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Nausikaa 09-30-2005 02:50 PM

Self steering
Hi All,

I am sure self-steering has been up for discussion in the past and apologise if I now open 'an old wound'. However, I am thinking of building my own self steering for my small double ended boat Nausikaa. She is 7.6m l.o.a.

To be honest, I have looked at what is commercially available and break out in a cold sweat when I see prices of about US $ 2,400 and upwards for some stainless steel piping and some plastic widgits. I have therefore looked at building my own and come to the conclusion that Sir Francis Chichester's MIRANDA type of gear could be built relatively easily. It also has the advantage that there are no 'extra bits'in the water making it more accessable and reducing drag.

My question there any good hearted soul out there on the cyber sea who has first hand experience of this type of gear and is willing to share that with the forum?


David Shipton 09-30-2005 04:06 PM


The problem with Miranda was that because it had no underwater paddle to provide the power needed to move the tiller its "sail" had to be disproportionally large. Indeed Chichester even talks about having to reef it when in a blow. I would recommend that you have a look at those self steering gears which do have an underwater paddle. As they are all faired to an aquadynamic shape the drag is minimal and worth the sacrifice, if there is any loss in speed at all. Have a look at the Navik gear which would be perfect for your size of boat. Hope this helps



Nausikaa 09-30-2005 05:34 PM

Thanks for your comments David.

I too have been grubbling over the size of wind vane needed to work the main rudder and therefore also the effects upon such a 'sail' in high winds.

The Navik system semas quite good (I have had a look at it) but the main problem with it is that it has many plastic linkage components making the system rather delicate. On the plus side, it weighs only 18.5 kg. and the fact that I have a rudder hung on the stern will n ot be a problem if the self steering is mounted on a fram arround the rudder. I know the system is popular in France (where I believe it is made) but I would worry about its reliability due to those plastic linkages. Also, behing hung well outboard means that it would be a little difficult to get at.

I believe there was a SUPER NAVIK on the market for a while but that it was quickly withdrawn.

I certailnly am grateful for the suggestion but remain a little undecided.

Cheers, Stephen (yacht Nausikaa)

Auzzee 09-30-2005 06:26 PM

I too am seeking info on new self steering. Bits of my old Monitor are under 3000 feet of water midway between Chagos and Christmas Island. There are links to 'build your own self steering sites' on <> In particular, there is a link to one by the Hartley design group which looks interesting.

Jack Tyler 10-02-2005 05:17 PM

This thread seems to have been truncated and now is missing several posts. The gist of my vaporized post follows:

First, many folks build their own self-steering vanes, altho' IME the vane design will usually be some form of a servo oar type. You'll find a host of design ideas, build examples, suitable materials etc. at

From what I've seen, the Navik has both an excellent rep for performance - when matched to an appropriate boat - and long-term reliability. As one example, Russ Cobb has been sailing his Tartan 27 HYGELIG for many years now with a Navik, out to the Black Sea from the USA, followed by reversing and crossing most of the Pacific, without a failure. It is often found on smaller boats in Europe and might even be a good model from which to design a self-built model.


Nausikaa 10-03-2005 02:46 PM

Thanks for your remarks concerning the reliability of the Navik gear Jack. An endorsement from someone who knows the equipment works under real conditions is worth far more than all the glossy sales info and blurb put together. I will certainly think again regarding the Navik.

Auzzie...thanks to you too. I will check out the sites you and Jack recommend as, due to cash constraints, I would rather build my own than buy off the shelf but whichever avenue I choose the reliablility issue is of paramount importance.

Once again guys - thanks,

Stephen, Yacht Nausikaa

Jack Tyler 10-03-2005 08:09 PM

Stephen, I just stumbled on another of your posts that indicates you hope to cruise the S Baltic next season. We were there last season (2004) and found it absolutely fantastic as a cruising grounds. Moreover, many areas (the fjords of Norway, the Naze, both Swedish archipelagoes, and Denmark's Belts & Sounds)) are ideal for cruising in smaller boats (of which you'll see a lot). If it's blowing hard, just stay in the channels behind the rocks (every rock seems to have a navaid) when moving the boat. On nice days, jump outside and make your miles. Moreover, provisioning is all but eliminated. We would joke about arriving in a small harbor basin, walk into the quaint, tiny village and find a fully-stocked, modern grocery store. Water too is always at hand.

