Windvane Self Steering

There are many types of Windvane steering but generally speaking the Hydrovane or WindPilot are the most well regarded. The Windpilot is very well made and good value. It provides enormous amounts of power to steer a boat with a heavy displacement like a Seastream. However, the Hydrovane has been used on at least two SeaStream 43’s with great success and has the benefit of acting as an emergency rudder. First is the ketch Yindee Plus owned by Chris Bright who sailed around the world with his! The Hyodrovane is also installed on Shadowfax, a cutter rigged Seastream 43. Below are short accounts of both:

Author: Chris Bright
Boat: Yindee Plus (43)

Our Hydrovane has been absolutely, categorically indispensable during our ocean passages and we used it on every opportunity that we can. It is our favourite piece of kit on the boat. It is all a question of de-powering the sail plan, balancing the boat and reducing your expectation of speed. Once set up, the Hydrovane will steer us (all 16 Tons at the start of a long passage) to within +/- 5 degrees of course, and often more like 2 degrees.

Even on the Atlantic crossing with quartering seas we would surf down a 4m wave, round up as the stern was pushed around and then watch as the Hydrovane just determinedly pushed her back before the next big one. Like most wind steering systems she prefers to be either on the wind or running and a beam reach will cause the most ‘twitching’ and occasional loss of course. The Raymarine auto-pilot struggles in any kind of sea and we very rarely use it, usually when motoring in dead calm. She’s a heavy boat and out electronic auto-pilot is not really up to the job.

Author: Tim Good
Boat: Shadowfax (43)

I bought the Hydrovane on the back of the report by Chris on Yindee Plus. The difference with mine is that it is mounted off-center, behind dinghy davits and under solar panels! I did not want to sacrifice the boarding platform we use to enter the tender so it had to be off-center.

I was dubious if the Hydrovane could cope with steering a heavy boat like Shadowfax but amazingly it has coped in all conditions and all points of wind. Even dead downwind when the apparent wind is less, and therefore less steering power…. but it copes fine.

I feel the semi-long keel hull of the Seasteam helps to keep the directional stability of the boat in check, and therefore works well with the Hydrovane.