ON TEST by David Pugh, chief editor of the PBO magazine, January 2017 issue.
“I’m impressed…..the vane performed well on all points of sail, including downwind…..servo pendulum system took control to the extent that it could sail a course with the sails badly set.”
The Hebridean is “well worth investigating” according to Tom Cunliffe, see page 65 of The Complete Ocean Skipper.
Hebridean Servo Pendulum Wind Vane Test 22nd Feb 2014. By Ian Kirkwood.
Having spent regular periods trawling the net for information on wind vanes and their prices, I was interested to find this website in November 2013 promoting John Fleming’s DIY servo pendulum vane, the ‘Hebridean’. For a year or two I had looked at everything I could find on the market but there was none that suited my immediate limited budget. So I had resigned myself to waiting some years to acquire a vane. Even Ebay items were mostly beyond my reach.
Angus the Hebridean wind vane takes on the Atlantic (a tale of repeated user errors with a happy ending). By Thomas Fisher
Angus is installed on Arctic Smoke a 1974 Elizabethan 33 – a long keeled, mid to heavy displacement cruiser, with the rudder hung diagonally on the keel – which is not particularly efficient. Arctic Smoke left the UK in April 2015 bound for the Azores via Lisbon. She subsequently completed a full Atlantic circuit.
I hope everything ok for you.
I sailed last week my first miles with your great wind vane! It is an unforgettable experience! It works perfectly well, after some tests to better know it… The most fascinating : extremely sensitive, and extremely powerful.
Thank you for your very great invention, and the quality of your kits and information, it was a pleasure to build it.
Sincerely yours, Emmanuel Gillabert Switzerland
From a satisfied customer “…rethinking the whole servo pendulum idea.
Not only does it work so well but you removed the requirement for all those bearings, bushes and gears, all of which eventually seem to cause trouble.”
Good day John,
A few months after completion we were finally able to mount the bracket on the transom yesterday and do some tests with the windvane. With all control lines attached in a way we could make changes underway we set off. To our great surprise it worked really nice as soon as we connected the tiller. We were sailing close hauled with 4 Bft See video: https://youtu.be/WyFDXs61xIc , We drank a beer to celebrate this success!
However, with the windvane disconnected, the pendulum only followed our course when I rotated the turret in a specific position. It seemed we got the angles a bit wrong. I suppose the turret should be horizontal so we adjusted the angle to roughly that. We noted that the pendulum now followed our course (windvane disconnected), independent of the position the turret was in. Then we tested again with a downwind and broad reach. Our Westerly Merlin is a bilge keel version and doesn’t like this course. However, the windvane performed stunningly well. See video: https://youtu.be/dsiz2SYyRQ4
We were really really impressed with it’s performance! It held course, well within limits. I am confident it will also work in different conditions and cannot wait to test that out. You have designed a wonderful piece of equipment and I am very happy to have it onboard. Thanks for all your efforts to share this!
Hope you are well. Just finished first trial with the vane, tried it in F2 to F4 on all points today and absolutely delighted, it has plenty of power and the response to course changes turning the vane is very precise. Many thanks, great piece of kit at a very fair price.
One thing I didn’t mention is that it’s so much more aesthetically satisfying than aluminium etc. What impressed me with your gear is how quickly it reacts and applies correction, actually very important in smaller boats. It was also faultless on a dead run, a point where other gears I’ve had struggle”.
Kind regards Paul
Hope you have good summer sailing. I have now tested my Hebridean in a one week sailing tour. Finnish archipelago is quite challenging with winds and I was excited to see how wind pilot will manage that.
I must say that Hebridean works very well. I was trying all directions and winds. Highest wind and waves still need to see. I was surprised how easy is to put working and I did not make many adjustments after I started using it. I made only one test run before my one week tour.
It would be a nice option that remote steering unit. I am wondering how easy it is to tack?. Is it fast enough to do tack? Now I see in light winds that changing tack needs to be fast. That is also a safety issue especially for my wife to change course. Maybe for next summer I need that too.
I have sailed single handed for many years and I do have autopilot. I never trusted that to even cook coffee during sailing and it was a bit frustrating. Now I was enjoying sailing and cooking coffee and tuning my sails without worrying about losing course. Especially tailwinds it was a pleasure. Autopilot never works fine.
I attached a link for a couple my pic and videos while sailing.
Have a nice summer.
Just to let you my experience with the Hebridean.
