top of page
Monitor Windvane - FAQ's

What's the difference between traditional Monitor and the TopHat?

The TopHat is a variant of the Monitor windvane, with the airvane assembly detached from the Monitor's frame. This design reduces the required overhead clearance, making it perfect for boats equipped with dinghy davits, solar panels, radar arches, or mizzen booms. The airvane can be installed in an unobstructed area where it can access clean air.

Generally, unless your boat has davits, low-hanging solar panels, or an arch, the traditional Monitor is recommended. However, if you have these accessories or plan to install them, the TopHat may be a better option. 

We've compiled a TopHat-specific FAQ, which is available for review. Should you have further questions, don't hesitate to contact us via phone or email, and we would be pleased to explore the different options with you.


How do I order?

Just give us a call or send us an email to get the process started. We’ll begin by asking about your boat, cruising plans, and then recommend a windvane. If we’ve installed one on a sister-ship, we’ll share the mounting drawing with you, if not, we’ll ask for photos and some measurements.  On receipt of your measurements, we’ll generate a mounting drawing for your boat. The design process is included in the price of your new Monitor.


What material is the Monitor made of?

The Monitor is made of 316 stainless steel.  Prior to 1997, Monitor’s were made of 304 stainless.  Stainless steel has many advantages over aluminum or alloy alternatives including corrosion resistance, strength and the ability to be repaired.


How does the Monitor steer my boat?

The Monitor is a servo-pendulum windvane and utilizes the ships rudder to steer the boat.  It is less cumbersome, less vulnerable, easier to install and more powerful than windvanes which use other principles. The servo-pendulum system is the most popular principle in use today and performs very well on small and large yachts since it steers using the boat's own rudder, rather than a smaller auxiliary rudder. The Monitor attaches to the helm via control lines.

In the "Auxiliary Rudder vs. Servo-Pendulum" section of our "Windvanes 101" course you'll find a comprehensive review of the comparative merits of both systems.


Can it convert to emergency steering?

Yes. The Monitor can convert to an emergency rudder system by using the optional E-Rudder  system. In the event that you loose steerage (lost rudder, broken cable, linkage etc.) your Monitor converts easily to an emergency rudder by locking the pendulum and sliding the e-rudder foil over the Monitor's water paddle. Stowed away until needed, it's a robust system that has been proven in offshore conditions. 

Do I need lines in the cockpit?

Whether on a wheel or tiller boat, you will need lines to the helm. This is a small price to pay for the performance advantage of a servo-pendulum windvane. There are many ways to make lines unobtrusive and manageable. Please ask us!


I have a center-cockpit boat and have been told that I can't run the operating lines that far forward.

This is a common misperception but rest assurred, we have installed Monitor on hundreds of center cockpit boats. If good-quality low-friction blocks are used and some thought is given to the run of the operating lines, even large center-cockpit boats can be fitted with Monitors.

What is positive yaw dampening and why is it important?

Simply put, yaw is the sideways movement of the boat when pushed aside by wind and/or wave(s).  Uncorrected, yaw can result in a broach or at best a meandering course.  Yaw dampening is a feature unique to servo-pendulum windvanes which automatically counter this movement.  The Monitor immediately corrects the helm as the yaw occurs like an experienced helmsman.  As the boat is coming back on course, the water paddle automatically 'feathers' itself back to neutral position, eliminating oversteering common to some windvanes. This is one reason why the Monitor is unequaled in heavy weather.

What if I hit something?  Will the Monitor be damaged or torn from the transom?

No. The Monitor’s water paddle has a safety tube that is designed to give way should you strike an object or if is subjected to extreme loads.


Will the Monitor affect my boats maneuverability?

No. Because the Monitor’s water paddle is only in the water when in use, it will never compromise your maneuverability.  When not in use, the paddle swings up out of the water, a feature unique to the Monitor and some servo pendulum windvanes. The water paddle can also be removed altogether in seconds without tools.  Auxiliary rudder windvanes do not have this capability and as a result, their rudders are often removed when in coastal waters.


How does it perform in light air?

Light air and dead downwind are the two biggest challenges for any windvane.  With its low friction ball-and-roller-bearing system the Monitor can typically maintain steerage down to 4kts apparent.  At this point most boats are ghosting along and required input from the windvane is at a minimum. An excellent video of light air performance can be found on our YouTube channel. Link?


How does it perform in heavy weather?

Nothing performs better than the Monitor in heavy weather.  The stronger the wind blows, the more power the Monitor develops and heavy weather features like positive yaw dampening keep the boat on course and safely in control.  In addition, the Monitor steers using the ships rudder, so you are assured that the rudder steering the boat is up to the task.


Why does Scanmar reference the BOC and Around Alone races? How is this relevant to me?

We mention the BOC/Around Alone events often in our literature because they have been the ultimate testing ground for boats, equipment and people. More than 40 changes and improvements have resulted from our experience and today's Monitor is a significant improvement over earlier models. Additional information on the Monitor’s history with the BOC/Around Alone races is available in our library.

