Here's a picture of the paddle, with the original mounting arms in place.

According to the instructions, it should be about six inches out of the water, so that when the boat's at hull speed the wave coming off the stern won't cover it.

The idea is to avoid unnecessary stress on the paddle arm.

This is about right, so no worries.

Raising the entire unit six inches will require a longer arm on the paddle, though.

Monitor Self Steering Installation

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October 2008 --
After sailing with my new Monitor for five days,
I think every sailor should have one.
Once you get it set up,
it is as easy to use as electric auto pilot,
doesn't use any power,
and is a lot gentler on the steering system.

While it's possible to get a used one, I went new
because I didn't want to have to retrofit the mount.
I figured that I'd spend as much on stainless steel tubes, and the labor to bend and form it,
as I would on a new unit. My neighbor down the dock bought a used one, but he has the tools and expertise to build his own mount. Even then,
he got great support from Scanmar, and was
able to get the parts to refurbish the 15 year old unit.

We had to rework the entire mounting system,
so I'm glad I bought a new one. Whatever savings a used one would offer would have been spent on
custom stainless steel work to make it fit.

Here's the final result,
with the unit raised higher and set farther aft,
so that the vane will clear the radar mast.

Note that the paddle is sitting a bit low in the water,
and I'll probably make the safety tube shorter
to raise it up a bit. More on that later.

Back to Home ... s/v Stella Blue home ... Steering Page.... Projects

After a lot of measuring and head scratching,
I built fiberglass shims to extend the backing plates.

This is a picture of my first attempt. I did it again to get it perfect, but forgot to take pictures of that.

The deck mounts for the Monitor
are tied into the backing plates for the stern rail,
and that makes it very strong.

Scanmar's installation instructions are very detailed,
and are available on their web site,
so there's no reason for me to show the entire installation.
Here are a few things I learned.

To the left is a picture of the stock mounting system,
used in the past on other C&C Landfall 38's.

Before drilling any holes, I moved the boat stern to the dock, and suspended the Monitor from the davit. The davit will have to be moved when this is over, but it was really convenient to have it there, so I could move the unit up and down and around easily.

I probably spent two entire days just looking at it and thinking about where the holes should be.

I forgot to bring the vanes to the boat (oops) so went to the hardware store
and got a cheap piece of 1/4 inch thick, four foot long wood. That's the length of the light air vane, and let me check clearance of the vane at all points of sail.

Then I stared at it and measured
over and over for the rest of the day.

It was clear that the Monitor needs to be eight inches aft, and six inches higher,
for the vane to clear the radar mast.

That actually gives me a couple of advantages. The vanes will sit higher and clear turbulence from all the crap I have on the stern rails, and the
pendulum arm will have
a lot more leverage on the steering lines.

I emailed Scanmar, and they made me new mounting hardware and an extension to the paddle arm, so that the unit would sit higher and further back.

That metal work justified the cost of a new unit.

Lining it up straight is important, and I looked at it for a day before
drilling holes.

Vertically, it's lined up with the masts, and horizontally with the transom.

Here's something else
I hadn't thought of.

When I replaced the stanchions, and installed the custom stern rail, I built over sized backing plates of fiberglass and steel.

Naturally, the deck mounts for the Monitor come down right on the edge of this assembly.


Finally I decided to go into the main SF Bay,
where one can usually encounter some stiff breezes.
Not this day, though.
A local high pressure system was battling a local low
just off shore, and the local breezes were only about 15 knots and uncharacteristically warm.

That was fine with me.

I watched the Blue Angels do a warm up test run,
with only about 20 boats on the entire bay,
while I played with the Monitor.

Gee, I have something in common with the Blue Angels.
We both like to check things out in controlled conditions before pushing the envelope.

So here's the problem, that turned out to be a "non problem."

My radar mast, and the supporting brace, are in the way.
Both the light air vane and normal vane will hit it.

Scanmar leaves a lot of the holes undrilled, because they can't predict how it will actually fit on each individual boat.

To ensure that the holes are accurate, and allow the mount to swing freely in the bracket,
I stuck a flat piece of 1/2 inch wood into the bracket and set the stainless pipe flush against it. Then, measured everything a few times, and marked the spot.

As with most of my deck hardware, I built fiberglass pads to raise the brackets. This area is often awash, and it will be good to keep the bolts out of the water most of the time.

I don't like leaks.

Here, you can see that I need to modify the pads a bit, to clear the bases for the stern rail.
So I took them back to the grinder,
and painted them all over again.

Here's a different technique for drilling and working stainless steel.

It's important to keep the work cool, because as soon as the metal and drill bit get too hot the drill bit will get dull and worthless, the stainless pipe will get "work hardened," and the metal will tend to rust over time.

