David Bogle, Pearson Commander #92, Saladita

A few have asked for more info on my Windpilot, so I'll share some here on the list. It is a servo pendulum type with a horizontal vane action. This is what most modern units have. It easily installs on the transom. My Commander, being on the small side, required an optional, but free, mount that extends the unit's position up to the proper distance from the water. four holes in the unreinforced transom to mount. One bolt to remove the unit for storage in harbor.

I installed in July as I finally got underway for the season on Long Island Sound, and it was working nicely the first day. However, I soon discovered that variable light winds 0-10 play havoc with the boat's balance and therefore with the effectiveness of the gear. Balance of helm is tantamount.

The windpilot Pacific Light is the only one that has a light weight (about 29 lbs) appropriate for the 5,300 pound Commander. It is for boats to 27 feet, so the Pacific would be the one for the Triton, I suppose. It weighs about the same as the Navik, but is much more solid and sturdy. And the Pacific light oar swings up 170 degrees to port when in harbor, or motoring.

Windpilots are made of cast, marine grade aluminum. This is a fairly new, high-tech alloy. Sailomat paints their lower grade aluminum body. The other main difference is in the Sailomat has manually adjustable yaw damping, while Windpilots have a 360 degree bevel gear for automatic yaw damping. This from Peter Forthman's e-mail to me:

>>> Compared to PACIFIC, Sailomat does not provide:

>>> - stepless remote control

>>> - variable power transmission

>>> - automatic yaw damping

>>> - stepless vane angle setting

After which, he offered me a $1,200 used sailomat unit from their CA office. Straight-shooting, smart businessman, it seems. Peter Forthman wrote a nice book about self-steering (you can find it on e-bay usually) that touts the superiority of his products, but provides a thorough coverage of the available options, including autopilots.

I have not been on the water much this summer, but when I have had it hooked up it has worked on all points of sail. Problems with light air from the stern are universal with vane steering. A whisker pole to balance the main would help, I think, but I don't have one yet.

The only downside to their business is the chauvinistic portrayals of scantily clad "island" women on their webpage. After I got over that, and looked at the products, I concluded they had the goods.