Can I add a bypass, with hand valve, to my hydraulic steering ?

Can I add a bypass, with hand valve, to my hydraulic steering ? It is a slow, dangerous nuisance switching back and forth between steering with the Monitor windvane (mechanical) and steering with the pedestal wheel (hydraulic). Lester Helmus, s/v #010, Insouciance

a. Lester, My Wagner system came with a selector (normal, feedback and bypass) at the base of the pedestal. Bypass valves are available on the market, such as the one below (I assume it’s the right kit). If you want it simply in case of steering failure so that you can use the emergency tiller, the valve may be redundant because if your hydraulic system fails you’ve got no pressure, and if you’ve got no pressure the emergency tiller will not face any resistance (or you could also detach the hydraulic ram). In an extreme, albeit weird, case when you lose steering and still have pressure and can’t remove the kingpin from the ram arm, you could always drain the oil, attach the tiller and deal with the mess later. Cheers, Horacio Marteleira See Bypass . [Ed. Note: This bypass could be assembled with conventional Home Depot parts.]

b. Horacio, My system was set up for hydraulic hand steering or for Monitor steering (also emergency), and hydraulic autopilot. I’ll have to trace the circuitry, make a drawing, and analyze the system carefully. Currently, to use the tiller, someone has to lie on his back and crawl backwards under the cockpit to the aft end of the boat, and reach up to disconnect the ram. That was okay for the original owner who always had crew on his trip to New Zealand, but not okay for a singlehander. I have never needed to do it while sailing, because I haven’t gone anywhere, not even out the Golden Gate. I’m 78 years old, whose greatest adventure was three singlehanded trips from New Jersey to Bermuda and one singlehanded trip from Bermuda to the British Virgin Islands in a Bristol 29 sailboat. This Corbin is really too much boat for little old me – bought on an ego trip. Incidentally I owned two boats for a year but fortunately sold the Westsail 32 to Warner Bros for the making of the movie “Perfect Storm”!! My system has ordinary 5/16″ flared copper tubing probably with check valves and blocking valves, for maintenance purposes, I think. Is that Vetus valve a two position valve, go – no go? It looks like an ordinary close or open valve with two T’s, a screw end and 2 compression ends, something I can buy in the local hardware store! Lester Helmus

c. Lester, Four singlehanded oceanic trips seem like quite a feat to me. And you’re right about the Corbin being too large for singlehanding. I’m 49, 6 feet 2 inches and relatively fit and I find it a bit too much for singlehanding, especially docking and also anchoring with a manual windlass in a blow. I do it, but it would be more fun and cheaper in a smaller boat. Sailing is not so bad once I get going and after working up a sweat hoisting three sails with a lot of friction in the halyards. Except for my yearly trip of one month, I don’t sail that much because it’s too much work for an afternoon out. I don’t even have roller furling. My wife doesn’t like sailing, which puts a damper on weekend trips. But she likes meeting me at the marina in the Algarve during the aforementioned trip and staying on the boat. The valve seems to be an off-on device. There’s lots of information on the Internet about this topic, it would be wise to research about your pump make or ask somebody who knows hydraulics. Late last year, I finally installed a Raymarine hydraulic autopilot. It seems to work OK but I haven’t really put it to any gruelling test yet. My hydraulic system has three pipes and the autopilot pump has three ports, so it was a matter of hooking them up correctly. Tried the “feedback” position a couple of times, but didn’t like it at all. Never tried the feedback with the autopilot, but can’t see the advantage of doing that. Horacio