Thursday, January 7, 2016

Cape Horn Self Steering Vane

Deb and I had long debates over the best way to provide some kind of auto-steering for Kintala. As a long time commercial pilot I had visions along the lines of a capable Flight Management System: something that stores way points and routes, and holds a heading, track, or point of sail as required. Deb liked the idea of a wind vane. No power required, silent, acting very much in concert with the ethos of sailing. In the end we went with a Cape Horn wind vane. It has an excellent reputation for reliability and, just as important to us, the installation would not look like a child's jungle gym hanging off the back of our Tartan 42's very narrow stern.

The kit came complete so far as the wind vane hardware itself was concerned. But I was soon to discover that all of the hardware needed to have the vane actually move the rudder was "installer sourced", including the most important; that of the quadrant needed at the rudder post itself. The installation information was also somewhat sketchy so far as connecting the vane system to the rudder was concerned.

In addition to being a commercial pilot, I also spent a career as an aircraft mechanic, fabricator, troubleshooter, and inspector. To be perfectly honest, I'm not sure that, had I not had such a background, installing the Cape Horn on the Tartan would have been possible. It turned out to be a very involved job requiring fiberglass work, designing the control line runs through a very tight and somewhat busy area under the cockpit, and modifying parts of the boat to make the whole thing work.

What follows is the work involved in getting the Cape Horn installed on our boat, using the tools and skills I have. One can't be shy on a project like this as the first step is installing the transfer tube through the stern.

Step #1 - Cut a very big hole in the boat. I burned up several hole saws and took three days to bore the hole in the center of Kintala's transom needed to install the transfer tube. The transfer tube is the heart and soul of the Cape Horn system, and must be aligned with the horizontal and longitudinal axis of the boat as near to perfect as possible. This is not easy on a boat floating in the water, with nary a straight or flat surface to use for reference. I used a 12 inch long, #10 bit to drill the pilot hole, then used the long drill sticking out of the hole to ensure the alignment. I drilled the pilot hole three times to get it right, and it still did not come out quite perfectly.

I started drilling the hole while the boat was at the dock, and finished it after the boat had been put up on the hard to wait on the truck.

The edge around the transfer tube was later sealed with black DC795

The transfer tube after installation but before glassing in

Once the transfer tube is located in place, support braces are installed. There is an enormous amount of load carried through the tube and by the braces, and they must be solidly mounted to the heavy structure of the hull.

One of the support brackets mounted under the deck aft of the helm seat.

Looking down through the hatch on the stern deck behind the helm seat

At this point the tube has been sealed and glassed into the hull. The interior support brackets are bolted to the underside of the deck at the aft end of the cockpit.

The blade temporarily installed for alignment

Setting the exterior supports to brace the vane support tower. We had to order a slightly taller than standard tower in order for the vane itself to have clean air to work with above the bimini.

Various positions for the external support tubes were tried. This one ended up not working.

The forward end of the transfer tube is under the hatch. 

The small rudder is twisted by the wind vane, causing the rudder to swing left and right, pivoting the transfer tube and, eventually, moving the rudder.

In the end, the external supports were mounted much higher and attached to the stern pulpit.

One of the two cleats needed for the vane's control lines. Originally we had them mounted on the aft deck, but that turned out to be an awkward placing. The vane is very sensitive, control line inputs are often just 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch, so good access makes life much easier. Some day I would like to mount them to a kind of "trim knob" (similar to an aircraft rudder trim), but...

Cleats for the main control lines that hook the transfer tube to the rudder. You can just see the lines coming out of the deck. This is aft of the helm and on the starboard side of the cockpit.

A better view with the lines taunt.

Access on the Tartan 42 is nothing short of ugly. Here I am working around the control lines while adding some supports to keep the lines from chaffing on cockpit drain tubes, clamps, and control cables from the helm to the rudder.

One of the two turning blocks that were glassed onto the inside of the hull. These lines take a substantial load and must be secure. I epoxied the blocks to the hull, then reinforced the bond with two layers of fiberglass cloth. I worked out the line runs using parachute cord. Taking extra time here to make sure the runs are clear and the angles are correct seemed a good idea. Moving the blocks once they were set in place would have been a nightmare.

This is the forward end of the transfer tube. The "V" shape in the picture is the quadrant mounted on the transfer tube which holds the control lines. The other end of the tube the quadrant is bolted to is driven by the water vane. That vane is twisted left or right by the wind vane flag inputs, causing the water flowing past the boat to swing the water vane, thus swinging the quadrant, pulling on the control lines, which pull on another quadrant bolted to the rudder tube. It isn't as complicated as it sounds.

