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  • Writer's pictureSailing The Dream

How we steer just with wind

After having to completely rebuild our rudder bearing (How we replaced our seized rudder bearing assembly) we decided we needed the R-word REDUNDANCY and thus we started our search for a backup rudder and steering system, it’s fair to say we were very concerned about failure and wanted to be able to steer our way out of danger!

We found that because our yacht is so wide at the stern almost 5m wide and with a drop-down swim platform covering most of the stern we were very limited in options available to fit the job, being a big offset from the centreline of the boat, we found most self steering systems needed to be central and or used the existing rudder and cable systems (not really a redundancy system at all like we were looking) and for us this was not a fully independent system.

We needed an alternative to the traditional autopilot and also an alternative to the yacht rudder in case of a rudder failure.

In the end, we decided on a Hydrovane, their system seemed to tick all the boxes. It can be installed offset from the centreline of the boat, doesn’t depend or uses the yacht rudder giving us an offline mechanical wind vane steering system to back up the main rudder steering.

Plus we love their motto “steering The Dream”, couldn’t be more right!

Having in mind this new obsession of ours, redundancies, we decided to buy a backup Raymarine tiller autopilot that we can connect to Heidi (the Hydrovane, that’s what we call it) and remotely steer the boat from the backup rudder in case the vane for some reason also gets damaged, although we also have a spare vane cover (a future installation project).

The installation was quite difficult due to the limited space in the aft corner of the yacht but Ana being slender fit managed to place the supporting backing plates and bolts high up into the corner arch of the stern, we placed a 5mm aluminium plate backed by 10mm aluminium shim bearing plates. We then sanded the provided teakwood blocks to the final angles to ensure we got a good flat bearing for the mounting plates and used Sicaflex 291i for final embedment. I think the most difficult part of this install was drilling the holes in the boat.

OH the pain, only a boat lover would understand!!

We reviewed the comprehensive videos online and the documentation for the Hydrovane and I have to say it’s far and above any other system we have on The Dream, this made it simple to plug and play straight out of the box!

We have used Heidi a few times by now, the longest period without adjustments was for about 8 hours and we have to report that she works well (sailing from Madeira to Lisbon) and the unexpected complete silence as we slip through the water was an absolute joy for us and our dog Ella.

We see Heidi as an important part of the boat's hardware that allows us to steer to the wind on a relative course for many hours with the occasional correction, we think she is a worthwhile investment and has already justified herself when we had problems with the Ray the autopilot.

If in the beginning we were a bit concerned with the capability of a rudder this size and installed offset to be able to steer a 50ft yacht, those doubts were not only cleared by discussions with John Curry from Hydrovane but also now from our own experience, we feel no difference of performance in our cruising sails.

If anything we actually prefer this system to the jerkiness of the electronic autopilot and we do believe that we gain an overall increase in performance when steering to the wind. We get better speeds.

Ella the sailor dog stamp of approval on the Hydrovane

And so we have officially gained our new crew member Heidi the Hydrovane with Ella’s approval!

*** The above post is the sole opinion of the website owners based on their experience.

*** Sailing The Dream is not affiliated or endorsed by Hydrovane nor by any of their associated resellers.



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