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Beneteau 411

“Many thanks for a superb piece of equipment will which greatly improve my enjoyment while sailing and give a much greater degree of redundancy and safety.”

From: bamboo
Sent: Thursday, August 03, 20061:30 PM
To: Will Curry
Subject: Hydrovane Installation

Hi Will,

You will be pleased to hear that the hydrovane has been installed successfully on to my Beneteau 411. My cousin and I fitted it yesterday. I decided to place the hydrovane in the central position with the “A” brackets spaced either side of the stern access to the bathing platform. It doesn’t obstruct access too much and it gives a nice secure feeling when standing on the platform between the “A” bracket arms. Even when healed and doing 8kts in force 6! It means that I can attend to the hydrovane whilst underway without the risk of falling off the stern.

My cousin used to own and run a boat yard in Tortola, British Virgin Isles, so his experience and help in fitting the hydrovane was invaluable. I thought it would be difficult but it only took a day to install the three brackets and “A” frames. I have used teak blocks on the outdside bedded down with sealant adhesive and thick ply inside also bedded down with sealant adhesive. The assembly is now very rigid. All the critical dimensions have been satisfied.

Today we took the yacht out for sea trials. The wind was north westerly force 6 up the Bristol Channel. We had the third reef in the genoa and the first reef in the mainsail and the sea was moderately rough. Even so we were doing between 7 – 8kts close hauled and on a reach. The hydrovane worked perfectly first time even when the wind came round on the stern quarter.

What I need to do now is to refine the settings on the vane axis and the ratio control and with a little bit of practice I should be able to achieve a nice straight wake in all conditions. Although I think I will wait for a less windy day to play around with the hydrovane and build confidence in manipulating the settings.

I can only say that I have been very impressed with the quality of the equipment and the integrity of the design.

Many thanks for a superb piece of equipment will which greatly improve my enjoyment while sailing and give a much greater degree of redundancy and safety.

I look forward to seeing you all again at the Southampton Boat Show this year.

Best Wishes to all at Hydrovane

Malcolm Jordan

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Rival 32 - An Update

“I have sailed the hydrovane in winds from F3 to F9. It really does ‘just work’.”

“I simply ‘changed down’ on the ‘gearbox’, and the problem solved itself.”

From: Brian Case
Sent: Monday, May 22, 2006 1:59 PM
To: John Curry
Subject: ocean sunrise pics

Hi John.

It took long enough, but here are the pics I promised. 316 shows the North Somerset coast, and shows the tiller lashed midships; 318 shows the strong tides we get in the Bristol Channel, hydrovane coping well; 326 shows the vanes rope and pulley whipped to the wind generators tripod; 335 is my baby alongside in Swansea, our first real trip with the new self steering kit.

I have sailed the hydrovane in winds from F3 to F9. It really does ‘just work’. It took me a few attempts to fine tune the windvane to sail a specific course, the trick was to trim the sails properly (just like it says in the handbook!!). The unit works equally well on all points of sail, but has yet to be tested in large quartering seas. This will be an important test as Ocean Sunrise hates these conditions, and is a right bugger to steer! If the unit copes with this, I will be very pleased, but based on its performance so far, I have no real doubts.

For the hell of it, I took her out in a force nine, just to see if the unit would cope. The strong wind made the windvane move through its full range, and the rudder over-steered badly. This caused the boat to alternately luff up, and bear away dramatically, and made life awful. I simply ‘changed down’ on the ‘gearbox’, and the problem solved itself. Life returned to normal, and the subsequent cup of coffee was enjoyed particularly well!

I hope to take a couple of weeks off in June, intending to visit Lundy Island, Padstow, the Scilly Isles, and the Gower coast. It will all be single-handed, so should be the last ‘test’ my new hydrovane will have.

By the way, I have called the unit ‘Megan’, after a friends daughter who, on her very first time at the helm ( 12 years old at the time) steered a straighter course than any adult with years of experience (including yours truly!).

Hope the enclosed are useful, and that all is well in Canada.