I built a Hebridean in 2018 from a kit. I used it extensively in the 2019 season especially on longer overnight passages and it worked very well. I was particularly surprised at how well it worked downwind. In fact I tried it dead downwind for a couple of hours on a leg between Ireland and the Isle of Man, and it was very quick to react to any changes in wind direction, and even seemed to cope well with the rolling that particular boat was fond of doing while DDW. It’s reasonably light in weight, so can be lifted off it’s mount when not in use, and the pendulum (the rudder type part, though not actually a rudder) can be quickly removed from the whole assembly, so the whole thing splits down into more manageable chunks.
I left Largs in Oct 2016 without having the wind-vane fully sorted on my wheel-steered Nicholson 32, Trompette. We went, day sailing, down the East coast of Ireland and round to Kinsale. Then across to Vigo in Spain, arriving very tired.
Down Portugal and round to Vilamoura, was the next stage where I left the boat for a year.
With the Hebridean better sorted, Oct. 2017 saw us go to Porto Santo (next to Madeira} and on to the Canaries. From there down to the Cabo Verde islands and across to Antigua in the Carribean just after Christmas.
The end of May saw us head North to Bermuda and then across to Flores in the Acores.
North East to Kinsale again and then back up the Irish Sea and back to Largs, arriving on the 5th Aug, last week.
All went well and the Hebridean did a wonderful job. I’d like to thank you for your help during the making of the kit and of course, for coming up with such an excellent design.
Best regards, Jonti Docker
Last weekend I attached the Hebridean to its transom mount for the first time. The wind was minimal, only 3-6knots. the tiller connection was only temporary and the steering lines have yet to find their places on the push pit. Steering by the Hebridean went super right from the start, I have sailed all wind angles and even done a gybe. Naturally in that wind the steering down wind was a bit slow in reaction time, the Hebridean can’t be blamed for that. The remote control works fabulous! Thanks again for a wonderful product!
Kind regards, Winfried
Yes my Hebridean going strong! Steered me single handed from U.K. with no problems but I have lengthen paddle because long overhang means it could spend time suspended in mid air in steep waves. Now very powerful so moved attachment to tiller back so quicker response in big following seas. Haven’t noticed over steer. Now at Papeete after three months French Polynesia. Going Tonga next couple days after 4.5m swell and 3.3 m waves subside off Cooks. But Steering gear handles that stuff brilliantly as when knocked around at stern instantly put back on course as the event takes place – no delay. However my Boat always well balanced and steers easily demonstrated by still on original cheap tiller lines still in perfect condition.
My little 36 ft Seabreeze centre boarder has made some remarkable journeys under the gear! Averaged 139 nautical miles per day fr Marquesas to Tahiti. Best 24 run 156 miles so vane can handle the high speeds. Best run was 114 mile in 14 hrs- equivalent to over 190 miles in a day! Pays to have a yacht which is a copy of famous Finisterre!
Peculiar to my boat is mostly in lighter winds a lashed tiller to windward better that vane as tries to steer boat as wind fluctuating speeds influence apparent wind making gear too too sensitive when should just leave it steer the average. Any ideas John?
You know I converted my boat to a junk schooner in Falmouth two years ago. Do not regret! Set as much sail area as under spinnaker in light (sails in whisper used 5 gals fuel since Panama!), never go on deck, reef instantly. My wife flew out Tahiti. We went to Moorea. On way back 18 knots and rough we beat back the two yachts to Papeete when hard on the wind after overhauling one. Don’t know how as was surprised as not racing! Both longer! Vane handled it well. Hebridean Helmsman meant no loss speed perhaps? Now tested to 35 plus knot winds and rotten seas off Columbia. Under bare poles. Boat will not lie a hull but rockets off downwind by self. I do set vane then to help. Have a series drogue will employ if have to. Expect same on way to NZ
Use news on site. Will send more. Hope final leg NZ mid October.
Brilliant bit of kit John!
Yesterday was the big day and I tried out the gear for the first time. And it worked just brilliantly! A few things need to be finalised still but already I am totally amazed by its performance. We even steered through narrow tidal channels in the changeable and fluky winds in the lee of islands just by readjusting the vane base. Then tried downwind at about 165° app wind angle. At boat speed around 5 knots the app wind was almost non existent, maybe 2 or 3 knots and the Hebridean just kept us on a straight line without any problems.
Many thanks and best wishes Andre
Finally I can report back on my ‘Hebridean’, I finished it last May, I took a long time as I got a lot of enjoyment making the kit and finishing it to the best of my ability, the result was an impressive object much admired by all whose gaze fell upon the shiny gleaming unusual object.