Let me know if you have any specific Q's re: destinations. (We only explored up thru the Kattegat & Skagerrak and didn't make it to the Baltic proper; that area needs 3 full cruising seasons to see in its entirety).


Nausikaa 10-03-2005 09:23 PM


Very many thanks indeed for your kind words of wisdom regarding the Baltic. I really want to thank you for them because I don’t want to dishearten you in any way but you see I am an officer in the Swedish Coast Guard so I know that area extremely well. Why then does my location show South Africa you may wonder? Simply because I am in Cape Town on a four-year secondment. I will be returning to my home in Karlskrona in the new year.

I am pleased you have so many positive things to say about the Baltic area. It is a marvelous place and, so long as it does not rain too much, a great summer cruising ground, but it pays to have some form of heating installed as it can get a bit chilly. I can warmly recommend the Swedish east coast too as well as Finland. Wonderful archipelagos. Also the Gota Canal, which via the lakes takes you from Gothenburg to Stockholm is well worth doing.

I have moved around quite a lot and I have sailed to a different area every year, laying up my boat in the different places for the winter. Nausikaa is now in Denmark, lodged in a huge shed to protect her from the environments. Next year, as you rightly observed, I want to do some sailing close to home, having now been away for so long. In fact, I plan to stay in the Baltic for about three years (as you mentioned) to cruise the entire area. After that, I plan to head northwards to round North Cape before heading back for the Med by which time my pension should kick in giving me a much more unlimited cruising life (depending on health and family).

Let me know if you will be heading back to the Baltic area and we’ll try to meet up!

Cheers // Stephen

Seafarer 10-04-2005 04:52 AM

Take a look at the Cape Horn system. No wimpy bits, no jungle-gymn, and a 28,000 mile or one circumnavigation warranty!

Nausikaa 10-04-2005 01:14 PM

Thanks Seafarer!

I will definately check it out

rumrunner 10-04-2005 01:22 PM


Tell us more aboutyour Baltic cruise, between you and Nausikaa, you have opened a whole new world to most of us in the Pacific basin....

rumrunner ;););)

Nausikaa 10-04-2005 05:32 PM


Regarding the NAVIK gear, I searched the web and found a good description here I am begining to rethink. It looks like a good bit of kit although the double servo seems to add to the complexity. More research needed before I part with over 2,000 bucks!

As for the Baltic, let me try to add to what Jack has already said, although in a way his opinions are more valid as he sees the area through the eyes of a cruising yactsman visiting the area where as for me it is my back yard.

The Baltic, as you know, is almost entirely land-locked. There are only a few entrances, the main ones being the passage between Denmark and Sweden (The Sound), passages between the Danish islands (The Large and the Small Belts) or the Kiel canal. You can also access the Baltic via the inland waterways of Germany, Poland and Russia.

The Baltic itself is almost tideless although in small sounds the wind generated currents can run quite strongly. The salinity varies from about 1.020 off the Swedish west coast to fresh in the Gulf of Bothnis. The shorelines of the Blatic vary from sandy baeches to rocky archipelagos. Really beautiful place to cruise with well market channels. There are marinas scattered all over the place but anchoring in quiet bays and fjords is also recomended.

The weather is, well, variable. Some summers are wonderful, som not so good. In Sweden and Denmark English is very widely spoken as it is in Germany. The other Baltic countries have not had such a strong English influence but there is always someone around with whom you will be able to speak English.

I could go on for hours but will refrain. I can recomend yjis site for those who want to know more about cruising the area 'as a stranger'

Feel free to ask any specific questions you may have and I will do my best to answer them.

Cheers // Stephen

Nausikaa 10-04-2005 05:45 PM's me again. I forgot to add a statistic to my previous comment regarding the Baltic.

In Sweden there are just over 8.5 million inhabitants with over a million pleasure boats. The relationship between the number of nboats and the total population is probably similar in Denmark.

Add that to all the fishing boats, ferries, merchant ships, coasters, island steamers, police, coast guard and navy ships etc. etc. and one soon uinderstands why Denmark and Sweden are geared up to build and care for boats as well as their crews. [^]

JeanneP 10-04-2005 08:14 PM

sv Watermelon had a Navik unit. I think it was the Super Navik mentioned below, since we've never seen another like it. We would set the wind vane and let it do all the work. Compare to most units, it was infinitely variable as to course. All the force and pressure was generated by the paddle in the water, you could move the wind vane and turret with your fingertips, so there was little strain on the rest of the parts. The harder it blew, the better it worked.