Best wishes, Brian Case

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Niagra 35

“Over 11,000 miles and it worked well in all conditions on our Niagara 35. Steered better than we could in a gale that saw gusts of 50 knots.”

“It belongs in the Smithsonian!”

From: Tom Ehmann
Sent: Wednesday, July 19, 2006 8:49 AM
To: John Curry
Subject: well done

Hi John

Just a note to say that the hydrovane worked great on our trip. Over 11,000 miles and it worked well in all conditions on our Niagara 35. Steered better than we could in a gale that saw gusts of 50 knots.

We knew lots of other cruisers turning on their engines since their steering vanes couldn’t handle less than 5 knots but we just drifted along using the hydrovane – e.g. all the way through the ITCZ. It belongs in the Smithsonian!

Tom Ehmann, S/V Aurora B

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Moody 376

“It performed faultlessly right from the start just as your literature said it would! We are really impressed with it.”

From: Nigel
Sent: Friday, June 02, 2006 7:13 AM
To: John Curry
Subject: Thanks.

Dear John,

I thought you might like to know that we have now fitted the new Hydrovane to our Moody 376 – “Strummer”. I fitted it off-centre to avoid moving the bathing ladder and had a hole made through the bathing platform to accommodate the shaft as per one of the fitting options that you sent. I had the hole made professionally but did the remainder of the work myself – no problems encountered and I think the end result looks very neat. (Pictures attached – please feel free to use these as you wish).

We set off from Syracusa in Sicily heading for Dubrovnik in Croatia and engaged the Hydrovane for the first time as soon as we left port. It performed faultlessly right from the start just as your literature said it would! We are really impressed with it.

Thanks to you and your team for a great product.

Nigel Battarbee and Alison Timms “Yacht Strummer”

 

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Beneteau First 38

“I said Miles had steered me across the Atlantic perfectly 5 times. It is also one of the few things on the boat which appreciates in value.”

From: Roy Gee
Sent: Wednesday, April 12, 2006 12:01 PM
To: Will Curry
Subject: Re: Hydrovane Pins

Will.

Thanks for prompt reply. 4 pins, please and I will do a bank transfer. I have a Beneteau First 38 which is in Puerto Calero, Lanzarote,Canary Islands. I will try to take some photos next time I have my Hydrovane on.

I call it ‘Miles’ after my hero Miles Davis. He did an album ‘Miles Ahead’. Mine is Miles Astern.

I used to be on Derek’s (previous owner of Hydrovane) publicity as I said Miles had steered me across the Atlantic perfectly 5 times. It is also one of the few things on the boat which appreciates in value.

Regards, Roy Gee.

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Westerly Oceanlord 41

“Our hydrovane (a.k.a. “Scarlet”) has been a complete star the last 18 months.”

“I have to guess that she has at least 70,000nm under her rudder, and she’s still going strong!!!”

From: Skardu (Mark & Quintin)
Sent: Thursday, April 06, 2006 2:25 PM
To: John Curry
Subject: RE: Free locking pin

Hi John & Sherry,

Thanks for your generous offer. Order details for the vane cover are below, but in the meantime….

Our hydrovane (a.k.a. “Scarlet”) has been a complete star the last 18 months. We’ve covered over 18,000nm, with her steering for most of them. Our autopilot died on us about half way through our adventure, but we found that Scarlet filled in quite nicely even while we were motoring, as long as there was even the lightest of winds. I must admit, that she took a little getting used to (the tips on your website are very useful, but we discovered them 12 months too late!), but now that we have the hang of her, I can’t imagine why any yacht would a) be without one, and b) want to use any another system.

At one point, crossing the Bay of Biscay at the start of our trip, we lost our wheel steering in the middle of the night. Fortunately the main rudder still worked, but it was very reassuring to know that if that went too, we’d still have scarlet to steer us on. At another point, we got knocked down sailing to Colombia, and the force of the wave that hit us twisted the top half of Scarlet through 90 degrees. Sadly that put her out of commission until we made landfall a few days later, but despite our worst fears, all we needed to do was release a couple of bolts, and gently crow-bar her back into place….. she was good as new again, with not even a hint of damage to the vane. I bet the plywood vanes of other manufacturers wouldn’t have stood up as well.

