Hello and thank you for reading this. On two previous transatlantic passages I used a Plastimo belt driven wheel unit in the cockpit as a backup to my primary Robertson autopilot. The unit worked well. It was purchased in 1989 and has been discontinued. I am departing shortly for a long passage and would like to know the best alternative on the market today. The steering on our 48′ custom built Al Mason Ketch is hydraulic. I want the strongest, most reliable unit available. This will be mounted in the cockpit as a backup to the primary autopilot. Thanks for any assistance, Steve
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Our steering pump is mounted at wheel level in the pedestal, you know that gives very poor lock to lock. I noticed that pg 563 in the 1st Encyclopedia shows a pump mounted below the pedestal, with a chain drive to turn it. How do you fill a pump in that position? Can you use it sealed with a reservoir at a lower level? Do you have any better suggestions for solving this problem? – Mike B.
Dear Sirs, Please advise which autopilot system will be better for a 12m. steel ketch: Autohelm or Robertson? We have a hydraulic steering system by Vetus. I would like also to know which self-steering you would recommend? We have a central cockpit. Our intention is to sail from the Arabian Sea to Australia so we need really good gear. So far, we have sailed from Slovenia to Oman (wintertime on Med) – hand-steering all the time and only two of us. To be honest, I (would rather) have something to help in the future. Last question – how many solar panels should we have to be able to run fridge and have a hot water system as well? I have ordered your Encyclopedia and am waiting for it to arrive. Thank you for your help. – Nina
Dear Linda and Steve, It has been a while since we first wrote you and we are making progress on the particulars of a our next boat which we hope to use for a couple of years of voyaging, starting in Northern Europe in the summer of 2002 and ending in New Zealand. We have dog-eared our copies of OCE and STS and just returned from a weekend weather course with Mike Carr. We seem to be a bit “in irons” on a couple of topics and would love your advice on them and perhaps a general thought on the direction we seem to be heading with the boat. Background: I am 41, have sailed/raced for 25 years, raced my Ohlson 38 to Hawaii a few years ago, several other blue water passages under my belt, have moderate mechanical aptitude. Nancy is 29, sailed for 4 years, is taking additional sailing courses, a little frightened of the long passages, and nervous about anything other than a bullet-proof boat. We are both reasonably fit. We are sold on the advantages of long waterline for comfort and speed and since we will not be cruising for very long (this time) want to get a boat that will have a strong resale value (that and inexperience in owning a larger boat have caused us to not consider a custom boat).
Potential Boat: we have a tentative contact on a Swan 56 that will be a one-cockpit design with hydraulic furling headsail, a manual furling stay sail, and some type of manual boom-furling main (to permit easy in-the-cockpit reefing by one person) a couple of electric winches, a bow thruster, etc. A little more mechanically and electrically complex in order for us to easily and safely short-hand a longer water line boat. 1) Hard dodger – My bias is to get one, but several experienced sailors are telling me otherwise. They claim we’ll be fine with a soft dodger, that the hard dodger will look bad, potentially reduce the after-market price unless it is easily removed, in the tropics it will impede airflow and make the cockpit hot when at anchor. They say that we’ll not want or need the dodger in the tropics. No one at Swan wants us to get one of these – in fact German will not allow the factory to build one, it would have to be added after Nautor releases the boat to us. What do you think? I know we’ll appreciate the hard dodger for the mid-latitude portions of our trip, but what about the tropics where 70% of our trip will be spent? If we do get one, how big would you suggest? Our cockpit is about 8.5 feet from the aft end of the companion way to the (huge) wheel and about 2.5 feet from the wheel aft.
If we do opt for a hard dodger how much of the cockpit should we cover. We want room to sit and read in the sun/breeze, eat meals under the stars, etc. (80% of the time there will be only the 2 of us on board).
We’d love any other thoughts on the topic.
2) Auto pilot – With only two of us this has to be a bullet-proof system and I am thinking that we may want to install two complete systems so that we have redundancy. I have been pleased with my B&G system, Nautor knows and likes these systems and they seem to be wide enough spread that repair will be possible in many places. The B&G with an oversized RAM is the recommendation of Nautor and friends at KKMI here in the Bay Area who have a lot of experience with these systems. On the other hand the WH system that you have seems very interesting, if a bit less user friendly. I have tried to get some information but haven’t had a lot luck and am some what skeptical of buying electronic equipment from niche manufacturers who haven’t made a serious financial investment in the sailing market. My most important criterion is dependability and reliability, my second criterion is that I’d like it to be fast enough and smart enough to use on a short-handed Hawaii race.
