Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Auto Pilot ?

Vagabond is still in the barn. The rubbing strips have been rubbed (down) and varnished - to say that they look like new would be overstating matters - they look considerable less scuffed. The hull and deck has been washed in Bucks spring water (courtesy of the farm supply) and even polished. The scrapes and blemishes remain and will need fixing before the weather gets too cold the gel coat to set properly. The trailer wheel bearings have been identified and one of these days I'll be brave enough to jack up the trailer and start inspecting them and the brakes.

But a new project beckons. One of the things that's been limiting the distances that Vagabond can travel in a day (apart from rule (b), that is)* has been the strength or endurance of my tiller arm, for Vagabond has no auto pilot beyond a couple of pieces of string to "lash the helm". This means that the cockpit can't be left for any length of time unless we are hove to.**

What we need is an autopilot - the snag is that most of them consume battery amps to make the tiller move - battery amps are another commodity in short supply at sea.

Browsing the local newsagents for yachting magazine (just to look at, not to buy, you understand) I found an article about a home made wind vane auto pilot. ,

So I bought the mag and was smitten. It uses energy from the speed of the boat through the water acting on a second rudder as a power source to pull ropes attached to the tiller arm to correct the course to keep the boat on a constant course with respect to the wind.

I've been in contact with the designer, John Fleming *** and am slowly considering whether or not to purchase the plans or the kit.  I wonder if I could convert it to turn a trimmer on the tail of the rudder rather than ropes to the tiller arm....

Watch this space. The Channel Islands and France may be within reach after all....

* see the previous posting
** Technical term meaning stopped in the middle of the ocean with the foresail and the main sail sort of opposing each other, so that all the boat does is drift down wind and wallow in the waves.
*** I've sent him lots of questions by e mail and had informative replies. You can see details of the Hebredian wind vane at www.windvaneselfsteering.co.uk