I’m not sure how old Scarlet is, but if the previous owners of Skardu put her on before they started their circumnavigation, I have to guess that she has at least 70,000nm under her rudder, and she’s still going strong!!!

On that note, I’d still very much like to order a new RED vane cover. Ours is currently wearing through and looking a little faded, and we don’t really want to change Scarlet’s name to Rose!

It might be a bit tight to have the package reach us in NZ before we set off again, so if could, could you be so kind as to send it to the following address instead. It may also make shipping cheaper/easier.

Many thanks again,
Best, Mark

Rival 32

“I can see it is about as fragile as my Landrover!”

“The only drawback with my new ‘crew’ that I can foresee is that it wont stand its round in the pub!!!!!!”

From: brian case
Sent: Saturday, January 21, 2006 11:34 AM
To: John Curry; David Sloggit
Subject: its fitted

Hi John. Well, my dear old Rival now sports a nice new Hydrovane, to the envy of my nearest neighbour!! The actual assembly of the unit was just as straight forward as you told me at Southampton (have to confess, I didn’t really believe you!!). Actually, it was a piece of cake! Making the wooden pads to compensate for the angle of the transom was another matter. What a pain in the a**! I tried to get too clever, I think, using templates and a protractor to measure the angle, and then trying to translate that to the pad. Failed miserably!! In the end I just did it by eye, taking the old view that if it looks right, it is right. Worked perfectly. Don’t know why I didn’t do it that way in the first place. Would have saved me a few hours of work. All that is left now is to go out to play!!

By the way. You guys certainly now how to package your product. The first (in truth, the only) difficulty I encountered was getting the parts out of the boxes! The ‘fragile’ stickers are definitely a euphemism. Now I have seen the Hydrovane up close and personal, I can see it is about as fragile as my Landrover!

I’ll let you know how I get on with the new ‘crew’ when I get a chance to take ‘Ocean Sunrise’ out to sea, but that may be a few months yet. I don’t think I will have any problems though. The product just looks right. Looks good on the boat too. The only drawback with my new ‘crew’ that I can foresee is that it wont stand its round in the pub!!!!!! Hey Ho, its an imperfect world!

Cheers, and all the best to all.

Brian.

Ta Chiao built CT 47 - 15 Tons

“It says something, I think, that 25 years later Hydrovane is still around and upgraded to an even better design than when I first discovered it. The other vane manufacturer is not.”

From: John Shugar
Sent: Sunday, March 05, 2006 5:49 PM
To: Will Curry
Subject: Vane specs/parts sheet

Hi Will,

The vane worked great! AS I knew it would given my past experience with the RVG unit.

On Feb. 10th we finally relaunched Windsweptt II. My step-son flew in from Pensylvannia (after a day’s delay for the 18″ snow they got) and we sailed the boat back south to our area. We motored throughout the night but by morning we had 18-20 knots of apparent wind. First time we sailed the boat, new mailsail and everything to shake out. But the vane steered the course as steady as it could in 5-6 foot of slop, variable wind directions and strength.

My stepson couldn’t believe how well it steered the boat. We had motored all night utilizing the auto pilot and that didn’t really hold the course at all……yawing 15-20 degrees around the course. The vane held to a degree or two!

Thanks.John Shugar

~

From: John Sugar
Sent: Tuesday, March 07, 2006 7:40 AM
To: John Curry
Subject: Endorsement

Hi John,

Of course you can use my quote on the vane. I have waited years to get my hands on the Hydrovane and have had quite a bit of discussion with others about it already.

Thanks for all your help and wish you continued success on sales. Incidentally, the first time I coveted the Hydrovane was 25 + years ago when I built a boat from a bare hull. That was a tight budget project and I couldn’t afford to buy the Hydrovane so I used a competitor’s unit that simply was not rugged enough for the boat and the way I sailed it. It failed three different times, the last on a 13 day trip from Florida’s west coast to Bermuda with my 66 year old mother as crew! We had to hand steer the last 10 days through absolutely the worst weather I have sailed in on the Atlantic!

