhere along the lifelines. The line can be as long or as short as needed. A little pull on that line moves the vane a tiny bit. Three or four full arm’s length pulls would tack the boat.
The worm gear is wonderful – no need to tie off or lock anything – just pull the line and leave it.
- No need to lock off – never moves on its own
- Can make the smallest adjustment, or even tack/gybe with it
- Lead the line anywhere – no need to get up to make a tweak in course
- SAFETY – No need to lean over your transom in heavy weather
Manual Course Setting
The VXA1 is a more basic mechanism – only a course locking knob, aka ‘Course Clamp’. One has to muscle the vane to the desired heading and tighten the knob. Sometimes this makes sense for small cruising boats with small cockpits where the knob will be within an easy arm’s reach. Most feel that the extra cost the remote course setting is well worth it.
Easy to add a tillerpilot
The Hydrovane is designed to be connected to a tiller style autopilot for use when motoring or when sailing in very light winds with sloppy seas.
You can use any tiller pilot. The specs are irrelevant because the pilot is driving the semi balanced, leveraged Hydrovane rudder, which it takes very little power to turn.
A tiller is already in place on the Hydrovane Drive Unit. A ¾ in / 2 cm outer diameter extension must be made to extend this tiller and readily adapted to whichever connection is required by the tiller pilot manufacturer. The pilot itself needs to be fitted nearby, either on the deck or rail or attached to the stern pushpit.
Other self steering systems have variations on such a retrofit. Only Hydrovane comes complete with a tiller in place that directly steers its own rudder – makes for a very early tiller pilot installation… and most effective.
Hydrovane owners have installed such tillerpilots report strong preference for them over their expensive below deck autopilots, if they have such: less noise, not under a bunk, small electrical draw, saves the larger unit for a ‘rainy day’ – and a cheap way to have yet another back-up.
We used such a set up on our last boat which had a temperamental below deck autopilot that we never worried much about (or bothered to fix)!
We stand behind our product
Your Hydrovane will handle a circumnavigation and more…
We have always told anyone who asked that we stand behind our product 100% and would do whatever is needed to rectify any problem – after all, our reputation depends on it.
We fully expect any properly installed Hydrovane to handle a circumnavigation with no major breakages from a normal operation and suffer only the standard wear.
We recommend carrying the ‘Offshore Spares Kit’ which includes replacements for the wear points (Vane Cover and Locking Pins. It also includes a Drive Sleeve and Bottom Bearing which may need replacement after 25,000nm or so).
Otherwise, after a circumnavigation, the complete unit should be as sound as when first acquired. We happily provide replacements at no cost for any breakages or faults that are a result of manufacturing deficiencies or failures in normal operation. Of course, damage caused by improper installation, collisions, impact from any source or extraordinary acts of nature are the responsibility of the owner. As well, depreciation from exposure to the elements and high usage are expected – but it will take years and thousands of miles for significant deterioration.
Attain Offshore Insurance
Having trouble finding insurance for offshore passages? Sailing shorthanded? Is the insurance too expensive? Do you need another crew member in order to be insurable?
The risk of loss of your boat is significantly reduced if it has a Hydrovane. If you already have a Hydrovane perhaps your insurer needs to be reminded of its virtues as one of the best pieces of safety equipment on board.
These are insurance companies that are knowledgeable about offshore sailing and provide better rates or are willing to insure shorthanded crew for boats that have self steering – especially for those systems that provide complete back-up emergency steering, like Hydrovane.
- Canada – Vancouver – Dolphin Insurance Services Inc.
- UK – Brighton – Topsail Insurance Ltd. “…indeed when insuring blue water cruising yachts, it is usually part of our policy conditions that self steering gear is fitted and operational – Hydrovane fits the bill” – Robert Stevens, Managing Director
- UK – Salisbury – Admiral Marine Insurance