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Shearwater 39 - Offshore Advice
“Best and most necessary piece of equipment we have found is the mechanical self steering.”
“We had the drogue ready to go but never deployed it. During all this our Hydrovane self-steering kept us on course and pointed correctly to the seas for 2 days without needing any adjustment.”
Sent: Wednesday, May 19, 2004 4:39 PM
Subject: progress report from the Huxhams…
“We are about 700 n miles off the coast of Mexico headed for the equator. The winds are fair from the East and we have the fishing gear out. The fleeces are being stowed.
We know many of you are close to leaving and will give you our experience which may help. Best and most necessary piece of equipment we have found is the mechanical self steering. We were in a gale off Oregon. The 30-35 knot winds were not as much of a problem as the 8-14 foot seas. After heaving to for about five hours to wait for dawn, we shortened sail and ran at 6-7 knots under just staysail. We had the drogue ready to go but never deployed it. During all this our Hydrovane self-steering kept us on course and pointed correctly to the seas for 2 days without needing any adjustment. It has performed well in light conditions as well- well worth the money we spent. The crew was able to get needed rest.
In my opinion very few electric driven pilots could have held us on course in that kind of sea. We have a solar panel but did not see the sun for about 2 weeks so don’t count on it entirely. During the bad weather wind generator did well. Our water and fuel conservation is going well. Fortunately during the gale we were already 200 miles offshore so we did not need engine; don’t think we could have motored in the heavy seas. We are certainly happy we took the offshore route.
Freyja has performed well and apart from a shredded reefing block and line we have not had a major failure of equipment. For us the ham radio has become essential not only for email and weather but also for keeping in contact. Ron Kolody has been a great help and has organized phone patches with loved ones in Vancouver. We have also signed on to Pacific seafarers net.”
Shearwater 39 enroute from Vancouver to Marquesas
Basil and Angela
“As for my experience with the Hydrovane – I’d have to say that it is one of the best pieces of equipment I have on the boat.”
From: Christopher Johnson
Reply-To: Christopher Johnson
To: Charles __________
Subject: Re: Hydrovane Self-steering
Date: Fri, 6 Aug 2004 14:52:46 -0700 (PDT)
In and of itself, the Hydrovane is a wonderful machine. It’s a, fundamentally simple design that is well engineered and well built, with numerous mounting options. If you can inspect one up close, you’ll see what I mean.
As for my experience with the Hydrovane – I’d have to say that it is one of the best pieces of equipment I have on the boat. I have an ’84 Swan 46 that I have sailed perhaps 25k nm on, from the Caribbean to the Chesapeake, and from California to NZ. In these past ten years the Hydrovane has required almost no maintenance, yet has provided countless hours of dependable service. I have often sailed short-handed because of my confidence in this “third crew member”.
I believe that at 49′ you are at the upper limit of the machine’s capability. However, to really get optimal performance – no matter what size boat you are on – you have to be able to balance your boat out well. The Hydrovane merely tips the scale this way or that, so to speak. If the boat is over canvassed, or the sails not trimmed properly, then the Hydrovane will have a hard time compensating, especially in a larger boat. A key control factor seems to be the offset of the main rudder to steer the boat a bit leeward to compensate for the boat’s tendency to head up as it hits small bursts of speed.
IF THE BOAT IS WELL BALANCED, the Hydrovane will work in practically all points of sail, and all wind speeds. I have used it in light air with a spinnaker, and fully reefed in 40 kts of wind in the Southern Ocean. The conditions that challenge it occur when the wind velocity is changing frequently, or when there are significant and sudden wind shifts. But this is probably true with all wind vane steering units. Dead down wind in light air can be tricky as the apparent wind is so low, and provides little energy to turn the rudder.
That said, the other features I like about the Hydrovane is that it can immediately function as an emergency rudder, and it is also easy to add a small tiller autopilot for motoring in calms, and to have as a backup to another mechanical unit you may have.