But it has all worked out. I sold that boat with the vane and now I have an even grander boat, and although she is almost 4,000 lbs heavier, the Hydrovane handles her with ease!I look forward to many more sailings with no problems.

It says something, I think, that 25 years later Hydrovane is still around and upgraded to an even better design than when I first discovered it. The other vane manufacturer is not.

John Shugar

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10m Westerly Falcon

“I have since learnt through experience what a perfect helmsman my Hydrovane makes”

From: Julian Mandiwall
Sent: Wednesday, March 01, 2006 10:17 AM
To: John Curry
Subject: Re: Copy email

Hi, yes of course, use my words.

I bought it at a boat show some years ago not knowing how good it would be. I chose it for only one reason, that it gave an auxiliary rudder facility, and that need was paramount in my book. I have since learnt through experience what a perfect helmsman my Hydrovane makes. Just fantastic, never argues, steers a better course than I can and needs no food.

It is fitted to a 10m Westerly Falcon.

Kind Regards
Julian Mandiwall

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Island Packet 45

“So far this thing is a beauty.”

From: Mark Rogers
Sent: Monday, February 13, 2006 10:33 AM
To: Will Curry
Subject: Hydrovane test report

Will & John & Paul

So far this thing is a beauty. Tracks very well even with an offset and underpower. Testing will continue, but so far you were right about how easy this is …

  1. pick and course and stabilze the boat
  2. pull the pins and turn vane leading edge into the wind
  3. and she tracks in a straight line

was able to make small course changes by rotating the vane – boat simply tracked around. more tests under sail on the next windy day

Island Packet 45

 

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Kelly Peterson 44

From the blog http://www.wheatstrong.com/hydrovane.htm

Wheatstrong has a Hydrovane windvane which steered for over 15,000nm during our Pacific voyages. The Hydrovane is an auxiliary rudder type windvane, rather than a servo-pendulum, so it has no lines to the wheel. The idea is that you trim the sails and adjust the boat’s rudder so that the boat is on the point of sail that you want, then use the wheel-brake to lock the boat’s rudder. Then you turn the leading edge of the vane into the wind and engage the mechanism and it steers using its own small rudder (about 36x10x2 inches, nylon).

I ordered a hydrovane with a longer shaft so that the gearbox and head are above my sternbox. The install was very easy. All you have to do is mount the Hydrovane vertically with the bottom of the shaft two inches above the water. It can be mounted off center if you need to. I drilled only four holes in the transom for the bolts for the two mounting brackets: two holes above the deck just below the caprail and two about a foot above the waterline. I made teak pads to fit between the mounting brackets and and the hull and had stainless steel backing plates fabricated to distribute the load on the inboard side of the hull. I faired the lower teak pad with epoxy to keep it from getting too thin on the upper edge.

The vane’s angle of attack, and therefore the heading, are adjusted from the cockpit using a small (1/4″) continuous line that turns the hydrovane head. I ran the line through a sheave with a bungee cord on the end of it; I attached the bungee to the port cleat on the cockpit coaming so you just reach back and to the left from the helm in order to adjust the vane. Course corrections essentially involve steering to the new point of sail, balancing and trimming the sailplan, setting the main rudder trim, and setting the windvane angle of attack. It takes a few iterations to settle down but then you’re good until the wind changes or you need to change course.

The Hydrovane worked very well when sailing to windward, pretty well when broad reaching or running and not so well when beam reaching.

The KP44 sails easily to weather and can be balanced to maintain a beat even without a windvane. It was easy to get the boat balanced and the windvane steering on a close reach or close hauled.

The hydrovane steered well with the wind on the aft quarter or from astern. Even running DDW was no problem for it as long as the sail plan was balanced and the seas were not confused.