Can you give me any additional thoughts? WH vs. B&G? Two redundant systems?
Any general comments on our potential boat choice and direction would be welcomed.
Congratulations on the 1500 and we love your books, videos, and web site. Nancy is already checking out the vacuum packers and the Splendide. Thanks very much if you find the time to respond. (I know you must get dozens of these types of messages and certainly can’t answer them all.) Fair winds, Scott and Nancy
I am building an Aluminum Sailboat with a spade rudder and rudder stock. I am planning to use UHMWPE plain bearings. Would it be a good idea to hard anodise the shaft in the area of the bearings to reduce the wear? Would there be any corrosion issues? Thanks, Howard
Dear Steve and Linda, My wife and I finally made the big jump and are sailing around the world. We’re now in Lisbon, Portugal. A friend of ours lent us your book, Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia. It’s wonderful, and we look forward to borrowing it again. We read with great interest your comments about the Alpha 3000 as this is our primary autopilot. (We have no wind vane) So far we’ve had only minor problems which were turned into major problems when the unit was returned to the company for repairs. Mostly due to Barron and now Chris, who refuses to even give out his last name. The company’s mode of operation is beyond my comprehension. We’re wondering if you could give us any input as to what we can do to keep our autopilot working in the best possible fashion without returning it to the factory. Thanking you in advance. Our wishes to you and your family for a Happy Holiday season and your best New Years ever. Harold
I have bought Prologue, an original 1970 classic Sp&Spears Swan 40. I am going to sail her to Falmouth England…and then onto West Coast Scotland, Transat from Oxford Maryland. I need a suitable windvane and must, on grounds of cost, try to find one used. Have you any suggestions as to buying one? Keith F
Hi, My wife and I are looking at buying a 65′ steel hull motorsailor that is not finished. By that I mean all that’s there is a complete hull with two engine rooms. If we buy we will most likely put in Perkins 135 hp engines as that is the design called for. My question today is about steering. The boat weighs at full load 96000 lbs. The rudder is a big one – 16’x14’x6′ and weighs 500 lbs. I know very little about hydraulic steering but that seems to be what most of the shipyard managers whom I’ve talked to suggest. Which make would you recommend as being able to add to it, if and when the situation arises? And which has a back-up in case of power loss? Or which could work on batteries vs engine power? And where can I find this information written down (on the page or the web)? Thanks, Rod and Lucy
Steve at SetSail, I’ve experienced significant weather helm sailing my 50′ custom design cruising catamaran in winds 12-15+ knots. When entering an inlet in confused tidal currents, the helm is heavy and the vessel slow to respond under power. A growing concern among my designer, sailmaker, rigger and a couple of experienced sailors who’ve been aboard is that the rudders are undersized and/or unbalanced. Can you recommend any source(s) to help me understand more about rudder design and performance? Kind regards, Jim
Hello Steve, I am planning a single-handed voyage to the Med. and a few years cruising there before a return through the Caribbean and am looking for advice on the ideal self-steering set up for such a trip. So far it seems that a wind vane plus a tiller pilot to assist for motoring is a good choice. This would work well offshore as it allows me to get some sleep in a situation (offshore) where going a little off course doesn’t matter too much. Sailing in the Med however requires more reliable course keeping and my question is whether or not the tillerpilot attached to the windvane will fill the auto pilot needs for this situation. I realize that there is a lot of motoring in the Med.in the summer but when it isn’t calm it is often blowing very hard and I am not sure that the tiller-pilot driving the vane will be up for this in the autopilot mode. I’d be most interested in your thoughts on this. Primary steering on the boat is a wheel. Regards, David
Dear Steve, I have just finished your Offshore Cruising Encyclopedia. What a book!! It is now on my bookshelf next to Calder, Marchji and Brion Toss – sitting with the greats!! Just a quick question though. You make no mention of wind-vane steering. Have you never fitted this or do you rely totally on electronic autopilots? Thanks, Howard, Cape Town, South Africa
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.