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Date Posted: - Sunday - 12/ 2/12 - 9:14am
Author: Sietse (M32 #49 "Waka Irie")
Subject: Aries Wind vane and Worm Gear Steering


We own Mariner 32 #49 (previously known as 'Blues Traveler' and have been trying to set-up a Windvane auto-pilot for the last 6 months without much success.
We’ve been hand steering the whole time and with only 2 people and sometimes 400-500 mile passages it just becomes unbearable and sleep/energy depriving to do this for 5 days in a row.

We’re about to cross the pacific and are getting really desperate about our self steering situation since we just can’t hand steer for a whole month with only the 2 of us.

So here’s the problem:
As most of you know the boat has an Edson Worm gear/backward wheel steering system which is great in a way that it’s the strongest most reliable system you can find on the boat, but it also could be part of the problem.
It is 40 years old and although maintained and serviced it does have a bit of play and slop and feels a bit heavy sometimes to steer.

The boat used to have a Monitor wind vane and the previous owner crossed the atlantic with it twice and said it worked fine with that.

Unfortunately that wind vane has been taken off and because of time and budget we only managed to find an old Aries wind vane.

They are both of the servo-pendulum type so i assumed that the Aries does the same job as the Monitor.

But we found out that the Aries only turns our wheel ¼ of a turn which Is clearly not enough as our wheel does 4,5 turn from lock to lock.

Monitor claims that their system works on any steering system up till 4 turns lock to lock.

When I center the wheel and turn over to port I count 1 ¾ of a turn and when I turn it from center to starboard I count 2 ½ turns.

Add this up and you have 4 ½ turns lock to lock which really surprises me because it should be the exact same turns to each side.
Does this mean that the worm gears are off centered or does the rudder just turns more to starboard than port?

Anyways. That shouldn’t really matter because if a windvane on ‘normal’ boats with 2 turns lock to lock only has to do half a turn to get itself back on course our windvane therefore has to do 1 full turn on the wheel.
So therefore we tried to mount a smaller pulley on the wheel where we connect the tiller lines to and hoped that that would make the wheel do more turns but as expected that put to much force on the whole set-up and the rudder blade wouldn’t swing all the way to the side and the wheel would still only do ¼ to ½ turns.

Monitor points out 2 things on there website:
And the second point is that if your boat does require more then ¼ of a turn you can rig a reverse-purchase system to the operating lines.

I haven't found much info on that on the web of someone who has tried that it not sure if it works well.

We don’t have enough power to drive an electrical auto-pilot system so that’s not an option either.

The only option I can think of that’s left is a wheel independent self steering unit like the Hydrovane.
But these things are not cheap and who can guarantee me that it will work?

Anyone any ideas on this?

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[> I feel your pain -- Jared Kibele, - Monday - 12/ 3/12 - 4:54pm

Hi Sietse,

You're not alone. We had a hell of a time trying to get an Aries to work on Architeuthis. It sounds like we may have had a bit more success. We could get the Aries to steer in most conditions but it typically required a bit of supervision. We could sit in the cockpit and read or something but the Aries tended to need correction and fiddling with at least once per hour.

The only thing I could think to suggest would be to clean and lube the heck out of the worm gear. Ours seemed to work best when it was freshly lubed.

Ultimately, we kind of gave up and just used our below deck autopilot. It worked great but we have two 135 watt solar panels to run it. ...and the installation of the autopilot and the solar crap was pretty time consuming (not to mention expensive).

We buddy boated with Mariner 40 "Shalimar". They had a Hydrovane and they said it worked great. If you can afford one, that might be the way to go. ...of course at the price of a new Hydrovane, you might be able to buy an autopilot and enough solar to run it. Installation of the Hydrovane would be a lot easier though...

The cheapest way to go would probably be to pull out the worm gear and make a tiller. That's what Doug did with M31 "Cactus Tree".

