wind vanes

I ran an advertisement in Latitude 38, I assume there are other similar publications where this will work as well, wanting a used wind vane. We received at least 5 emails from the one advertisement we ran, more importantly, the next issue of Latitude and subsequent issues produced a crop of wind vanes, Aries, Monitor, Sayes for sale.
The Monitor seems to fit well on the BCC, I’m sure others will fit as well, in the states, Monitor spare parts seem to be easiest to find.
We have a Monitor on our BCC, you can’t fault it, it works well day and night without complaint, just wish it wasn’t so damn ugly to look at, no, it’s not for sale!
A little caution needs to be exercised when buying a used wind vane as all sellers will have you believe their vane is in excellent condition, most will need to be overhauled, so subtract this cost from the asking price. If they are asking a premium price, it needs an overhaul and they are not willing to budge on the price, keep looking, there are plenty of them out there collecting dust in garages, just be patient they will show up eventually. A friend picked up a used Monitor on Ebay for $1000, sent it in to Scanmar for overhaul and upgrade, total cost was $2500. If you do the overhaul yourself you can save some money, otherwise, it might be better off to purchase new as there are at least 40 upgrades over the years incorporated in the new units.
You might try walking the docks, we found an old English built Aries for our Pan Oceanic 46 by asking around, for $500; it will probably cost $1k to overhaul as the parts will have to be machines for this model, but it’s worth it, it’s a monster unit, best of the best when money or space was no option. It’s to big for a BCC, but if you love machines, it’s a work of art, from a time when someone had a little to much money on their hands and craftsmanship was the driving factor.
Older Monitors, the rudder, had exposed foam top and bottom and the foam may be separated, newer?units are fully encased in stainless. Older units have bronze gears, while newer units are stainless, older bronze gear units will work if the gears are not to badly worn. If it is structurally sound, I haven’t seen one that can’t rebuilt yet. Check out the Scanmar website, they have some useful information on purchasing used units as well as a list of upgrades incorporated in the new units.
A good source of Monitor information is: you find an older monitor, check for the serial number on the main frame and call Scanmar International at the number listed on the site.
Cape Horn :
Happy hunting,
Marty Chin
BCC Shamrock

My first vane was a Monitor. I purchased it used for $1500 from
the harbormaster of Catalina Island. I must say though, that in
my opinion it was pretty ugly hanging under the boomkin of Godspeed.

I did find that it worked very well in medium and heavy winds, but
not well at all in light winds. The Chesapeake Bay in the summer
is mostly light winds, so the Monitor didn’t perform well here.

On one occasion, halfway across the Gulf of Mexico, one of the
welds on the Monitor broke, rendering it unusable. So we instead
slowed down and balanced the boat with just the sails and some
tension on the tiller, and finished the remaining 400 miles in
this manner.

When I talked to Scanmar, they noted that replacement parts for
older vanes are not stocked, including the welded part that broke.
We had no problem finding a welder, and fabricated the replacement
ourselves. That’s probably one reason the I’d hesitate to buy
a used Monitor, It many, many parts and many welds. I later sold
it for $1500.

So, personally, I was comfortable spending approx $2600 for a new
Cape Horn which arrived a few weeks ago. I think it also looks
much better than my old Monitor.

Mark Gearhart
s/v Godspeed

Hi. On the subject of wind vanes I agree that the Monitor is a serious oil derrick back there. I regard it as a bumper, but many sailors do prefer the Monitor. And, after all, if you go to the Scanmar booth and look closely at the pictures, you will see “Aloha”, #95 back in her previous life as a cover girl. It looks pretty salty back there.?
Kate Christensen
RogueWave Yacht Sales & Services, LLC.
1806 Dreams Landing Way
Annapolis, MD 21401 USA
410 571-2955 Office
410 703-5008 Cell
801 681-9741 Fax

There has been much discussion of late about various wind vanes and the BCC.