Random picture of the transfer tube looking up with the quadrant mounted on the end of the tube. This is an ugly place to be in the Tartan 42, and a difficult place to work. These pictures give a hint of how crowded the space under the cockpit is. It took a while to figure out the line runs.

The line run under the cockpit. The quadrant can be positioned facing up on the transfer tube or facing down, depending on the room available in the installation area. That position of the quadrant on the transfer tube determines whether the line run is straight or criss-crossed like ours.

The large brass quadrant bolted to the rudder tube was left over from the original electric autopilot. I modified it by drilling off the large toothed sprockets that were riveted to the curved, forward, edge of the quadrant. The dimensions of this quadrant are a bit critical. We were lucky that the old one could be put to use. This is one of the major components in the system that Cape Horn does NOT provide. You get to figure this one out for yourself. The lines you see go to the quadrant on the transfer tube.

The wind vane does not work motoring. After two years we took advantage of the vane's design to incorporate the input from an ST1000 tiller pilot. It ended up being a bit of a mickey-mouse affair where Kintala, literally, operates on a shoe string. But it works. It would be a much more elegant design if Cape Horn provided a push-pull control cable that matched the throw of the tiller pilot. (We tried to manufacture something like it without success, so we ended up with the shoe string.) The tiller pilot has to be mounted laterally in the boat, a problem with the Tartan's narrow stern. This elevated shelf was the best we could do given the limited space there was to work with. We could have installed it under the deck, but that would have required a remote for the tiller pilot that cost more than the tiller pilot itself.

The string goes from the rod on the tiller pilot across to this block, down through the deck and to the arm on the quadrant.

The other end of the shoe string from the tiller pilot. The rod comes with the Cape Horn kit. It sits in a small bracket at the forward end of the transfer tube and replaces the input from the wind vane flag (which is removed when using the tiller pilot.) The tiller pilot moves the rod, which moves the water vane, which moves the tube, which moves the quadrant, which pulls on the control lines, which pulls on the quadrant bolted to the rudder tube.

Here is the small bracket that holds the rod for the tiller pilot. I had to modify it by drilling a small hole in the side to take a set screw. The rod was being pulled out of the bracket by the shoe string. An oversight in the original design.

Weather cover for the ST1000

Thursday, November 7, 2013


The dodger project was one of the most complicated ones we undertook. Tim did the metal framing and mounting to the boat and helped to design the shape of the fabric with the patterning material. I did all the sewing. It took quite a few months of weekends to get it all done but it still resides on the top of the effort-to-reward project list.

Measure Three Times

Dodger Phase I Complete

A Perfect Day For Sailing

Dodger Phase III Complete

Dodger Phase Complete :)

Aft Cabin Workshop

We converted the single starboard side berth into a workshop to store the many spare parts and tools that we would need full-time cruising and to pad the cruising kitty a bit. Here are the posts that deal with that conversion.

Aft Cabin Project Pics

Bulkhead Table Project

Kintala came with a centerline fixed table. We removed this table and converted it to a stowable bulkhead table.

Here is a summary of the posts on The Retirement Project that deal with the bulkhead table addition.

Let It Be...Not

Do It Fit?

Bulkhead Table Progress Report


Table Is Done

If we had it to do again, we would cut the corners of it diagonally to make it easier to get around and I'm not sure we would use raised fiddles on it since we almost never eat at the table while underway.  Other than that, this project gets a big fat 10 on our satisfaction meter!

Dimensions of the box

Dimensions of the table top each half:
22-3/4" x 42-1/2" x 3/4". The table top is Okoume mahogany plywood. We chose this because it is 30% lighter than solid wood, doesn't warp, and the glue is waterproof. A 4x8 sheet was around $200 at the time of construction. We used half of it on the table and the other half for the workbench project.

 The dimensions of the legs are 29-1/4" x 4" x 1" solid cherry. We cut out the middle portion to save weight. They are mounted to the undersides of the table with brass inserts and brass hinges. We used the existing floor mounts from the centerline table to mount the legs to the floor.  As you can see, it took several tries to get the arrangement of the legs right so that they would deploy in the right position but still be able to fold into the table as it was closed. Live and learn...

We used magnets to hold the legs in place as they are stowed so that they wouldn't rattle while we were in a seaway.

Dimensions of the trim at the center hinge point:

The trim on the top center edge is 1/4" x 3/4". There is another piece of trim visible directly below that which measures 3/4" x 1-1/2". It is routed out to accept the  hinge so that the hinge is not visible from the top, but only from the bottom.

