2014 © Graham Rabbitts [You are welcome to use original material from this site, but the source should be acknowledged]
Ariadne had been built with tiller steering. Dairne preferred it; the cockpit mouldings were designed for tiller steering; and we had always intended to add windvane steering. After our trip to Ireland (when Iain, Clare and their friends had crossed to Ireland in F6 plus) we decided it was essential. After talking to other Rustler owners, we opted for the American Monitor system. It has worked extremely well ever since.
Installing the Monitor would have been tricky but for the help of Clare, Iain’s wife. At five feet tall, she was able to get right into the stern space and reach across the top of the tiller trunk with a spanner taped to a bit of alloy to reach and tighten the nuts on the deck fastenings.
Such is the power and speed of the Monitor that it will usually keep control of the boat even when there is a quartering sea on a broad reach.
The Monitor has been a great success. On passage, it is like having an extra crew member who never tires. It also means that the person on watch can stay in the shelter of the hood and simply act as lookout, with occasional need to trim the vane if the wind shifts or changes strength.
I also like the ‘after sales’ service. On a couple of occasions I have sent Hans at Monitor an email for spares. These have been despatched immediately. He trusts his customers once he gets to know them, so we settle up when convenient to both. The real bonus of having a windvane is that it is possible to eliminate serious wear and tear on the electric autopilot by attaching it to the windvane mechanism. This means that the enormous power of the windvane paddle can be applied to the tiller by a minimal force applied by the electric autopilot.
Also, in restricted waters, such as Southampton Water, it frequently happens that the wind gives a gusty beam reach. In such narrow waters, the wind vane on its own produces unacceptable course changes as the gusts come and go. But if the autopilot is attached to the windvane unit, it can be set to steer a compass course, which it manages with ease, whereas the electric pilot on its own lacks both the power and the speed to cope. It works amazingly well.
On True, in New Zealand, we have an Aries windvane. It works well. Indeed if I were starting again, I would consider a new generation Aries which is robustly built, and has the option of lifting the paddle, like the Monitor.