There were no time for sea trials, we set off for Wick in June from Findhorn, attached the wind vane and it worked straight away. It took me about an hour experimenting and getting used to it and with a westerly force 4/5 sailed sixty odd miles hands free except for adjusting the vane when apparent wind altered. I found it very sensitive and the smallest adjustment alters the course dramatically.
With regards, Alex Hunt (another satisfied customer)
On 04/09/16 20:10, Kristian Møller Pedersen wrote:
I just want to inform you that today was the big day, where I took the Hebridean to the seas for the very first time. And I would say that it was a great success. I started out by motoring as slow as possible and ended up sailing nearly 6 knots.
The wind vane worked as hoped for all the way! see video https://youtu.be/d2fjzbkh0dU
The link below is a video of someone crossing the bay of Biscay with the Hebridean wind vane https://vimeo.com/136082871
The link below shows the Hebridean under test.
Read Tom Fisher’s blog about his trip to the Azores with his Hebridean wind vane he built and nicknamed “Angus” http://arcticsmoke.blogspot.co.uk/?m=0
From Peter Lawson June 2015 ref: #Kit 22
It worked beautifully, with either main or jib alone and with both together. I don’t know how you figured out the system but it is magic.
Thank you John.
Just to let you know I had an exhilarating sail yesterday from Clogherhead to Howth. A beat for the first 14 miles then a fantastic beam reach for the next 16nm. The wind was F4-F6 and quite big seas, I had to helm the beat because I really needed to make Skerries without tacking or getting to close to the lee shore.
After rounding Skerries I bore away onto a reach/beam reach and scooted at 6 – 7kts with the vane set. Big beam seas (3m?) and brilliant sunshine made it one of the most enjoyable sails I’ve had for many a year. I set the vane at Skerries and didn’t touch the helm for 16 miles to Howth. It performed flawlessly.
My favourite place on the boat when it’s like that (and safe) is sitting on the pushpit, clipped on of course, watching the sea and day go by. Made only possible by your vane.
Many thanks indeed. Robert Wilson
Mine is in action. Present in Isle of Wight waiting weather cross channel to Jersey Islands. Used gear in light conditions all points. Worked ” out of box” superbly. Amazed at light wind performance. As I am on way back to New Zealand I will learn more and feed back.
The kit arrived this morning. Nicely put together kit with very clear plans.
Fred (license number 4)
I had vane out for a test sail today,wow Im very impressed by your design it worked first time and is user friendly.
Thanks John Meldrum. (license number 2)
Hello again John,
I just had the best weekend or sailing with the hebridean, its wonderful, the best piece of kit I’ve put on my boat. I went out of Cork harbour against an incoming tide at 4.5 kn, a full knot faster than l could manage at the helm myself. I tried the vane on all points of sail and it performed better than I expected .
My boat does not like dead down wind, wing and wing but the vane held my course.
So you’ve designed a great device well done take a bow John.
On 22/10/14 00:16, John Meldrum wrote:
Hi there John,
What made me willing to give your design a go, well I looked at lots of others commercial and diy vanes, I also have read several books on self steering systems. I had my previous boat self steering on sheet to tiller system, that was ok but a bit finicky with lines crossing over and back. I had begun to design my own servo pendulum wind vane when I saw your hebradean and searched through what information you had on site, read the reviews and liked very much what I saw. It made perfect sense to me to use a proven design. I had no problem building from the plans and all the metal parts + fixings are in the kit, it saved me a lot of time, gathering the bits and pieces.
There are a lot of bits in the kit. All I needed was the wood, not a problem, Im a carpenter! so off I went on an adventure. I was like a kid at Christmas with a mechano set and carpentry set, to make the wind my tiller slave .
Oh to use the heads without rushing back to the lashed tiller. Freedom to cook lunch to stroll around the boat, all 30 foot of her, wow!
I often sail alone, or with my wife and three daughters 8, 5 and 2 1/2. Now we can have a lot more time looking around at the scenery, wildlife and fishing etc.etc.
Basically your kit is a very good deal. I have built one and it worked first time out, I could hardly believe it but it did. I had expected a period of setting up and learning by trial and error, none of that, away she went first time, amazing ! I managed round up a couple of times, my own fault, too much main sheet tension. I backed off the main a bit and off we went. Some commercial vanes take months to get to know and a lot wont work down wind, not the Hebradean she did down wind superb. I look forward to flying my spinnaker next.
good night , John.