I found our KP44 difficult to balance well enough to sail consistently on a beam reach without some main rudder movement. The boat would end up heading up or falling off in gusts or lulls and over-power the hydrovane’s smaller rudder. I think this probably would not have happened with a servo-pendulum type, since they can steer with much more force by moving the ship’s rudder. Hydrovane has since come up with a six-inch longer rudder as an option.

The Hydrovane can be locked with its rudder amidships by inserting a pin in the shaft at the gearbox/head. This is easily done from the deck. Once locked down the Hydrovane rudder exerts no influence. You can motor all you want with the Hydrovane locked down like this but I think it must generate a little drag and is probably needless wear on the Hydrovane as it tends to vibrate from the prop turbulence.

For motoring long distances in calm seas we remove the vane, lock the main rudder ‘midships, and use a Simrad TP30 tiller autopilot to drive the Hydrovane’s tiller. I had a mount and tiller extension built for a tiller autopilot on the pushpit and used that to drive the hydrovane while motoring. This worked very well in fairly calm conditions. But it would get in a feedback loop and spiral off course if seas were big. But then you remove the TP30, fold up the bracket, and sail in those conditions.

In cases where we are not going to use the Hydrovane for extended periods of sailing or motoring we take the hydrovane rudder off. This involves pulling a pin from the base of the shaft where it goes through the top of the rudder. You have to be at water level to do this so being in a dinghy or stern-to at a dock or quay is helpful. But if you’re agile you can climb over the transom and squat on the hydrovane support; hang on with one hand and use the other to pull the pin. The rudder is heavier than water so I have it secured with a length of line as a precaution at all times. Once the pin is pulled I just pull the rudder up using the line. Putting the rudder back on is the reverse process and is a little trickier when hanging on with one hand because you need to hold the rudder at the right orientation to line up the holes for the pin.

Pros:

  • No lines to steering wheel
  • Can serve as emergency rudder
  • Almost maintenance free, no rust or corrosion
  • Simple install, unobtrusive

Cons:

  • Requires a light touch to get everything balanced and staying on course, but extremely reliable once it’s ‘dialed in’.
  • Cost $4500
  • Finicky on a beam reach
  • Cannot pull rudder up easily, have to pull a pin and remove it from the base of the shaft (unlike other types which can swing the rudder up out of the water)

We had to handsteer on only one passage, to the Va’vau Group, Tonga, when it was 35-40 knots from astern with 25 foot following seas. The boat would surf down the waves and spin out at the bottom in the windshadow of the wave if the helmsman didn’t take corrective action. So we had probably 20 hours of hand steering over the course of a year. Not bad.

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.

KP44s are well known for weather helm – in San Francisco bay we often sail with too much canvas up in ‘the slot’ and end up having to wrestle the wheel to leeward to maintain course. Reefing and trimming properly eliminates this problem, and saves the arm muscles. A servo-pendulum rig will turn the wheel against a large force in a strong wind so you may get away with an over-powered rig for longer than you will with the Hydrovane. In that same wind the Hydrovane will be overpowered by the weather helm. The vane will go all the way over and turn the Hydrovane rudder until it is stalled and the boat will head up anyways. Once you reef and trim, the Hydrovane does fine in pretty much any wind.

I think having the Hydrovane made me much more aware of helm trim and sailplan balance simply because it was essential to the proper operation of the device. In fact, we had a crew member on for our passage through Mexico to the Galapagos and he never did get the hang of adjusting the Hydrovane.

Hydrovane is now producing the bigger rudder (six inches longer with the same profile). If I start another refit to go cruising again the bigger rudder will be on my ‘buy’ list ($625 ugh). Also on my list would be the new ‘stubby’ vane (12 inches shorter and 8 inches wider) because the standard vane collides with my wind generator mast/outboard crane on certain points of sail.

One important thing that I really like about the Hydrovane is the simplicity of the system and its heavy-duty, bullet proof constuction. It’s just really well built and not a lot can go wrong with it. It requires no maintenance other than to wash it with fresh water and detergent, let dry, and spray with WD40 – ONCE A YEAR. Nice.

Contessa 32 - Single-handed

“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!”

