I’ve always been intrigued with the idea of windvane self-steering. In fact, my first interest in sailing or cruising came about when I read about Robin Lee Graham’s quest to be the youngest circumnavigator in National Geographic. The hook for me was a picture of Robin Lee Graham fiddling with a self-steering gear and something clicked in my head and said “How does that thing actually work?”
Talk about game changers…
In our push button world, self-steering is no longer considered a needful thing by many. The attraction of being able to point a boat directly at where you want to go is preferred by many in spite of the fact that the most direct route is, more often than not, the inferior route for a boat powered by the wind. That said, most of the folks I know who are more, shall we say autopilot-centric, also seem to spend an awful lot of time motoring to where they’re going.
So, what self-steering gears are on my look for list on a VolksCruiserish budget?
For starters, I’ll point out that we’re talking about windvanes that can, with a bit of work, be found for $750 or less…
The top of the list , for me at least, is the Navik. It’s a well-engineered design that is both simple and lightweight. They can usually be found for between $250 to $400.
While you no longer see many Hasler gears around, when you do they are fairly low priced because they just don’t look like what people expect to see and they appear to take up a whole lot of transom territory. In their favor, they are excellent steering gears and should cost you $500 or less.
Auxiliary rudder windvanes like the RVG and CSY (both great gears) when they can be found should not cost more than $500. The downside is they’ve become as rare as hen’s teeth.
The Atoms windvane ($250-$400) is excellent but hard to find on this side of the Atlantic but worth keeping an eye out for.
As for the Aries, they are good gears but they are also heavy and prone to various issues. I’d buy one in good shape for $500 but I would not pay more.
I’ve always liked Windpilots. The downside is they seldom go for less than $1000. That said, the first auxiliary rudder Windpilot (the Atlantik) which was designed by John Adams should be very cheap if you’re lucky enough to come across one and, I’ll be honest, I’d really love to have one on my transom.
More on the subject of DIY vanes next…