Oil is messy, but it works.

In this case, since I'm standing on the dock, I kept a bucket of ice water nearby and continually dipped the drill bit into it. I also ladled ice water over the stainless steel, and kept the drill speed really slow.

No oil all over the place.

Any burrs or rough edges were removed with my Handy Dremel Tool.

I also replaced the nuts
that came with the unit,
using nylock nuts.

I just prefer nylock nuts where ever possible.

The Monitor came with all the nuts and bolts required for a complete installation.

However, I didn't want to wreck them.

The installation process requires a lot of trial fitting and double checking, so I used other bolts from my spare bolt box, and saved the good bolts
for the final assembly.

This is the lower mounting bracket.
I put a large backing plate inside the transom.
Scanmar says it isn't necessary, but I like having extra structural strength, and the backing plate also provides a good seal of caulk
on the inside of the hull.
I hate leaks.

Once the whole assembly was settled in, I took a look at the paddle. It's only about three inches out of the water, not the recommended six inches.

I'll sail with it and observe, but probably will shorten the "safety tube" that goes between the paddle and the top bracket.

Here's the top bracket,
after bolting and caulking.

I've recently put down a really aggressive non skid surface, and that made the cleanup challenging.

Everything is caulked
with 3M 4200, which cleans up with mineral spirits. I sacrificed a toothbrush to get the excess out of the nonskid and clean it up well.

I like to caulk until it
gooshes out everywhere.

Caulk is cheap, leaks are a drag.

This is the emergency rudder option.
We haven't extended the bracket for it yet, and I'm glad we waited as it would have been too long.

This is a bit short, but I'll wait and think about it before changing the post out for a longer one.

The emergency rudder option is really just for peace of mind. The rudder on my boat
is 27 years old, and is probably fine.

I know I have water inside my rudder, but so do most of the boats out there. The only way to know if there's a problem is to do some destructive testing, which would make me feel really dumb if I wrecked my rudder just to prove that it was fine.
I don't think that new rudders are built as well as the old ones, so I'm going to leave it alone and carry an emergency rudder.

Here it is with everything bolted down.

It's pretty strong, and I feel comfortable standing on it.

For a minute, I was really worried that I'd somehow installed it off center or leaning, but then realized that the boat is leaning a couple of degrees to port,
and will settle down when I put everything
back where it belongs.

There are two other Monitor installs on my dock,
and the owners both came by and said it looks fine. Then, one of the old timers from a nearby boat yard was walking by en route to another boat, and he also checked it out and pronounced it fine.

Here's another view of the final installation.

By raising it up and moving it back, it will catch the breeze a bit better, and is still easy to reach.

I got another of my "big ideas."
The teak grate from my cockpit sole
has been sitting in the garage for a few years,
and I discovered that one section (below) will fit perfectly against the transom, inside the monitor braces. So I have reinforced it with additional teak, and added a foot step on either side.
The old hand rail from my original dodger is the perfect length, and I'll bolt it onto the aft edge.

This will create a really cool platform on the transom, where I can store things that should be outside the boat, like a plastic gasoline jug or something.
I'll install it at my next haul out, in a month or so.

Here's a final check for clearance
with the big light air vane.

It clears everything perfectly, so raising the Monitor six inches up, and eight inches back,
was the right way to go.

I did have to move another brace from the port side to the starboard side of the radar mast, but that was simple and easy. When I put the radar mast on a few years back, I had brackets welded up with multiple ears, so that I'd have some flexibility on how the braces would connect. So moving the lateral brace
took about half an hour.

I also had to remove the ensign, and have no idea where to mount it. That's going to require some thought.

I felt that the ones that came with it
were too long, so I replaced them
with smaller ones.

I like the solid type of hose clamp, anyway.

Now, to install the wheel adapter and the control lines.

The wheel adapter is strapped on with hose clamps.

Here's the view from the top.

Fortunately, my cockpit coaming is exactly the same height as the center of my wheel, and isn't blocked by any cleats or other hardware.

That made this part of the installation
really easy.

The six foot long
control lines that came with the wheel adapter were too short for me.

They are tied to the lines coming up from the stern, and I want that knot to be along the side of the boat and out of the way, not hanging
in the cockpit.
So I replaced the lines with longer rope with a spectra core.

Green for the
starboard line,
red for the port line.

Cute, huh?

The installation and instruction manual says to connect the control lines using a special "Monitor Knot."
I think it sucks.
After my first sea trial, I decided I was spending so much time fussing around with the knot that I wasn't
learning anything else.

I made these straps
to allow for fast adjustment
of the control lines.

It turns out the real problem
was paddle alignment,
but more on that later.

The folks at Scanmar
emphasized that I should use
the biggest possible blocks
to turn the control lines.

