Contributor Tip: A Hybrid Self-Steering Solution

This inexpensive alternative to a proper electric autopilot is capable in up to 5-foot seas offshore.

Meet Hermione, our Aries Lift-Up windvane, and Wanderer, our Raymarine Autohelm 2000 Plus. Over the winter we took our Reliance 44, Lyra, on a 3,600 nautical-mile winter escape. We estimate that 2,800 of these miles were steered by this duo, affectionately nicknamed "the autovane." While this setup does not steer as straight a course as a properly sized electric quadrant-mounted autopilot, it was good enough to stay in the channel on the Intracoastal Waterway and capable in up to 5-foot seas offshore. Power draw averaged less than 3 amps, 12 volts offshore and made it an inexpensive alternative to a proper electric autopilot. With the remote, we can steer a compass course, keep on course in light air or go directly to a waypoint, all from under our dodger or the companionway steps.

  1. The "custom adaptor," made from G10, replaces the air vane in certain conditions, though the vane can be quickly installed for upwind or heavy-air sailing.
  2. A panhead screw serves as a hinge and connects the tiller-pilot extension to the adaptor.
  3. The tiller-pilot extension is made from durable PVC.
  4. A quick-release pin allows for instant removal in an emergency.
  5. With Lyra balanced on a 6.5-knot beam reach, the vane is properly tuned with the tiller pilot. The servo-rudder, blade and tiller pilot are in the approximate middle of their throws, allowing for maximum course corrections.