Our aim with this book is to investigate the functioning and the pros and cons of the various systems, and to help the reader decide which is most suitable for his or her particular needs. The two main categories of self-steering system are the autopilot and the windvane steering gear. Autopilots are electro-mechanical systems that obtain their steering impulse from a compass, whereas windvane gears use wind and water power and obtain their steering impulse from the apparent wind angle. We will consider each in turn.
A sailing yacht generates all its drive from the position of the boat and the orientation of the sails with respect to the wind; trim the sails poorly and there will be no drive. This simple relationship explains why a windvane gear is so ideal for steering a sailing yacht. The wind angle it uses is exactly that which gives the boat drive; set this angle once, and drive is assured. The benefits of steering to the apparent wind angle are particularly pronounced when sailing to weather. Even the slightest shift in the wind is immediately translated into a course change and optimum drive is ensured - a degree of sensitivity beyond even the best human helm.
This 65 foot Koopmans is steered by both autopilot and windvane gear.
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Lets start by identifying what exactly certain boats are. Sometimes the terminology can get lost on beginners, so well look at some of the most common boats and what theyre called. These boats are exactly what the name implies. They are meant to be used for fishing. Most fishing boats are powered by outboard motors, and many also have a trolling motor mounted on the bow. Bass boats can be made of aluminium or fibreglass.