Why is there not a greater acceptance of the factory Free Hand vane.
Once you balance the helm mine works perfectly. It is simple and fits the boat’s looks and
manners. Mine can steer within 10 degrees in very testy weather.
Jim Hiller

My Free Hand vane works great too. It’s just expensive. It was nearly
$6000 with the bronze option. I had an Aries on a Pearson '28 that I used
to own and I like the Free Hand’s simplicity much better.
Doug Beu
s/v Fritha

Very interesting thread on vanes. I instinctively like the Freehand,
it’s simplicity etc. However I was quoted $5,700 USD for one and
by the time it gets into the country here and I pay shipping, taxes
and duty that comes to just over $10,000 Australian - then it has
to be fitted.

Compare that with a Fleming at $3,250 Australian and you see
my dilemma.

I suspect that cost is the singler answer to the question about
the popularity of the Freehand. For us it’s out of the question. So
we’re left with the option of buying others or building.



In terms of power and sensitivity to wind shifts, the best windvane self-steering system is the horizontal axis windvane coupled to a servo-pendulum rudder. I built a Pardey style windvane self-steering for IDUNA - total cost $500 US. Part of the design process was collecting computer modeled lift data for different rectangular vane sizes and NACA airfoils. From the lift data, the torque around the axis of the vane was calculated. The torque generated by a vane with a span of 6’ and a chord of 1.5 ft or less is relatively low - less than 1 ft-lb at a wind speed of 10 mph and an angle of attack of 5 degrees to the wind. Based on these data, the Pardey style windvane self-steering system is not very sensitive to small wind shifts in light wind condition compared to a horizontal axis windvane coupled to a servo-pendulum rudder, such as the Cape Horn. Our last boat was fitted with a Cape Horn.

Our Pardey style windvane does steer the boat but not as well as the Cape Horn steered our last boat.


I would agree with that. In light breeze with the Free-Hand you need to
essentially trim the sails so that the boat is steering itself. That
means a reach only. I use my electric autopilot. It works ok.

P.S. The parts and material costs of our windvane my seem low compared to a Free-Hand Unit but I did not add my labor. Researching, designing, sourcing, purchasing and manufacturing the unit required a tremendous amount of time. In addition, there is the development testing of the unit. Balancing the trim tab required three design modidfications to the tab. Based on my experience, I can well understand why the Free-Hand units cost so much.

Esthetically, the Pardey style windvane self-steering system fits the BCC and it does work. Further, oceans have been crossed with these units - “the proof is in the pudding.”

Kind Regards,


I had a Monitor on my Lyle Hess 30. It worked well but was really
ugly on the boomkin. When I was booming along under storm trysail
and reefed staysail, it became more attractive…

I wanted a freehand but I heard that the boat steered like a truck
with the trim tab in the water, and also they just weren’t easy to
buy at the time. At least with the Monitor, you can get it out of
the water when you aren’t using it. The guy that now owns my boat
put a freehand on the boat. He said the helm became unbelievably
stiff when hand steering. Also he had the lower bronze casting fail
a couple of months ago. The freehand sure is prettier though.


We have a Pardey style windvane with trim tab. Following are my observations about rudder control:

  1. Under sail, input into the rudder does not seem to be affect by the trim tab - locked or unlocked trim tab.

  2. Under motor, we adjust the angle of attack of the tab to counteract the prop wash vortex on the rudder. Even when we do not adjust the trim tab when motoring, input into the rudder is only slightly affected.

  3. If the trim tab is not locked when motoring, input into the helm is rather high, i…e “stiff.”

The Freehand self-steering system works. The proof is in the number of passages which have be made with the unit. As with all system on a boat, the unit has its pros and cons as does the Monitor, Cape Horn, Wind Pilot, Fleming, etc.


Our Freehand has worked well for us. Last year, we sailed Galatea
from California to Mazatlan, to the Galapagos, through Fr. Polynesia,
the Cooks and Tonga, then to Nelson, New Zealand, where she is now.
I especially appreciated the simplicity and reliability of the
Freehand when I heard other shorthanded boats on the radio reporting
mid-passage autopilot or windvane breakdowns. I’m sure glad we did
not have to face days or even weeks of hand steering! (I’m a little
embarrassed to say how little we hand steered, like not at all once
at sea!)

We use a Simrad TP10 to steer the trimtab when winds are especially
light and sloppy seas move the boat around too much. The electrical
draw is small (about 1 Ah). We’ve also used it occasionally when
cross seas on a deep broad reach make it tough for the windvane to
hold a course.