If you have any more specific questions, let me know. I have no complaints whatsoever with this product. It is a great thing that John Curry and family have become involved making access to information and parts more easily available than ever.
All the best, and good luck with your planning – it’s all well worth it.
Owner of a Swan 46 (20 tons)
(currently in New Zealand)
Van de Stadt 35
“It’s simplicity of design was nothing short of a miracle and it worked! It did exactly what it I wanted it to do, day after day, month after month with barely a glance as maintenance.”
From: Dr. Will Cave
Sent: Tuesday, March 21, 2006 1:39 PM
To: John Curry
Subject: Searching for a yacht
I owned an old steel Van der Stadt in the early 90’s and she took me round the world. Without the hydrovane welded onto the stern it would not have been possible. On my return I sold her to a Scot who was on the run from a spell at her majesty’s pleasure and when he was nicked and banged up she was bought again, by another Scot. I think the boat now owned by David de Moray who has written on your testimonials page is the same Romalo. Do you have his e-mail? I would love to contact him. (editor’s note – see David de Moray’s email below)
If it is the same yacht the hydrovane gear must be over 25 years old and done countless thousands of miles. It’s simplicity of design was nothing short of a miracle and it worked! It did exactly what it I wanted it to do, day after day, month after month with barely a glance as maintenance. Belated thanks for this. Sincerely,
Dr Will Cave, Stranded GP in Dorset, UK.
Van de Stadt 35
“It is quite fun to watch other blue water sailors pouring over their more flimsily-built units which have not survived the savage conditions of the atlantic! Of course, I don’t laugh – no, not at all!!”
“Many people say that such units are like having an extra hand on-board… I would put it more strongly since I am sure we have all had experiences of extra hands who were not much use! The Hydrovane unit is an utterly reliable extra hand … I trust my life to it without fear and without hesitation.”
From: David Moray
Sent: Friday, March 18, 2005 4:05 AM
To: John Curry
Subject: Hydrovane Company
I am currently ‘on leave’ back in the UK having left my yacht (a van de Stadt 35) in Rota, Spain. I have completed three years of single-handed sailing in the Med and on the west coast of Africa with most of the work being done by an aged but still fully-functional Hydrovane unit. When I was about to embark I visited the famous “production unit” in Nottingham (to get a replacement rudder) and was a little concerned to find that the company’s future was in some doubt.
Today I came across your web-site and the excellent news that you have bought the Hydrovane company, thus ensuring the continued supply of parts.
I cannot tell you how relieved I am … not that I expect any serious trouble from ‘the old lady at the stern’ you understand, but more from the point of view that you have saved a premier product from the scrapyard. I would swear by my Hydrovane unit and have on many occasions been grateful for its simple robustness. It is quite fun to watch other blue water sailors pouring over their more flimsily-built units which have not survived the savage conditions of the atlantic! Of course, I don’t laugh – no, not at all!!
As a Scotsman I have to confess that I am only a little disturbed by the company being acquired by a Canadian cousin – I’m sure that whisky must flow in your veins for otherwise I doubt if you would have been prompted to take the action you have!
This is just a wee note of thanks – simple as that. I applaud your actions, sir!
David de Moray
From: David Moray
Sent: Tuesday, March 22, 2005 4:03 AM
Subject: RE: Hydrovane Company
Firstly, “Slainte Mhar” means “good health to you”. It is Gaelic, as you probably guessed, and is the sort of thing one would say when parting from a friend. It is also what you might say when “raising a glass” as a sort of toast.
I am sorry to hear of your ‘disability’ (preference for Irish beer) but I have many very good friends who are Irish and they hide the affliction well – in fact it does not seem to inhibit their abilities at all! I have spent many happy days sailing on the west coast of Eire and it is certainly here, in these somewhat rumbustuous waters, that the Hydrovane unit earned its spurs as far as I was concerned.
