What’s in Name Part III
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What’s in Name Part III

What’s in Name Part III

What’s in Name Part III

In this final instalment of What’s In A Name, I give you Jack Whiskers. Jack, because he’s an able-bodied and proud sailor serving Queen and country and Whiskers, because I gave them to him.

Everyone eventually names their wind vane. Before Whiskers came aboard, I had Pinochio. He was a fine sailor but a bit of a drinker so he shipped off on another yacht were the rules regarding ship-board drunkeness were a bit more lax. But I was having trouble coming up with a name for this fellow, mostly because I was cursing him out non-stop.

These Monitor wind vanes are fantastic pieces of gear. They are world renowned and have steered yachts of all sizes for countless thousands of miles. They are so good that they react to the merest puff of wind. And therein lies the problem.

All self-steering systems respond to the apparent wind. Any change in the apparent wind prompts the vane to produce a steering signal. But every change in apparent wind is not necessarily a steering signal. By responding to every change, the vane steers way too much. Like 80-90% too much. Not only does that slow the boat down, it’s unnecessary wear and tear on the rest of the steering system. Worst of all, it’s a positive feedback loop that eventually can get the boat off course no matter how careful you are with sail trim and balance.

Pinochio, for all his drunkeness, had a simple mechanism to help reduce spurious steering signals from real ones. For example, if the boat pitches up on a wave, the apparent wind changes but the boat is not off course and no steering adjustment need be made. Similarly if the boat were to rolls in the trough of a wave. The apparent wind changes, but no steering adjustment need be made.

I watched as Whiskers twitched and fluttered to every puff of wind within a hundred yards. The wheel swung maidenly port and starboard and the boat slowed. Surely there had to be a way to reduce the unnecessary high frequency oscillations that were not true steering signals.

Occam’s Razor produced this fix: Some bungee cord wrapped around the vane pivot to act as a shock absorber of sorts. So far, it works. The number of steering signals is greatly reduced, yet the real changes in apparent wind still get translated to course changes.

Not to state the obvious, but the bungee cord looks like a handsome set of whiskers. Perhaps a stylish 18th century handlebar moustache. Who knows, but at long
last, Jack Whiskers has come aboard.

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