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.

Follow my tracks in real-time:


  • BT
    Posted at 10:41h, 02 July Reply

    Bert, you are amazing! Following you progress and posts with great admiration for you courage and wishing / willing you success. You are on the downhill run now. All the best from an Aussie follower BT ( 2 degrees of separation from your Uncle Joe).

  • Sandi Lyon
    Posted at 03:20h, 06 July Reply

    That looks about right. When it’s hot out in the ocean, its foggy and wet on the Wet Coast. That means you’re on the right track, heading the right direction. Finally. Woohoo.

  • Anita Kuntz
    Posted at 00:10h, 08 July Reply

    Following you journey and am truly amazed.

  • Suzan Persons
    Posted at 15:43h, 09 July Reply

    What an amazing journey!!

  • Karin Hill
    Posted at 15:27h, 13 July Reply

    Been following you for a couple of months now. What an amazing journey! Your blog is insightful and humorous. Almost home. Safe travels!

  • MountainJack
    Posted at 19:52h, 14 July Reply

    Has to be an amazing feeling to be so near home, Bert.

    Have spent months at sea “steaming”, not sailing, gaining my sea legs with the constant motion just became second nature. Getting back to a stable platform at dockside or over on the beach left me wobbly for a day or two. Cannot imagine how you’ll feel after a year of hardly ever being stable. There is that other thing having been on your own for that long; the familiarity of constant aloneness , the feeling of approach avoidance, being forced back into humanity. Might feel as though you could just extend a little bit more and savor the experience just a little longer…naw, probably not.

    Welcome back home, Bert. You’ve completed one heck of a feat.

  • Arthur Oliver
    Posted at 04:33h, 15 July Reply

    Getting oh so close. What’s the ETA?

  • estelle C whiddon
    Posted at 02:58h, 16 July Reply

    Bert, your homecoming Saturday will be a joyous occasion! I have followed the voyage daily and hope your arrival home brings much joy.

  • Peter Jungschaffer
    Posted at 07:19h, 18 July Reply

    This has been so great. Thank you!!!

  • BT
    Posted at 09:50h, 18 July Reply

    Hi Bert, you are just a few hours away from home. We are cheering for your most successful journey. We are especially amazed at the sailing conditions below Australia and New Zealand, as we can have some very big polar blasts hit us at this time of the year. Cannot imagine what it was like to sail through that type of weather. Can only take of hats off to you I amazement. Hope that you make it to Oz for a visit. What a wonderful achievement you have accomplished. /bt

  • Antonio Corbelletta
    Posted at 16:15h, 18 July Reply

    Congratulations! What an adventure! Well done. I have enjoyed tracking your voyage everyday just wish I would have know about it earlier, from the beginning.

  • Suzan
    Posted at 18:13h, 18 July Reply

    Yeahhhhhhhhh Bert!!! You have done it!!!
    Happy Homecoming – And stay safe!!!
    It isn’t the same world that you left!!
    I’m going to miss reading your travels and your adventures!! But thrilled that you’re home (almost) safe and sound!!
    Next trip around the world, hope that you’ll stop along the way and post your photos of the locals and the ports!!

  • Raegan Elford
    Posted at 19:23h, 18 July Reply

    Soldier who has logged more sea time than this Navy sailor.
    What an incredible accomplishment (the journey vice logging more sea time than I)

  • Marianne Scott
    Posted at 18:25h, 19 July Reply

    Congratulations on your accomplishment! I guess we will have to put up a plaque commemorating your voyage on the Victoria Harbour wall.

    Hope to see you this week.

    Marianne Scott

  • Tom Cory
    Posted at 07:40h, 23 July Reply

    Congradulations Bert from Annapolis MD. A Great Adventure.

  • Mark
    Posted at 12:24h, 29 July Reply

    I don’t think that anyone that attended Estevan Junior High could have imagined that this was in the future for one of it’s students. I checked in at different legs of the journey and was fascinated every time. Congrats!

  • Marcel Neamtu
    Posted at 07:14h, 06 December Reply

    What an adventure! But i do have a comment about the structure of the blog: it’s very hard for a late reader to read your earlier posts in a timely order or something. Very annoying to scroll all the time to your earlier posts..is there anything or I can be done? Am I missing something? If yes, pardon my ignorance.
    Cheers and take care!

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