During the summer of 2007, homeward bound from Shetland, I set the Cape Horn wind vane at the outlet of Lerwick just as we passed the Bressay Lighthouse, and disconnected the system close to Bergen at Marsteinen Lighthouse. With a few adjustments, we did not change or disconnect the Cape Horn for 20 hours or 90 nautical miles. Most of the time it blew steady 20 knots from the North, not really a reach – more like headwinds with eased of sheets.

My old autopilot could not have coped as easy with the wind and the rough sea. Truthfully it could not have coped at all. Besides I only have one battery for consumption. 20 hours constant use of autopilot in a seaway would have consumed all the battery juice available.

This trip don’t prove anything regarding wind vanes. However, most of the summer I sailed alone in Ryfylke. I often found my selves sailing in the fjords forcing my way through gales. The Cape Horn did the job better than any helmsman I ever shared a gale with. As everything is moving, the wind is howling and the seas are building, the Windex is steady as a rock. The angle “Salt” is approaching the wind is as a matter of fact so steady I had to check if the Windex was stuck.

The Cape Horn is following the shifting wind as fast as they approach. While the autopilot would have fought to keep the compass course and made the yacht list excessively in wind shifts, the Cape Horn just followed the wind shifts and kept the yacht going. Shorthanded this means that I could make tea, go to the bathroom or do navigating down below, while the winds come howling over the mountains and hitting the boat at new and unappreciated angels. I even made dinner while heading out a rather narrow fjord, just following the motions of the boat on the electronic charts on the computer, sticking my head out into the wind and rain looking out for other boats now and then. Easy going!

Why didn’t I fit a wind vane system 10 years ago? I lacked the money, everybody else swore by autopilots, and I didn’t know about a comparable system. The wind vane would have saved me from some very long hours at the tiller crossing the North Sea or going south by Jæ ren and crossing the Skagerrak into the Baltic’s. In retrospect it is rather annoying.

It’s hard to install a pendulum windvane system on Salt as she has a transom-hung-rudder. No matter what I do or system, I choose, I need an extended support frame – which will increase weight on the transom (exactly where I don’t want any extra burden). Besides, an extrusion outside of the rudder will make it vulnerable during harbour navigation.

I could have chosen a trimtab, mounted directly on to the rudder. However, most trimtabs I know about works as a servo system to generate enough push to move the rudder. It works – but I don’t want to permanently fix a trimtab to my rudder and even a very good trimtab does not have the power to steer as a pendulum system.

While the trimtab works in opposite direction of the rudder, the pendulum system works in the same direction as the rudder increasing the total rudder grip and thus makes the steering double efficient.

The force of the pendulum versus the trimtab is no contest – as the pendulum arm, and thus power to turn the rudder, is much longer than any trimtab – the pendulum is superior.

As “Salt” is heavy on the tiller when the going get’s tuff, a trimtab seems to be too weak. Furthermore, no old fashioned wind vane system with it’s own rudder fits the bill either. They are not strong enough without huge wind vanes and are left out-engineered by the modern servo-pendulum system. However, I don’t want the huge and heavy stern mounting needed to fix the Monitor or Aries systems to”Salt”s stern.

Only the Fleming and the Cape Horn systems seem like possible options. They are both elegant and slim – and they are both priceworthy – compared to the others.

A 50.000 kroner (4.000 dollar) autopilot with wind vane, gyro-compass and computerized learning ability is way out of the question. Now you know why it had to be the Cape Horn – it’s better, smarter, handsome, priceworthy, easy to install and drinks no battery juice.

Installing the wind vane

While most wind vane systems are bolted on to the transom, the Cape Horn system needs one large hole through the transom. Drilling a number of small holes are bad, making one large hole is not much better.

However, I was given a lightly used hole saw by the Cape Horn guys. We measured and measured over again to be sure we found the correct spot for drilling the first test hole. Drilling was aligned from the deck by using the boat hook as a ruler parallel to the middle of the boat, hanging over the counter. The drill in the center of the hole saw was substituted with a long steel rod. The idea of the substitute rod as to avoid making the pre-drilled hole larger and thus assist guiding the drill and the hole saw. The real challenge is that “Salt”s counter is rather rounded so that the first few minutes the hole saw only grips on one side of the center. As a matter of fact the finished opening is highly elliptic.

The actual drilling was done with my friend Odd aligning along the boat center i.e the boat hook from the top looking down, and my brother Morten from the dockside aligning the drill horizontal. I was in the rubber dingy sweating and swearing behind the electric drill.

I can’t think of any jobs I would want less than drilling holes in “Salt”. However, it worked out fine. With the drilling done, the worst was over – and the only possible thing to patch things up was to get the Cape Horn system in.

A little grinding and sanding of the through hull and the main tube of Cape Horn was in. The stainless steel had to be grinded to get the polyester fastener to grip. The tube is fitted with two “legs” in angles bolted to the inner hull by wood pads securely classed to the hull. It is a challenge to us with numb brains and ten thumbs to bolt the fasteners for the “legs” through the stainless steel tube. It would have been such a relief if Cape Horn had just come with movable fasteners circumventing the main tube. There is no reason but good looks inside the yacht, not to use circumventing fasteners. Instead I was forced to drill 4 aligned holes in the thick stainless steel tube. I must have broken five drills making those 4 holes. Yea – but it looks rather nice – I will give Cape Horn that.

With the main tube fitted and glassed at the through hull, the inner-tube and the wind vane tower could be fitted. In other words just easy mechanics. However, once more – the fasteners for the tower “legs” gave me the same problem as for the main tube. Why on earth can’t they be fitted with a well made collar circumventing the tower-tube? Somehow my nimble fingered brother found a way to fit the inner bolts for the fasteners. I believe it was done by using a string of electrical cord and a few doses of magic.

The tower “legs” had to be in angle to make it sturdy. Besides I want’ed the legs to be parallel to the sheer line of the deck to look as good as possible. By measuring at least seven times and cutting one, and by moving the tower to a workshop for drilling – it worked out fine. More magic if you ask me.

Rigging the wind vane ropes was no trick. All I needed to do was to bolt on four rope-blocks and make two holes in the side deck for the rope to get through. The rope is then led through another couple of blocs fitted on the pulpit by stainless stele fittings made for canvas and the connected to the tiller. The ropes for adjusting the vane is coming down along the tower tube, through two small blocs tackled on the tower “leg” fasteners, the through another pair of small blocks at the pulpit and then through one block (to make it endless) at the foremost part of the pulpit. Thus the vane is easily adjusted sitting in the cockpit.

It was all done in 3 or 4 afternoons thanks to my brother, my friend Odd and some welcome help for friend Torfinn. Without them I would probably be sorting out my ten thumbs and trying to fit things still.

A simple tabel og possible wind vane systems:


+ 20 Kg.

5400 Dlrs


22-25 Kg

Not given


30 – 51 Kg

6090 Dlrs..


Not given

Not given


18 Kg



Not given

3895 Dlrs



3903 Dlrs.

Saye’s Rig

3890 Dlrs

Cape Horn

8 Kg ?

2989 Dlrs


Not given

Not given

Basicly there are 3 windvane systems – a system where you fix the main rudder and the windwane steers its own small rudder, where you use a trimtab to push or force the main rudder over, and the servo-pedulum system where the windvane gives the pendulum a signal to act, and where the pendulum generates force from the boat-speed through water to force the tiller over.

The Kaskelot takes you topside