Here's why. It's all about
avoiding chafe and keeping the leads fair.

This is a 500 series Schaeffer double cheek block. I think it'll be fine, although the 700 series might have been better. The difference in sheave size is very small, and I wasn't sure the 700 series would fit on my coaming and still allow room for a backing plate and fender washers underneath.

So I'll watch it.

Although they haven't slipped yet, I've tied an overhand knot into the strap just in case.

This isn't the final solution, but has allowed me to keep moving forward with the learning curve, without spending all my time adjusting the "Monitor Knot."

Someone else, with years of experience sailing with a Monitor, recommended that I sew a clam cleat onto the aft control line, to allow for quick adjustments.


I'll keep thinking about it.

The other important control line is a continuous loop that allows the vane orientation to be changed from the cockpit, without having to go back and manually adjust it.

In this picture, it's the blue line.

I used 4mm dinghy line, and that was too thick.

The line wraps once around a sheave, and the 4mm line was too thick to pass itself easily.

The loop is long enough to reach different attachment points in the cockpit.

I'm still playing with it, to decide where I want it to run. At first, I looped it over to the pedestal guard. That lasted about five minutes --
until I discovered that it interfered with access to the starboard winch.

Then I just moved it along the stanchions, and will probably leave it there for a while.

It's important to maintain tension on that control line, so it doesn't slip off the sheave.

Scanmar recommends a shock cord,
and that works fine.

My favorite shock cords are these Poly-Cords.
They last for years under direct UV exposure,
and are the only ones I use outside the boat.

Before saying anything about the Monitor,
I wanted to sail with it for a while and get comfortable.

For the first trial run, I double reefed the main,
and had my usual 90 working jib up front.
Then I headed for the South San Francisco Bay, where the water was flat and the breeze was only 7 to 10 knots.
(During this time of year... )

I wanted to keep the boat seriously under powered,
so that I could focus on the Monitor.

That turned out to be a good idea,
as I really screwed up a couple of times
and the boat did complete 360's while I was busy
trying to remember how to disengage the wheel adapter clutch.

(Very Big Grin)

I wanted to make as many stupid mistakes as possible,
before heading some place where I could get into trouble.

So, I replaced it with 3mm line.

Much better.

Note that the line comes from the Monitor, and passes through a single fairlead that keeps the line aligned with the sheave.

Then, I've separated the two leads, so that I can tell them apart and turn the vane the correct direction,
the first time.


In conditions like this, with a light breeze, it's virtually impossible to screw up and break something.

I recommend this approach to anyone who's playing with new hardware for the first time.

After the first day, I was starting to get it figured out, but was having a very difficult time
making it behave the way I thought it should.

The pendulum wandered off when the vane was straight, which pulled the boat off course,
and I was getting some odd "feedback loop" behavior where I'd end up totally out of control.

I didn't take a picture of the actuator arm adjustment,
so I stole these pictures from the manual.

The actuator arm can be adjusted
to be longer or shorter, and that adjusts the alignment of the paddle.


Now it's working perfectly.

When the vane is vertical,
the pendulum stays centered,
and the boat self steers like a champ.

To the left, I'm making about five knots in a light breeze. (Which ain't too bad, considering I'm double reefed and the bottom hasn't been scrubbed in two months.)

You can see the wave coming off the stern is covering the paddle, so I clearly can make the safety tube shorter. I'm going to sail with it for a while, though, and see how deep it is
at hull speed, and then make a call.

After thinking,
I realized that
the paddle alignment needed adjustment.

In this picture, you can see how it isn't aligned with the centerline of the boat, so that when the vane is set correctly the paddle wants to fly off to port.

The manual covers this adjustment, but I'd forgotten to remember
that part. (grin)

So, that's the Monitor Installation.

I think I'm ready to take it into a serious breeze, and really get to know it.
This thing is really cool, and I wish I'd put it on years ago.
Even for day sailing with short tacks, it's a lot of fun.

I've had folks drop by and tell me they're surprised that I've installed it
when I don't plan to cross an ocean in my immediate future.
But, really, I've always believed that it was a cool tool
and if you rig it right you can use it for anything.

I've had people look at my boat and say "You can sail that thing all by yourself?"

Heck yes, if you rig it right.

I don't like to sail dead down wind, and
usually don't single hand deeper than this,
especially with a following swell.

Even then, when I'm at the helm sailing deep,
I'll get distracted with the view, or listening to a guest,
or being busy with the sheets, and usually have a
"gee shucks golly that was close" moment or two.

I'm amazed at how well the Monitor handles the boat,
and soon stopped worrying about an unintentional jibe.
I have to admit it steers the boat better than I do,
because it doesn't get tired, bored or distracted.