If all good things must come to an end, then it had to happen sooner or later. After 7 years and nearly 400 tips, DIY projects, yarns, and wordy expressions of opinion, we have decided to end our Monday posts and shut down the website. We will still be sharing tips and great information on our facebook page, and pictures of both the practical and eye candy variety on Instagram. So as we and technology move along, please move with us and like and follow us at either or both of those locations. And as always, feel free to swing by and say hi when you share an anchorage with Eurisko. Thanks for all the support. See you out there.

Windpilot Windvane

April 25, 2016

A magazine editor asked that I write a review of our Windpilot windvane, which reminded me that I've not talked much about Ziggy on here. The following is an excerpt from Simply Sailing: A Different Approach to a Life of Adventure , available as an ebook or paperback on Amazon. Enjoy.

While her crew was medicated and acquiescent, Eurisko has never complained so loudly. Anchors clanked on the bow rollers, floor boards groaned, the mast head creaked, her bow slammed into the troughs after launching off each wave, and water shot out the galley drain like a geyser. While Garrett closed the seacock I went into the head to verify that we hadn't left that one open, as well. That was when I discovered the water in the head bilge. Gallons of it.

Garrett was already back on deck with Dave when I went up to report my findings. Garrett's response was a slow exhalation that sounded like, "Oh boy, here we go," to me. Dave's was more practical.
"Did you check the chainplates?"
"There's no water above the floorboard, so it's not coming in that high."
"Is it fresh or salt?"
"Salt. I can't tell because of the sloshing, but I don't think it's coming from the thru-hulls down there, either."
"It must be coming in forward and running aft. Take the tiller, I'll go see."


When Ziggy is driving, "take the tiller" means, "It's your watch until I get back." Ziggy is our Windpilot windvane who is our most reliable crew. He drives indefatigably for weeks, never gets seasick, cold, hungry, or bitchy. Salt water makes him stiff, and he has no skills for sighting and avoiding ships, but we love him anyway. When we first installed him he was not properly adjusted, so his wake resembled his first initial. He would zig and then just as unpredictably zag. This habit coupled with his German manufacturing earned him his name, though he no longer deserves it.

Why a windvane?

The same year we jettisoned our head, Eurisko's Whitlock rack and pinion steering began griping about its age. To repair it would require someone else welding on a new piece, since welding is not one of Dave's many talents. Even contemplating a stranger tending to such an important piece of equipment, not to mention the cost, caused us to postpone repairing it until we feared we might become a statistic at sea. As always, Dave and I searched for the simplest way to correct the problem, and once again, simple involved replacing the modern with the traditional. We removed the steering system, pedestal, wheel, everything connected to it, and in a few hours he built us a teak tiller. Total cost: $50. We later sold the steering system for $800, a nice bonus to the cruising kitty. Eurisko is a heavy boat, requiring a considerable amount of sail to keep her moving, but at 5’3”, I am not a big girl by any means, and I was afraid she would be too much for me to handle with a tiller. Dave assured me that sailors had steered much bigger boats for hundreds of years this way. I trusted him and with reservations agreed to the change. To say I was pleasantly surprised is such an understatement: I was amazed and overjoyed. Having to steer with a tiller had the unexpected benefit of improving my sailing skills. Too much weather helm? Adjust the sails and instantly she is back to being easy to control. Need a reef? You will know it in a hurry. Have the dreaded lee helm? With a tiller it is obvious; you can see it. Ziggy, our windvane, steers more accurately now that he can pull directly on the tiller. He works so well, we have no desire for an autopilot. Besides, Ziggy is much simpler.

An autopilot is a classic example of more technology actually being dangerous. If you use an autopilot, it will break; the question is when. If you are ten days out and have to hand steer, you will become extremely tired. Tired captains make poor decisions. Poor decisions cause people to lose their boat or lives. If Ziggy were to break, Dave has the tools, parts (or raw materials to make them), and knowledge of how Ziggy works necessary to repair him. I wonder how many cruisers can say the same about their captain and his autopilot. In the worst scenario, we could arrange a sheet to tiller steering system and should probably work on becoming proficient with this method on our next passage. Our sailor friend Dennis on Emma Goldman has steered this way for several years since his windvane broke on a long passage. He enjoys the simplicity and has no plans to replace his windvane.

Read more.

MONDAY we'll share another galley trick to save time, cooking fuel, and cookware.


Connie McBride's work has been published in Good Old Boat, Sail Magazine, Small Craft Advisor, Cruising World, All at Sea, and Blue Water Sailing. As a full-time liveaboard cruiser for over 15 years, she has written several books and in her spare time, well, who has spare time?

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