Wednesday, March 07, 2007

It works!

Today, Bev and I took the boat out to the Gulf to try out the new wind-powered self steering gear I built. The wind was light (5 knots or so) and the weather clear so we figured it would be a good time to try it.
It works, better than I hoped. We sailed a total of 18.5 nm today, most of it with the self steering. Even when steering by hand, the rig helps by acting like power steering, pulling on the tiller to ease the fatigue in my arm.
The gear works by using the pressure of the wind to pull the tiller to windward. This is balanced by some bungee cords on the lee side of the tiller. As the wind picks up (tending to pull the boat up into the wind) the tiller gets pulled to windward, causing the boat to bear off a bit. As the wind eases, the bungee pulls the tiller to leeward causing the boat to head up a bit. Thus, the boat just steers itself, constantly adjusting for the changing force of the wind without any hands on. Neat!
Even without the successful test of the steerer, it would have been a great day on the water. Clear skies, pleasant temperatures, good company, a few dolphins and an osprey.

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