[ Edit | View ]

[> Comparing to Monitor on Murre -- Randall, M31, Murre, - Wednesday - 12/ 5/12 - 12:36am

Hey Siesta,

I've just done about 12,000 miles on Murre around the Pacific and most all of it was driven by my Monitor (built 1991). I don't know how to solve your issue, but here is what occurred to me as I read your post:

-Murre also has play in her wheel. With the wheel centered and the center spoke pointing up, I can turn the wheel one spoke to starboard and one spoke to port without turning the rudder. I'd guess that's a play ratio of 20%.

-Under normal use conditions, the Monitor will turn the wheel about 1/4 turn *each way* from dead center; at extremes (boat way off course or heavy wind) it can turn the wheel 1/3rd of a turn each way. That's its max! So, I too am not getting much turning range, but our boats balance well enough that Murre steered just fine. By the way, those turning ranges are within spec for Monitors; they are NOT designed to go lock to lock and the relay on our ability to balance the boat.

-I don't get why you are only getting 1/4 turn *total*. Are you dead certain the line set-up is correct? Enough raps on the wheel adaptor? Is the wheel adapter larger or smaller than the one for Monitor? If smaller by a lot, it would need more force to turn; could be an issue? All lines led the right way? No friction in the lines? No play in the vane itself? (The bushings on mine were worn, so there was play in the Monitor shafts and couplings; I replaced all in Mexico. That helped accuracy...somewhat.)

-IS THE WIND VANE ITSELF (the paddle in the air) LARGE ENOUGH? I had two, one for light wind and one for "normal" wind (smaller by about a third). I only tried the "normal" wind vane once, and this in 15 knots--it did a poor job of steering Murre--so I switched back the larger "light wind" vane and used it always, even in 30 knots. The smaller vane worked, of course, but it would fly back up into the wind before it had turned the wheel enough and for a long enough period, whereas the larger vane tended to go over and stay over for longer because of its larger surface area.

-I too have looked for a Hydrovane, thinking the Monitor devices, etc., wouldn't be able to turn worm gear, but this was not a problem; they have plenty of power. And Hydrovanes are tres expensive and rarely come up used.

-You mention "heavy" wheel, which is a worry. I lube the hell out of my worm gear very frequently, applying grease to all three nipples (two on top, one underneath) and also the worm shaft. I even lube the collar where the shaft passes through the captain's seat. I can turn the wheel with one finger at dock; there's very little friction until I'm at speed and turning to extremes. I can definitely notice a difference in Monitor performance if I've not lubed in a while.

-I've talked to several cruisers who switched from Aires to Monitor and hated the Monitor; they said it didn't have enough power (I guess the paddle in the water is smaller?).

-In French Polynesia I hung out with a cruising couple who owned an Ingrid 38 and used a Monitor on passage from San Diego to the Marquesas and couldn't get the Monitor to work. Two people hand steered the whole way. He tried all kinds of stuff. Finally he raised the vane paddle another 4" or so out of the water, and on his passage from Tahiti to Seattle, he said the Monitor worked fine. POINT: it can be little stuff that's causing your problem.

-On Murre, the wheel turns the same number of turns lock to lock. Seems like yours has been disassembled, and to your point, maybe not centered upon reassembly. Also to your point, can't see why that would matter for this issue.

-The Monitor will not steer to the degree of accuracy that a good electronic autopilot will. Especially on our boats, with all the play in the wheel, etc., I did notice that Murre wandered around by 20 degrees (guessing) or so, but she always came back. This was hardly noticeable in a seaway. Jared mentions this and that he often had to adjust the vane. My experience was that in a steady wind I might go several hours, maybe all day sometimes, without adjusting the vane. During this time Murre might or might not follow the compass course I'd set, but she would follow the wind faithfully. So, after a day I might be 20 miles or more off course. No big deal on a 2500 mile passage; next day I just tweak the vane to steer in toward my course again. This wandering only became noticeable when I was in the last day or two of a passage and really trying to hold a tight compass course. Then I might adjust the vane every hour AND MORE (because I was f*cking impatient to get there!) so that Murre would NOT stray from her course. Still she strayed... always pissed me off. POINT: A windvane is not an auto pilot. Moment to moment accuracy is not its skill--but it does well at maintaining an average wind course over long periods.

