Back-up Self Steering

Steve & Linda: What would be your recommendation on offshore aux. steering? We have a Beneteau 40CC with hydraulic steering. We have an Autohelm ST6000+ autopilot integrated into our chart plotter and GPS with Seatalk. We have solar panels, wind generator, two alternators (a large one dedicated to the house and a small 50 amp. One to the engine), and four 8D gels. Being that we have a center cockpit and hydraulic steering, a windvane does not seem to be the answer. To engage the windvane we would need to go below and put the hydraulics in the bypass mode and run the vane off of the emergency tiller. This does not seem safe.

Another thought would be to put an aux. rudder type vane and just center lock the wheel. Being that we have fixed davits and a scoop/swim platform stern, that is not attractive either. My thinking is a back-up ST6000+ unit. Am I being dumb? My second remark is more of a comment on your Seamanship book.

First off let me say the book, as all the others, are fantastic. My wife and I were a little shocked by the photo of your very young children high up in the spreaders at their ages with no tethers. As a farm boy I was climbing everything as a young child. As a result of a fall, I suffered a broken leg before I was two. This was done on solid ground, not a pitching boat. I know children are monkeys but I question its place in your Seamanship book. Thanks again and we are looking forward to any new works you produce. You guys are our role models.

Hi Mark and Janet: Re: a back up for your Autohelm – this is a tough question. The safest route is to back the system up with a servo-pendulum wind vane (not an auxiliary rudder type) and have it drive your emergency tiller – which I assume comes through the deck aft of the aft cabin. This approach gives you an efficient system for when it is really blowing, where it is likely the Autohelm may not handle your steering loads – and a back up in case of power failure (or a lightening hit which wipes out electronics). This is the approach we took on our smaller boats. The alternate is to just get a second Autohelm. If you are doing this, it is best to back up all the components, but not install them. Instead, stow them in some method where they have protection from the magnetic pulse which often accompanies a nearby lightening hit.

Regarding the photo of the kids on Practical Seamanship – they were five and eight at this time, and the photo was taken inside the lagoon at Takaroa in the Tuamotus – flat calm. At sea, they were not allowed out of the cabin without a harness and tether, before they ascended the companionway steps. As there was a lot of running up and down, both Sarah and Elyse usually left on their harnesses. We had extra long tethers with which the kids could sit in the saloon and play, or use the cockpit. Steve Dashew

Posted by Steve Dashew  (November 30, 1999)

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