We drilled out a wood knob and epoxied in a brass cap that screws onto the pipe rod that  holds the table in place while stowed.

We used teak inserts to protect the table from the rod.

The box is solid cherry. The back of it is 4" x 3/4" stock, heavy but needed to match the teak trim piece that comes down along the mast in this boat. We did add three 1/8"mahogany plywood inserts into the back of the cabinet to hide the bolts that mount the cabinet to the bulkhead shared by the head. We used heavy bolts and washers to mount it to the bulkhead.

If you need additional information please feel free to contact us at svkintala att gmail dott com

Nav Seat / Storage Bench

We removed the pedestal nav seat (which was hideous) and replaced it with a storage bench that would store all the bakeware that was currently residing in my oven and had to be removed every time I wanted to bake something. It is one of the most useful conversions we did.  The box was constructed of plywood covered with mica. The interior was painted with epoxy paint, and the lid was fitted with a padded seat. There is a lock to hold the lid down when sailing.

Boat Parts Go On

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


We've decided to use this portion of the site to detail the involved level projects that people keep asking us about. There will be various posts on the projects along with links to the posts on The Retirement Project that explain them and have pictures. If you need any additional information on any of these projects, please contact us at svkintala att gmail dott com.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nightmare in the marine industry

We bought a reputable boat (Tartan) from a reputable dealer, that had been maintained by a reputable boat yard. We had a reputable survey done, and contracted reputable servicemen to do a rigging and mechanical inspection of the boat. In fact it was the same service people who had been taking care of the boat for several years and claimed to know it well.

Less than 10 hours of low power operation later the V-drive failed catastrophically, taking the transmission, bell housing, and coupling with it.

And thus began a nightmare repair. Walter machine insisted that their V-drive had never been installed on a Westerbeke engine using a Hurth transmission, that Tartan would never spec such a thing. (They did and it was.) We never found a bell housing and ended up reworking the old one. The coupling had to be custom machined. (At least Tartan came up with a drawing.) The new V-drive arrived from the factory sans the studs needed to mount it to the boat. The repair is still underway with no good idea of when the boat will be operable again.

It would be wonderful if I could say that this was the worst of it...but that would be untrue. Purchasing this boat has been the most frustrating, infuriating, endlessly troubling enterprise that I have ever fallen into. The water system didn't work. Much of the electrical system was the same. Stuff that was represented as being on the boat (like a V-berth mattress and auto pilot) weren't. Much of the running rigging failed the first time it was put under a load. Point blank, if I knew then what I know now I would seriously reconsider the wisdom of trying to retire onto a sailboat. (Then I would probably try to do it anyway - being seriously smitten by the ocean.)

One thing I have decided is that the previous owner, the broker, the surveyor, the boat yard, and the mechanics, all knew just how bad this boat was. It is inconceivable to me that anyone familiar with the thing could miss how badly abused she had been. Being an aviation person and not a marine person, I made the mistake of hiring and listening to the opinion of "experts," who clearly saw an out-of-town Mark coming when they needed to unload a problem boat.

Since then the experts at Tartan couldn't tell me what units they had designed into the boat. The experts at Walter Machine couldn't tell me what unit I needed - even when they had the old one in their hands. I have conflicting stories on the drip-less seal on the shaft, and have seen the worst kind of "craftsmanship" in every nook and corner of the boat. In fact I have yet to find a singe installation or repair that is even as good as "half-assed. Unused hose and wire filled the bilge. Interior parts had been removed for work and reinstalled with one screw out of six, mis-aligned, out of place. The head system was missing major parts, the head floor wasn't even secured to the boat.

So far as I can tell the pre-owned portion of the marine industry is seriously broken; and some of the stories I have heard from new boat buyers suggests the same is true industry wide.

There is a lot of debate about the sailing industry and its decline. Young people don't seem to be interested, us older folks know well that the journey is more past than future. There is a lot of debate about leisure dollars, the lure of the Internet, the lack of adventuring in the next generation, harassment from the Coast Guard and the ever growing security apparatus of Western Culture.

But maybe the answer is a lot more simple. The Marine industry has become a den of thieves. Designs are poor, quality control is non-existent, warranties are worthless...eventually people get tired of being fleeced, move on, and tell their friends to buy an RV.

Which is okay, if you don't mind being on the land. If you do, the marine industry sells the only tools for getting off shore. They may be ill conceived, poorly built, miserably maintained and overpriced tools...but they are the only ones around.