When I first picked up my boat from Silvers Marine on the Clyde my maiden voyage with her was a fairly slow, single-handed, trip down to Valentia Island and Cahersiveen to work out all her ‘blemishes’. I had never used a Hydrovane unit before and was thrilled by the ease with which it operated and how quickly I could put my absolute trust in it. Many people say that such units are like having an extra hand on-board… I would put it more strongly since I am sure we have all had experiences of extra hands who were not much use! The Hydrovane unit is an utterly reliable extra hand … I trust my life to it without fear and without hesitation.
My unit is old … as is my boat … and as am I, if the truth ever comes out! It does not have the fancy new multicoloured PVC (or whatever) wind-vane but a simply piece of carefully shaped marine-ply. This is eminently replacable wherever in the world I am, although I have only ever broken one, and I carry a spare as you might expect. Low tech is certainly best on African shores in my experience, plus you can happily paint it ridiculous colours at a whim!
I am glad to see you have ‘modernized’ the pin which secures the rudder onto the shaft – I also have a lanyard binding the handle of the rudder-blade to the hull just in case. My rudder-blade did once fall off – much to my embarassment and everyone else’s hilarity – but my safety measure prevented its loss and my consequent bankruptcy!
Yes of course you may use any of the nonsense I have written. It is the least I can to re-pay you a) for saving the company and b) for continuing to produce such a wonderful product.
In lowland Scots dialect they sometimes say “lang may yer lum reek”. Well, I don’t know about that but I do wish you all the best and also your son when he joins in the venture. If ever you see a Hydrovane unit perched on the stern of a scruffy, vaguely white-hulled, Van de Stadt 35, unashamedly displaying the most gaudy and colourful of designs on the vane, give a shout .. aye, it’ll be me, nae doot!!
David de Moray BSc(Eng) MEd FSA(Scot)
Currently on shore-leave but soon to return to W Africa with “Romalo”.
Transworld 41 Ketch - Around the World
“I am pleased to report that in all conditions, in anything of a breeze and above, the Hydrovane worked perfectly.”
“Since last seeing you I have sailed around the world…
Your Hydrovane worked splendidly throughout the entire voyage and when crossing the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans I was able to go for many days without having to touch the helm… With wind from a whisper to 45 knots (the strongest I experienced) she held to the course far better than if I had hand steered.”
“During the entire cruise I think we had the wind from every conceivable direction and at every possible strength from flat calm to Force 6 … I am pleased to report that in all conditions, in anything of a breeze and above, the Hydrovane worked perfectly. You may remember that my boat has a long straight keel and displaces about 16 tons so it had a fair amount of work to do.”
Owner of a Transworld 41
Westerly Ocean 49
“Congratulations on turning out a first class product.”
“…the main reason for writing is to say that if there are any doubters out there, undecided whether or not to fit a Hydrovane because it would mean fitting it off-centre, let me reassure them.”
“Congratulations on turning out a first class product. From an engineering and quality standpoint it has no equal, right down to the lowliest pin. The quality of material used throughout is remarkable and the stainless steel comes pretty close to being ‘stainfree’…..
However, the main reason for writing is to say that if there are any doubters out there, undecided whether or not to fit a Hydrovane because it would mean fitting it off-centre, let me reassure them.
To preserve the swim platform and central boarding ladder on my 48′ Westerly, I fitted mine 15” off-centre and found no detriment whatsoever, regardless of sea state and wind speed, including an Atlantic crossing. None that I can detect, anyway, even though 15” is a little more than you [used to] recommend!”
Owner of a Westerly 49
Green Cove Springs, Florida, U.S.A
“I can say with absolute confidence that my choice in buying the VXA2 Hydrovane was one of my better decisions.”
“Over the past twenty years sailing and in the course of that time spent a personal fortune preparing my yacht for long term cruising I can say with absolute confidence that my choice in buying the VXA2 Hydrovane was one of my better decisions. When I first engaged the Hydrovane during a sail I thought it was a coincidence that it steered the boat on a steady course immediately. It wasn’t. Since then I use Heidi whenever I can.”