Thanks John,

I’d be more than happy to endorse the hydrovane and I can lend some little authority to an endorsement. I sailed single handed from Southampton to the Indian Ocean in 1999 in a Contessa 32 but unfortunately had to beat back into Cape Town after breaking my hand. 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!

Regards Graham

Hydrovane in the Baja Ha-ha

“I was impressed at how comfortable the crew on the other boat was. They knew their Hydrovane was up to the task.”

From: denny flannigan
Sent: Tuesday, November 22, 2005 11:22 AM
To: John Curry
Subject: self steering

John, I was recently racing a boat in the 2005 baja ha ha. We were under spinnaker in 20 to 25 kts of wind with mixed seas and I was hand steering a 47 ft boat.

Next to us was a 44 ft boat that had a Hydrovane driving. The wind and seas were such that our auto pilot was of little use. I was impressed at how comfortable the crew on the other boat was. They knew their Hydrovane was up to the task. Soon I will be embarking on my own voyage and self steering is something I want on my boat. Will you be at the Seattle boat show this January? If not when is the next time you plan to do the Seattle show?

Impressed,

Denny Flannigan

Pearson 35

“I am extremely pleased; if the unit had not functioned well my marriage would be on the rocks.”

From: Daniel Paull
Sent: Wednesday, August 24, 2005 4:00 PM
To: John Curry
Subject: My Hydrovane

I purchased a Hydrovane about one year ago. My boat, which is a Pearson 35 sloop has been out of the water in Raiatea, French Polynesia. I recently went there from Seattle, carrying the Hydrovane as airplane luggage and installed the unit. The components you provided were definitely the correct size and combination for my boat.

As soon as the installation was complete, we sailed 1200 miles to American Samoa without any “trials”. The moment we left the breakwater and had the sails up, I engaged the unit and it sailed a good course. There was no drama or learning curve. On that passage we hand steered for a total of about 3 hours, during which the boat was very unbalanced by an unfavorable sail combination. We mostly had light following winds. We did not jibe once! I guess I should be ashamed, but when we were well away from any land in the tradewind, we just slept all night. I am extremely pleased; if the unit had not functioned well my marriage would be on the rocks.

I did have one problem about which I would like your comments. On two occasions I either hove to briefly or backed the boat up to set an anchor without putting in the rudder lock pin and I discovered that the whole control unit had shifted in position on the rudder tube. I presume it was twised out of position by the tiller. This occurred even though the bolts were all quite tight. I guess the bottom line is that the system will not tolerate any backward movement of the boat at all without the rudder locked? Any comments or suggestions? (EDITOR’S NOTE – The answer is yes to locking the rudder when hoved to)

I had one observation which might be of value to other owners: We had about 12 hours of strong wind during which we sailed downwind with only a small “spitfire” jib. I started out with the jib trimmed far out but the boat kept rounding up and the unit could not hold a good course. I then sheeted the jib in tight, even though we were running, and that kept the bow from rounding up and allowed the Hydrovane to steer a good course with us travelling about 5 knots.

It is obvious that a great deal of thought has gone into the design and manufacture of this extraordinary device. The lack of lines running through the cockpit to the wheel is a big plus. Thanks very much. You may quote me however you see fit.

Dan Paull

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RORC 39

“Having no previous experience (with self-steering) we set out to sea, balanced the sails, set the vane and watched in awe as the hydrovane steered the boat on all points of sail.”

From: Terry Wilson – yacht ‘MOONSTONE’
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2005 12:58 PM
To: sherry@hydrovane.com
Subject: Thanks
Sherry,

Just a quick thank you for your super service. I collected the spares,vane cover & ball race & after overhauling the hydrovane, fitted it to my RORC 39. Having no previous experience (with self-steering) we set out to sea, balanced the sails, set the vane and watched in awe as the hydrovane steered the boat on all points of sail. The only problem was the total disgust from our best helmsman that Harriet, as we fondly now call her, can steer a better course than him!!

Many thanks
Terry Wilson
P.S. The ships chocolate supply lasts longer as well!

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