Sunday, August 9, 2009

Now that I have thrown my hat over the fence...

I had better get cracking!

We had gotten to where we knew the countdown numbers and we were amazed at the compression of time that seemed to sneak up. T-Minus twelve months and counting, there are no holds on the countdown and come August of next year Wildebeest III is going to be somewhere else.

At first it was almost euphoric, but reality set in harshly. Here is what we needed to accomplish:

1. New Sails;

Our mainsail and genoa (genoa is a big front sail, in our case it was a 150 genoa, huge for Europe, but average for the light winds of Florida) were about thirteen years old and stretched out, making them inefficient. We needed new sails which would help increase boat speed and make the boat sail closer to the wind.

The decision was made that we would get a new main sail, a 130 genoa and a assymetrical cruising chute. The cruising chute would be like a spinnaker, but without a pole.

I made a trip to the Oakland boat show in California and spoke with a couple of sailmakers and decided on Hood Sails. It was going to cost $11K for those sails and they had them cut and sewn in a matter of a week. They sent the sails by mail to the Heathrow airport where I had to clear them through customs.

We installed the sails and discovered the main sail was not right so that took a local Hood sail technician to visit and make the adjustments. The UK Hood representatives worked hard to make us happy with the Hood product and they came out no less than four times. Hood is/was a great company to do business with and I would recommend them to anyone who was looking for sails.

But $11,500.00 for sails! And they were less than some of the sailmakers. Ouch.

2. Navigation Equipment;

There was my Garmin handheld and supposedly we had a Loran (Huh?). We were taking Norman's Open Ocean Yachtmaster class which placed high emphasis on celestial nav using a sextant and chronometer.

I acquired a Celestaire Sextant and after the course felt ready to conquer the oceans!

That celestial nav really kicked my butt. The heart of the skill lays in having a relatively accurate timepiece, which nowadays, your thirty dollar Casio is accurate to a second per month. (Funny, I bought one of those Casio's and it still works like a champ.) Using The Nautical Almanac and the tables therein, you sight a Planet/star or the Moon with your sextant, bring the visual image to the horizon and note the time.

Sounds easy and with practice it is. I never used it, after all the hassle of passing the course I decided I did not trust my skills so I bought a better GPS to use. We had three GPS's receivers, one of which was kept wrapped in plastic and foil and it stayed in the "bailout bag" along with extra flares, VHF radio, water maker and fishing kit.

3. Communication Equipment;

There are many knowledgeable sailing cruisers out there and most think that there is a need for long range communication. I agreed, until I saw the cost of a Single Sideband radio, antenna tuner and associated equipment. Not to mention the hassle of getting licensed for all that. If it was as simple as installing a Citizens Band Radio, I would be all for it. Who would we talk to?

We had two VHF radios and a handheld. That was all we needed.

4. Self Steering;

Now we get into some crazy stuff. Most of the time while sailing, people use some sort of autohelm. There are mechanical, electronic and a hybrid of electro-mechanical. There was an Autohelm 4000 wheel pilot currently installed, but it was unable to handle seas. The Autohelm 4000 was designed for smaller boats used on smooth waters. Not a 27 ton 43 footer.
I got these photo's of a Autohelm 4000 which is for sale here.

Clearly, this system was not going to handle steering our boat. I studied the internet and all periodicals, trying to find the right system for helming our boat. Our unique problem was that we had a center cockpit, which means we are about ten feet away from the stern where most of your mechanical self steering systems operate.

Here is a great vid of a Servo-Pendulum system which would have been great, but the distances of the line going to our wheel.

Roger of Beaujolais suggested we lead the lines into the hull directly to the steering quadrant. Good idea but that would mean losing the aft lazarette storage area through which the lines would travel. Not gonna happen.

Here is the ScanMar brand of self steering, it has a wonderful reputation;

ScanMar has a good price/value. But we were looking at lines being attached to the helm, and lines fail.

So we came onto this product;

Windhunter Self-Steering.
This is a most novel development and if the claims made by the designer and manufacturer are justified, then this is just what the cruising catamaran needs.

The system works by towing a drive rope with a small propeller at its end, this in turn is connected to a hydraulic torque converter system which provides fluid power to the control rams operating the rudders. A wind vane is trimmed to the wind and controls the direction desired. A later version does use a flux-gate compass, but this is still under development.

The clever bit is that the unit is designed to provide battery charging as well. The moment the control rams are not actually being operated, the unit switches automatically to charging in a split second, delivering a substantial amperage. Sufficient to run fridges etc at quite modest boat speeds

The loss from the towed propeller is said to be less than 0.5 knots. A major catamaran manufacturer is currently conducting sea trials and may include the Windhunter as standard equipment following the successful conclusion of these tests.

Your Association is also planning to repeat these trials with an Iroquois as a test bed and we will report at a later stage. Check out the ad. on the back page. (see below - Webmaster)



This most important development in marine engineering technology naturally provokes repeated questions as to how an autopilot can PRODUCE power instead of CONSUME power. Further, electronics are the foundation stone of logic processing and if we require push button remote control conveniences it not so that we must live with the shortcomings of questionable reliability in a marine environment and the unlikely hope of electronic fault rectification at sea.

An autopilot without electronics ?
Push button fingertip control?
Windvane self steering?
Charges batteries?
Powers itself?
No such thing as magic.
Just too good to be true. Windhunter Tec. Advice Service
P.O. 80
Ilford Essex
24Hrs.Help Line
081 500 0180
24Hrs. Brochure
081 501 0050

Note: There is NOTHING on the internet talking about this system anymore. They have vanished. Never existed.

We paid about six thousand dollars for this device and spent another four thousand having a custom installation. We wanted this thing to work.

You tow a propeller and shaft about three hundred feet astern which spins as the boat goes forward. The line transfers the energy to a pump/generator which creates about 1500 psi hydraulic power which operates a left/righ ram which is connected directly to the rudder. The generator creates about eight amps of DC power which is transferred to the boats battery bank.

Win/win, right?

We lost about a knot of forward speed due to the drag of the turbine, which was fine when we were in high winds/high seas conditions. It helped keep the boat in control.

Here is the windhunter with the red vanes off but in the electrical generating mode, twirling away;

5. Barometer. We picked up a large brass one used. It looked and worked wonderfully. I figure an old barometer is as good as a new one and until we can figure out how to afford a weatherfax (See Single Sideband radio, above), it will have to do.

Ok. We have gotten all the equipment, all we need now are stores and to finalize water and cooling issues.

This is getting to be fun!


Buck said...

Wow! The stuff one learns on these here inter-tubes! I can see why you devoted a full year to the prep work... there was a LOT to be done, not to mention the cost of doing it.

This is supremely interesting reading for those of us who've only been day-passengers on sail boats of any sort. Great work, Darryl.

JihadGene said...

Loved the post. Never been on a sail boat. I'll have to put it on my bucket list!

Barco Sin Vela II said...

Thanks, Great Reader and always, Buck!

This was new territory since I had never been on a sail boat, either!