When Jeff and I went to the Annapolis boat show last fall, one of the major items we wanted to purchase was a windvane. As long as there is wind, windvanes can steer a sailboat 24/7 without using any electricity. Consistent with our “keep it simple” philosophy, we knew that it was the way to go for us. All we needed to do was make a choice amongst the different types that are manufactured.
By the time we flew down to the show we had done our research and decided to purchase a Hydrovane. We went to their booth, checked it out, and spent some time talking to the rep. However, before we pulled the trigger we thought we should do our due diligence and also look at the Monitor windvanes. After looking at it and speaking to Mike Scheck (the President of Scanmar), we walked away with Jeff saying, “Well, I think the Hydrovane is the way to go.” I looked at him and said, “I prefer the Monitor.” Uh-oh.
Jeff and I have been married since 1999 and we have always agreed on big purchases. At $5,000 this certainly qualified as a big purchase, but for the first time in our marriage we didn’t agree. This was going to be interesting.
Somehow we spent the rest of the weekend talking rationally about why we liked our preferred choice. This was no easy task for me, because I can get pretty darn stubborn. Among other reasons, Jeff liked the fact that you only had to drill one hole in the transom for the Hydrovane, I preferred that the Monitor spread the load over multiple attachment points. Jeff liked that there weren’t any lines in the cockpit for the Hydrovane, I didn’t think the lines were a big deal. The boat show prices were basically the same. What to do?
By the time the weekend was over we had been to both booths multiple times and talked it over repeatedly. Finally, Jeff and I were having drinks with our friends from s/v Minx and friends of theirs who had recently finished a circumnavigation on their Monitor-equipped sailboat. After talking to them and taking note of the fact that the Monitor’s stainless steel would be easier to repair anywhere (if necessary) as opposed to the Hydrovane’s aluminum, Jeff agreed that we should get the Monitor. Yay!
The Monitor is a servo-pendulum type of self-steering gear. It consists of an airvane, connecting rod and gear linkage, and a paddle which is in the water (and is lifted out when not in use). Once you have set your sails and are on your desired course, you position the airvane so that the edge is pointing into the wind. When the boat wanders off course, the airvane’s motion works with the gear to push the paddle to the side. The paddle is connected to the sailboat’s wheel with lines so when the paddle moves, the wheel turns the boat’s rudder and the boat is back on course again.
While Scanmar has a vast repository of mounting diagrams for many boats, there were only a few for the Bristol 29.9 and we didn’t care for the existing design. Fortunately Mike Scheck works with each customer to customize the mounts if needed or desired, so after we took various measurements, Mike sent us a CAD drawing with a different design.
We clarified a few items but then were delayed when Jeff went to the hospital. I e-mailed Mike and explained that our plans were on hold for the time being, and he couldn’t have been kinder, telling us to take all of the time we needed and they would be ready when we were. Finally after a few months we pulled the trigger and gave Mike the go-ahead to have our Monitor built.
Delivery day was exciting! Even though we were still a few months away from installing it, we opened up the box to check everything out. Filled with packing peanuts, Scanmar includes a plastic bag that you can put them into and take to your local UPS or Fed Ex store rather than putting them in the trash, which I thought was a great idea. Everything looked good – now we just needed the boat in the water so we could install it.
Although the website and manual say that you can install a Monitor in a day, I’m not sure how many people can actually pull that off on their first go-around. It actually took us several days, but we plugged away at it and Mike and Susie were only a phone call away when we had questions (which we certainly did).
Honestly the most difficult part of the installation was ensuring that the Monitor’s placement on the transom was correct. The distance to the water needed to be approximately 42” and the vane also needed to be properly centered. With Pegu Club bobbing in the water in her slip and the Monitor weighing 55 pounds, this was a tedious task. We used two lines to tie the windvane to the stern rail and then started making slight adjustments, tightening and loosening the ropes as needed until we were satisfied. Then Jeff used a pencil to mark where the mounting brackets would go, and we removed the windvane yet again.
After measuring at least four times (because you can only cut once), drilling many holes into stainless, cutting a small amount off of the diagonal tubes, and remounting and dismounting some more, we were finally ready to drill six holes in the transom for the bolts and bed the mounting brackets with butyl. As Jeff was drilling, we remarked not for the first time at how far we’ve come since we first bought Little Bristol and were hesitant to make ANY modifications. Now we were choosing to drill holes in our transom!
Many mandatory breaks were taken throughout the installation process as we were clearly the interest of the day on E dock. We repeatedly answered questions as to what the windvane was, how it worked, etc. Our friends from s/v Lone Star also came by several times to offer encouragement and cheer us on. They have a wind vane on their trimaran, so they knew exactly how much work it took to install one.
After the windvane was finally mounted we needed to figure out how we wanted to route the control lines to the wheel. Two trips to Defender later, we were all set. Honestly, it felt like this project would never end, but eventually we were high-fiving each other over our success.
People typically end up naming their windvanes and we tossed around options throughout the installation process. Finally I thought of it. Once the boat is on the desired course and the airvane is set, the Monitor won’t steer you wrong. Who did we know that was great at getting you to your desired destination, whether you were driving or taking public transportation, never steering you wrong? As Jeff was putting the airvane in place he said, “I christen thee Bob.” Yep, we decided to name the Monitor after my dad. I think he would have gotten a kick out of that!
Introducing: Bob, our Monitor windvane.