Owner of an Ohlson 38
“My Hydrovane has performed faultlessly for 20 years without a single failure or repair needed ….. Last week I suffered my first Hydrovane gear “failure”. The white nylon threaded thumbscrew…….”
Owner of a 37′ sailboat
New York, New York
“The only thing that annoys me is that I did not have the equipment fitted years ago when I first heard of your system.”
”Hydro” as we affectionately call her continues to function so well that my wife and I regard her with the same aura as we do a fax machine……. No more do we have to listen to the electric autopilot or watch the wheel forever rotating this way and that. The only thing that annoys me is that I did not have the equipment fitted years ago when I first heard of your system.”
Owner of a Swan 44
Hallberg Rassy 382 Ketch
“The Hydrovane in my opinion is the ultimate!”
“……Having previously owned a Hallberg Rassy 382 which had your vane system on her I would not consider anything else. My family and I sailed the HR382 across the Atlantic and through the West Indies up to Florida and even though the Hydrovane was off centered it didn’t miss a beat!
For your interest in 1972 my wife and I sailed a 28 footer with a transom hung Hasler trim tab system out to New Zealand and some time after that I had a yacht with a local pendulum servo system. The Hydrovane in my opinion is the ultimate!”
Owner of a Hallberg Rassy 42 ketch
Auckland, New Zealand
Bruce Roberts 44 - 18 Ton
“we are very happy with the performance of the Hydrovane especially downwind in light winds …… in strong, storm winds the Hydrovane has performed exceptionally”
“…we are very happy with the performance of the Hydrovane especially downwind in light winds …… in strong, storm winds the Hydrovane has performed exceptionally …. our boat is quite big, a Bruce Roberts 44 ft. steel cutter and we never hand steered once in a whole month while coming across the Atlantic …”
Owner of a Roberts Norfolk 43 – 18T
Tortola, British Virgin Islands
Moody 39 - Big Following Seas
“I am very pleased to say that my Hydrovane has performed excellently in all conditions.”
“I have been cruising non stop ever since December ’89. I am very pleased to say that my Hydrovane has performed excellently in all conditions. It is particularly good downwind and holds an excellent course, even with big following seas. Having exchanged views with many skippers it is obvious that many windvanes are fairly weak on that point of sail. Mechanically it has stood up very well and has required minimal maintenance.”
Owner of Moody 39
Just to let you know I have steered them over the Atlantic and half the Pacific. They cannot manage without me, I am so clever.
Harriet the Hydrovane on Susquehanna
Fare-Huahine, Isles Sous Le Vent, French Polynesia
June 25, 2002
Spencer 1330 - Switch from Servo
“As we had sailed many miles successfully with the pendulum system we were, initially, very hesitant to try an alternative mechanical steering product.”
“Particularly, the downwind light air performance is remarkable!”
“We have sailed with mechanical self steering systems since 1987 and have accumulated in excess of 42,000 sea miles exclusively using vane steering. Prior to purchasing the Hydrovane we had been using a popular brand pendulum system with fine results. We did, however, tire of the cockpit being interfered with by the steering lines led from the pendulum system. As we had sailed many miles successfully with the pendulum system we were, initially, very hesitant to try an alternative mechanical steering product.
After three years and 10,000 sea miles of Hydrovane steering, we are absolutely delighted. Particularly, the downwind light air performance is remarkable! The vane has been totally maintenance free and is exceptionally easy to engage/disengage. Thank you for a very fine product. It is an absolute pleasure to sail with the Hydrovane!”
Owner of a Spencer 1330 (45′)
Langley, B.C., Canada (currently in Malaysia)
Falmouth to Lanzarote – Hanse 400
“Great installation – off center to keep dropdown transom fully functional”
“The vane has been used for a number of overnight passages and has been working well.”
Sorry about the delay in replying. I wanted to be able to use the vane before responding.
We have now sailed from Falmouth(UK) via Spain and Portugal to Lanzarote.
The vane has been used for a number of overnight passages and has been working well.
It would be absolutely perfect if it could also stand watches during the night !
I have attached some photos as well