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Date Posted: - Sunday - 08/19/12 - 8:25pm
Author: Jared Kibele
Subject: Aries didn't work all that well for us
In reply to: Sietse 's message, "Aries windvane and Wheel steering: is it possible?" on - Tuesday - 07/ 3/12 - 10:29pm

Hi Sietse,

We sailed our M31 Architeuthis from California to New Zealand last year. We bought and installed an Aries in Mexico with the wheel drum (Doug was there when we did it - Hi Doug!). I had already installed a below deck raymarine autopilot that hooked to the wheel shaft so taking the worm gear out and going to tiller was out of the question for me.

The old bronze wheel drum that we got with the Aries was adjustable. You could move a series of screws around to basically change the diameter of the drum so that you could either get more turns of the wheel with less force or more force with less turns of the wheel. By mucking around with that we could vary the performance of the vane from not very good to really bad.

Depending on sea state and point of sail, we could sometimes get the vane to steer the boat for a whole day with only minor adjustments but, more often, it would require fairly constant supervision. Eventually, we kind of gave up on it and just budgeted our electricity so that we could run our autopilot all the time. The autopilot never let us down but it was nice to know that we had a semi-functional wind vane as backup.

I think the worm gear definitely makes things difficult for a servo pendulum wind vane. It seems like cable and quandrant steering systems are easier for the vane to deal with because the rudder gets more feedback. The vane on that system just has to pull in one direction against the weather helm that pulls the steering in the opposite direction but with worm gear steering, the vane has to pull the wheel both directions.

So, basically, I'm saying that I wouldn't try to use a servo pendulum vane with worm gear steering again. In fact, we sold our Aries as soon as we got to NZ. It worked - sort of - but not well enough to make me happy. If I wanted to put another wind vane on an M31, I'd either get rid of the worm gear like Doug did or I'd get an auxiliary rudder vane like the Hydrovane. We crossed with the Mariner 40 'Shalimar'. They had a hydrovane and had good things to say about it.

Jared
www.svarchiteuthis.com

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Replies:

[> [> Servo Pendulum on worm gear -- james (m-31" Pyxis"), - Friday - 09/ 7/12 - 1:27am

A few things to think about before deep six your aries. I have single handed my boat Pyxis for the last 3 years cruising a minimum six months a year and have been using an Aries Mark IV wind vane with a Monitor drum. I have a tiller pilot attached to the sensor paddle instead of a traditional auto pilot. The mark IV is a stainless and bronze Servo pendulum wind vane. "MY TWO CENTS" Once I have the sails trimmed well the Aries works great on all points of sail. Its only short coming is when running in light air. The monitor and aries work using the same principal so Randall is a good example of how well a servo pendulum can work on a worm gear.. They are not effected by rudder feed back like a human. The main trouble when using a wind vane with a worm gear is too large of a drum on the wheel a smaller drum means more torque and faster turning at the wheel. Another issue is not enough control line raps on the drum if you don't have enough line on the drum it can slip and be sluggish.
I have set my Aries for runs up to 189 miles with little to no changes. Some things that will effect the vanes effectiveness are Control line stretch, Wheel drum diameter, turning block diameter and movement and of course sail trim you may also have some worn bearing or sheaves on your aries or the pendulum could not mounted deep enough in the water.
I know of two other boats currently cruising full time with servo pendulums on worm gear that are quite happy with them. It may take some effort to get get everything tuned on your rig but after you do you will have amp free steering. It works for me.
The combo of the tiller pilot of on the wind vane is another reason to take the time to get it working. The tiller pilot controls the sensor paddle instead of the rudder it so draws almost nothing. It also is a fraction of the cost of a wheel mounted auto pilot. You can carry a spare tiller pilot and still be at a third the price of a below deck mounted auto pilot. I hope this helps.

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[> [> [> Sail Trim and worm gear -- Bruce, - Wednesday - 09/12/12 - 3:01pm

Thanks James - good information. I think the key is making sure the sails are trimmed properly, and to have the worm gear and steering mechanism adjusted and lubricated properly. The particular brand of servo-pendulum self steering machine doesn't matter as much. I can't say enough about taking the time to do a proper installation with all of the correct angles on the control lines and blocks.

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[> [> [> Rudder Feedback -- Jared Kibele, - Monday - 11/12/12 - 9:38pm

My point about rudder feedback is that, with worm gear steering, the vane has to steer both directions. With a tiller or cables and quadrants, the vane really only has to turn one direction (downwind if there's a little weather-helm) and then in the absence of steering input from the vane the boat will head up. Our vane seemed to have trouble right at that transition point and by the time a correction got transmitted to the rudder, it was often too late. We tried different arrangements of blocks, different wheel drum diameters, newer lower stretch lines, different sail configurations, and all manner of four lettered words. We got it to work but never as well as we wanted it to.

That presented a problem when sailing downwind in light-ish air (around 15 kts or so) and sloppy confused seas. Unfortunately, those conditions were extremely common on our crossing.

I suspect that our negative opinion of the Aries also relates to the fact that we had our below deck autopilot first and we got used to just pushing a button and having it steer perfectly for as long as we wanted it to. The Aries worked well enough to be useful and if I had the option to go out cruising with just the Aries or to stay home and save money for the autopilot, I'd go cruising.

On the other hand, the $2500 or so that I spent on the autopilot was well worth it. ...largely because we also spent a big chunk of money on solar panels that could charge it. We plan to go cruising again some day on another boat and I'll probably have a below deck autopilot again if there's enough budget for it but I'd never tell anyone that they "need" to have one. Getting going is the most important part.

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