After 35,000 Miles
Steering is fly by wire, with W-H Autopilots doing
the driving. There are two complete installations, each
driving its own hydraulic pump and hydraulic cylinder.
We typically alternate between systems every thousand
miles or so. The W-H gear is robust and highly reliable,
and it handles the boat with ease, even in large, confused,
and breaking seas. Surfing downwind with speeds in the
low 20s, we turn the rudder gain to its minimum setting.
cannot have single-lever control with these, and we
thought that a single lever would be preferable for twin-engine maneuvering. We ended up with Glendinning
single-lever electromechanical controls, with one control
head inside in the saloon and a second at the flybridge.
One of the things we liked about Glendinning was the
ability to have a Morse cable mechanical backup system.
When the Glendinning gear works it is great, and the
company’s service has been exemplary. But we have
to report that we did have a bad actuator assembly,
which Glendinning replaced in May 2007. We are a
little uncomfortable with the electronic controls for
our style of cruising, and if we were to do it over,
we’d go back to hydraulic.
Steve and Linda Dashew
We originally specified Hynautic K4 hydraulic
cylinders. However, after Hynautic was purchased by
Teleflex, the traditional Hynautic designs were replaced
with new models. We went through five sets of cylinders
before Teleflex solved its seal problems. Next time we’ll
use Kobalt hydraulic cylinders, which are easier to
rebuild and appear to be more reliable.
Wind Horse’s electrical system is similar to those on our
sailboats. She is engineered to meet most of her electrical
needs by means of the engines while under way (rather
than by using the genset) and to sit for days quietly at
anchor. We typically run the generator every second day,
when the full-size washing machine and dryer are in use.
The rest of the time we use our large battery bank and
inverters for AC power.
The system starts with a 1,500Ah (C10 rating) bank
of Sonnenschein gel cell “traction” batteries. This is
one huge bank, over a ton and a half of batteries, and
it is theoretically good for 1,500 80 percent discharges.
This is our first experience with gel cells, having
used “wet” traction batteries in the past. The lack of
maintenance is nice, but there is one big drawback. With
a wet battery you can easily check the condition of each
cell by measuring specific gravity with a hydrometer.
There is no equivalent with sealed batteries. You are at
the mercy of your amp-hour meter, which may or may
not tell you the real story. We prefer the wet batteries.
The batteries are charged by a pair of Electrodyne
high-efficiency alternators, one on each engine. The
alternators have remotely mounted rectifier assemblies,
so they run cool. They are driven by a single regulator,
and the output is matched between the alternators. At
cruise rpm, if required they will each generate 150 amps
at 28 volts or 4k W on a full-time basis. Big alternators
like this take a lot of power—10hp at max output for
these—and drive belts can be a problem. We were told
that the Deere poly-V belts and spring tensioner system
would cope, but we were dubious. We have been
keeping an eye on this gear and changed belts at 1,400
hours, at the first sign of wear (although they probably
could have gone longer). At 2,000 hours the idler pulley
bearings were becoming sloppy, so we changed these
and the spring tensioners as a preventative measure.
This is much better service life than would be the case
with conventional V-belts.
The inverter chargers are key to the onboard domestic
systems. The idea was that these units would provide AC
power under way, when our biggest power consumer
is air conditioning, and at anchor for all but washing
and drying. These units are supposed to be smart
enough to provide additional capacity if the genset or
shorepower system is overloaded (a point that we
could set). And their battery chargers are supposed to
be smart enough to use any leftover capacity from the
genset or shorepower for charging the batteries.
In theory, this allows a smaller genset that is kept
nicely loaded by the battery chargers when domestic
loads are light. Which is why our Northern Lights
genset is rated at just 8kW.