Nausikaa 10-04-2005 09:41 PM

Sounds good!

The more I read and hear about this system the more I like it. Only one little naggling doubt now - in the ad. it says that the Navik gear is for light boats up to 30' in length. My boat, being long-keeled and solidly built is not light for her length. She displaces about 3.5 tons light but the gear should cope with that. Any comments anyone?

all the best // Stephen

Jack Tyler 10-05-2005 06:50 PM

Yes Stephen, that IS a mixed message of sorts, isn't it! I believe that caution comes directly from Hans, Scanmar's owner; I'm guessing you are on the Scanmar website reading that comment.

(As aside: Keep in mind that HYGELIG started out as a 4T boat *before* Russ started setting it up to cross oceans. When crossing the Pacific, I think I remember him saying he carried 80 gals of water and 60 gals of fuel, plus of course all the provisions he thought were necessary. He was singlehanding and the boat has a long keel, attached 'barn door' rudder and a centerboard. I have to believe HYGELIG was 5T+ when leaving Balboa.

Back to what I believe is Hans' comment: I asked him about this at one of the London shows and his reply struck me as overly general (he offered no specifics about where to draw the line or which boat makes were suitable for the Navik) and my impression was that, as a builder/seller, he simply felt more comfortable pushing the Monitor since there would be no sizing issues after the purchase. Besides, he mostly sells to North American buyers and, generally speaking, we avoid smaller boats and avoid windvanes in preference to I'm not even sure how much experience they have with this product.

One option you have is to call Scanmar and discuss your boat & the Navik vane, and ask them specific questions about both its suitability and reliability. You might find some helpful info that way. But I see no reason to assume the Navik is not capable of supporting your boat.


Nausikaa 10-06-2005 02:00 PM

Hi again Jack,

Once more, many thanks for your wise words.

I too get the impression that the type (never mind class) of boat I have is not so popular in north America. Although there are exceptions such as the Nor'sea, some of the Atkins designs and the Vancouver boats which have some similarities. You will find a photo of not my boat but another of the same class at

I will take your advise and get in touch with Hans. If the equipment was able to guide his loaded boat accross the PAcific it could well do all I will require of it. My long distance sailing ambitions are not so great (well, maybe they are but I am not opwning up to it yet - I have not come out of the closet!)

My worry is that Nausikaa is fitted with 'a barn door rudder' and it takes some effort to push it from side to side when whe is making good way. On the other hand, because the rudder is so large, then the effect for small rudder adjustments is quite dramatic for a long-keeler. The problem arrises when the rudder is whacked by a wave as the forces transmitted through the tiller to the helmsman (human or mechanical) are fairly substantial.

All in all, the choice of self steering is not an easy one as they are expensive pieces of kit and obviously need to be completely reliable.

Once again...THANKS!

Cheers // Stephen

Jack Tyler 10-06-2005 06:00 PM

Stephen, if you wish, you can look at a line drawing of HYGELIG at - your forefoot is more cutaway and the Tartan 27 has a shallower fixed keel but you both have barn door rudders and tiller steering.

I'm not sure it's necessary to talk with Hans at Scanmar. You might want instead to ask you has the most experience with the Navik gear; there may be a staff member with small-boat experience who would prove more helpful.


Nausikaa 10-07-2005 02:38 PM

Once again jack, many thanks for sound advice. I will do exactly that.

I checked out the link. The hull form is similar, except I have no drop-keel and my rudder hangs right on the stern but otherwise not dissimilar.

I'll let you know what I eventually decide to do regarding the self-steering. At the moment, I use an Autohelm which is great for coastal work but hammers the batteries quite hard. It is not what I need for ocean cruising.

My other projects at the moment include installing heating - I'll go for the small Sigma unit although if I had the space I would have a Refleks instead. I will also have to replace the head and install a septic tank. I'll go for the Lavac system for its simplicity.

When I see what it all costs, I sometimes think I should have taken up gardening instead!

Have a great weekend // Stephen

Richard C 10-07-2005 09:01 PM

have you seen the steersman. I hear its pretty good. Its an updated version of the old sheet to tiller system. Check it out

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