It Works! It Works!
14 May 2012
Most of our crossing of the Sea of Cortez was calm with periods of winds coming from the front of the boat (on the nose). This did not make for great sailing and Tom was keen to try the new and improved rudder on the hydrovane (self-steering apparatus). Luckily at about two in the morning on Tom’s last overnight watch the wind finally cooperated and came around to the side of the boat with enough strength to sail. The genoa came out, the engine was turned off, the hydrovane was set and it was like “look ma, no hands!” The hydrovane took over the steering from the regular autohelm and with very little effort the boat handled beautifully holding a course with less than 5 degrees of variation to the wind.
So what is a hydrovane? In simple terms it is an apparatus attached to the back of the boat that connects a rudder with a small sail or vane in the air. When the wind direction changes relative to the boat, it pushes on one side or other of the vane and this causes the rudder to turn. This in sequence causes the boat to turn as well and bring it back to the same angle to the wind it was on before the wind shift. This allows the boat to sail for extended periods without the help of a helmsman.
One may ask why bother with a hydrovane when you have a perfectly good hydraulic autohelm? But as you remember that was one of the reasons we were in PV for so long, replacing that ‘reliable autohelm’! On sailboats redundancy is a very good thing. The other advantage of the hydrovane is that it requires no power as it is controlled and powered by the wind alone. Battery power on boats is always at a premium.
About 2 hours later the wind died completely and we were back to the engine. Oh well, I guess that is why we also have more than one way to propel the boat!