I would be interested to hear from others with trimtab systems about
the effect of propwash. How much vibration is there? What is your
comfortable cruising speed under power with the trim tab steering?
We get a vibration in the trim tab when the tillerpilot is steering
that increases with engine speed, beginning at about 5.25 knots in
flat water. (FWIW, we have a 3-blade maxprop, but I wouldn’t think
that its wash would be much different from other 3-bladed props.)
It’s not a problem when the trim tab is disengaged, and we steer with
the main rudder, but I haven’t set up the tillerpilot to steer the
main rudder directly.

I’ve discussed this with Mike Anderson, who said that he and Roger
Olson experimented with the shape of the leading edge of the trim tab
to minimize the chatter. Galatea has a section in the middle of the
leading edge removed in the path of the prop wash. I’m curious how
this is working for others. Doug, how did you build your trim tab?

As someone else said, each vane has its pluses and minuses. The
BCC/Freehand is a powerful sailing design, and I’m willing to accept
its minor limitations under power. I’d rather be sailing anyway!

Tom Unruh
SV Galatea
BCC 117

Mine is a standard Freehand system. I didn’t build the trim tab. It does
have the cutout in the leading edge and does chatter unless locked down. I
usually lock it down when under engine power and adjust the angle of the
trim tab to the rudder to keep a course. As long as the wind is constant
and the sea is flat it tracks very well. I did have the lower bearing
section modified so it would sit lower and have the wheel line up with the
taffrail better. When I first installed it I had some 2" blocks under the
two arms that attach to the taffrail. The modification allowed me to lower
the wheel by a little over 2". Mike Anderson said it should be lower to
work well and this was the only solution I could come up with. I haven’t
done any long distance cruising yet but it works well in Galveston Bay and
the Gulf of Mexico.
Doug Beu
s/v “Fritha”

We installed a Cape Horn system just before sailing to the LHTR (rendezvous). This was the second time we have purchased a Cape Horn. The first time was in 1995 for African Moon. The Cape Horn steered the boat in 20 to 25 knots of wind while broad reaching and in light air condition as well as in some sloppy conditions after we won our anchor at midnight Friday 1 Octobor. (Kate we left the anchorage by the Navy wall and sailed all night to Baltimore. At 3:00 am Saturday, the wind was recorded at Thomas Pt. Light at 15 to 17 knots from the south - right into the anchorage.)?We mounted the unit inside the bumpkin.

The Cape Horn is a good system and will steer the boat in light air as well as heavy hair. We believe the unit has two cons -

  1. the windvane control is very senstive and care must be taken when setting the vane to the wind;
  2. it is necessary to stand on the stern of the boat when changing from the light air vane?for the?heavy air vane and vice versa.

The key is to change out the light air vane for the heavy air vane early before the seas begin to build. I believe Cape Horn recommends changing the vanes at about 15 knots of wind.?A

s a sidenote, we installed jam cleats on the tiller to connect the control line but changed these out for Spinlock cam cleats. The Spinlock cam cleat is better for this application than either standard cam cleats (African Moon) or jam cleats. Locking or unlocking the control line is simple and fast.?I will post photos as they become available.?rodS/V IDUNA
?P.S. Thanks Kate and Bernie for a wonderful rendezvous - THANK YOU; THANK YOU.

Aloha Rod,?The Cape Horn looks superb on Iduna as she is becoming so very, very nice. Good Job! The cons are probably the same for the Monitor, but at least you don’t have the trim tab, which seems to make the helm a bit heavy.?Can’t wait for pictures of the LHTR!?Oh we sailed Aloha in about 20 knots with her new Port Townsend Sails sails which are beautiful. She is faster than you can imagine now with 7.5 to weather and 7.9 one time! Our Valiant friends said Wow!??
Thanks for a delightful dinner aboard beautiful IDUNA. And good job leaving Annapolis as it is not safe out there in unsettled conditions.??
KateKate Christensen
RogueWave Yacht Sales & Services, LLC.
1806 Dreams Landing Way
Annapolis, MD 21401 USA
410 571-2955 Office
410 703-5008 Cell
801 681-9741 Fax