-Monitor says that the vane will "steer as good as the average helmsman". This I found to be right on. The vane was NOT as good as me IF I WAS PAYING ATTENTION EVERY MOMENT, but who can really pay attention every moment on a two or four hour watch?

-It does sound to me that you are having unusual issues with your installation, but if you have never used a wind vane (as opposed to an electronic auto pilot), I'd recommend getting a hold of the Monitor user manual, which discusses best practices for install, usage, etc. and is a great tool; I'm sure much of it would apply to Aires. It can be downloaded from the Scanmar website.

Good Luck, Man!


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[> [> Aries Wind vane and Worm Gear Steering -- Sietse (M32 #49 "Waka Irie"), - Sunday - 12/ 9/12 - 3:35pm

Hi Jared & Randall,

Thank you so much for all that info.
if it wasn't for all your support i would have sailed the boat onto a reef by now.

But we stay positive and work hard trying to get this thing to work or find some other self steering option.

To answer some of your questions:

I have used other wind vanes in the past but these were different models on different type boats and they seemed to work fine.

We are currently in Cartagena, Colombia and have some time and the resources to try a few things out.

First thing we did is get most of the old grease off the worm gear rudder and now we are looking for a grease gun with the right nipple connection to replace it with new fresh one. this hasn't been done since we bought to boat.
I won't say that it is really heavy at the moment.
we can also turn the wheel with one finger but i guess it won't hurt to improve it.
how often do you lube it? what do you use and how do you get the grease in the collar?
we have noticed on passage that it was sometimes getting a bit stiffer and just sprayed WD40 between the collar and shaft and that helped a lot.
can you use 3-in-1 oil for that?

The other thing we will work on is making a bigger vane out of a aluminium rod(6mm or something) that we will bend in a vane shape and span a piece of sailcloth between.
we have seen this on other aries and it's the same concept as Hydrovane uses. we have been using 7mm plywood both sides varnished but they seem to small and too heavy.
what size is your big vane, Randall?

The lines and blocks we use are all new and after 6 months there's no stretch in them any more. the bushings and bearings on the Aries seem fine too but there is a bit of play in some of them. we keep spraying and lubing them.

The drum we use on the wheel seems to be a Aries original but it's a bit heavy and bulky and sticks out a lot.
it is one of these:

i have used a Monitor wheel drum and prefer these because they sit flatter on the wheel and are a bit smaller.

The other "original wheel drum" that looks like this:

would also be a lot better because it is adjustable

i have made one myself from an alternator pulley which is half the diameter of the original but i was only able to try this one in light wind and there was too much tension on the lines and wouldn't rotate properly
We have to try it again in 15-20 knots.

There is a Mariner 31 in the Marina here called "Mary Eleen" or something that has an external rudder hanging on it's transom. it looks quite professionally done and the steering wheel is also still there but it is right in the spot where you would put a windvane so not really an option for us. there's no one it at the moment and haven't been able to track down the owner.
but he uses a tiller pilot to steer.

i will try to post some pictures soon and play around a bit more to improve things.

Thanks again all the replies.

[ Edit | View ]

[> [> [> Airvane size -- Randall, M31, Murre, - Friday - 12/14/12 - 6:23pm

The whole Monitor manual can be downloaded here: http://www.selfsteer.com/products/monitor/manual.php

My airvane dimensions are here: http://www.selfsteer.com/products/monitor/manual/page.php?sectionNumber=6.7

Mine is the bigger of the two pictured there. It's made of a light, corrugated plastic with two plastic rod stiffeners (standard issue Monitor). I had another made out of Styrofoam covered in plastic (again, standard issue Monitor, not home made) that was also large. I cut it down to the size of the smaller vane in the above graphic, but had little success with it. To be fair, I only tried it once, then went back to the larger, light wind vane.

Good luck.

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