How does the Monitor attach to the boat?

The Monitor is attached to the transom with a mounting system made of 316 stainless steel and is specific to each boat. 


I have a swim platform, can I offset the Monitor?

While the idea of an offset mount is appealing to some because of their boarding ladder or open transom, we strongly advise that a windvane - any windvane, from any manufacturer - be installed on boat centerline. When heeled over on a reach or upwind with off center mounting, the paddle would be too deep on one tack and potentially entirely out of the water on the other, which could be disastrous.

Instead of offsetting, we recommend using our SwingGate mount for your Monitor, which allows you to open the transom “gate” to take full advantage of your swim platform without having to favor one tack over the other. 

Regardless of the offset question, the crew of a cruising boat needs to be able to board from mid-ships.  You can’t assume that sea state will permit crew recovery from the transom. If it was rough enough to have a man overboard it’s likely going to be too rough to come up the transom. We strongly recommend the use of a mid-ships boarding ladder like those manufactured by Mystic Stainless and sold be Scanmar.

Can I connect an autopilot to the Monitor?

Yes, we have had many customers connect a simple tiler pilot to the Monitor. Pelagic autopilot (a Scanmar company) offers an off-the-shelf system for the Monitor windvane. It's very power efficient, drawing less than 1 amp per hour when in use.

Can I use the Monitor and my autopilot at the same time?

No, this would defeat one of the primary drivers behind getting a windvane in the first place; to avoid the use of and reliance on an autopilot. The Monitor's servo pendulum system generates a great amount of power to steer using the boat's own rudder in any conditions.  Note that at least one manufacturer of an auxiliary rudder system recommends engaging your autopilot in conjunction with their windvane in heavy conditions.  We can’t think of a better example of the performance difference between these two selfsteering principles.


My boat has a wheel and already has a wheel pilot installed. Can I still fit the Monitor wheel adapter?

The Monitor wheel adaptor is all stainless steel, and fits on either side of the wheel. On most wheel steered boats there is enough room to mount the wheel adaptor between the wheel and the pedestal. There the adaptor is nicely out of the way, but if there is already a cockpit mounted autopilot in this location the Monitor adaptor can be mounted on the opposite side of the wheel. The adaptor has a user-friendly clutch allows for instant disengagement of the Monitor. The wheel adapter's locking pin provides positive non-slip engagement.

Can I install the Monitor on a catamaran?

Cruising catamarans, even fast ones, are prime candidates for using windvanes. They have the additional advantage of greater leeway in how a windvane can be mounted.  Since a catamaran doesn’t heel or yaw like a mono hull, the general rule against mounting a windvane off boat centerline can be ignored and the windvane can be mounted on either ama. This frees the other ama for access, and the middle portion of the bridge deck can have davits for dinghy storage.

What’s included in the price of a Monitor?

The price of a Monitor includes a fixed mounting system, wheel or tiller adapter, two airvanes (light and heavy air), a spare safety tube, operating lines, and a three-year warranty. Available options are an LED stern light and a Cruising Parts Kit.


Can I install it myself?

Yes. Approximately 90% of Monitors are installed by their owners.  No need to call the boat yard or haul the boat.  With the supplied mounting diagram and owner’s manual, installation time is typically less than a day.  We recommend that a Monitor be installed while a boat is in the water - the unit can be adjusted to get the correct mounting height in relation to a loaded waterline. It's far easier to back the boat into a slip and work off the dock instead of from scaffolding.


Can the Monitor be removed?

Yes, in a typical installation, the Monitor can be detached from the boat by removing 4 bolts. This leaves only 4 mounting brackets on the transom. 


How much does the Monitor weigh?

The Monitor weighs 52 lbs. incrementally the typical mounting systems adds a few more.


What about routine maintenance?

The Monitor only requires a thorough flushing with fresh water when you reach port. Do not use any lubricants or sprays as they will attract contaminants creating the potential for friction.

Do I need a spare parts kit?

Not really, we have many examples of Monitors making complete circumnavigations without the owner touching the spare parts kit. However, preparation can turn a major difficulty into a minor one. There is an extensive maintenance, troubleshooting and repair section in the Monitor manual just in case a problem should arise. Together with the manual, the spare parts kit and regular hand tools a sailor can completely disassemble and reassemble the Monitor. The spares kit contains replacements for parts that may show wear after extensive use, and many small, hard-to-find replacement parts - bearings, bushings, spring clips, etc.


Do Monitors come in varied sizes?

The Monitor is a "one-size-fits-all" unit that has been installed on everything from a Flicka 20's up to Sundeer 64's. The mounting system and safety tube length for each boat model is designed by Scanmar and supplied as part of the standard price for a Monitor


If I buy a new boat, can I move the Monitor over?

Moving a Monitor to another boat is easy. We have drawings for thousands of boats and can supply new mounting tubes using data in our files. We also offer free mounting design services for original Monitor purchasers when they decide to 'trade up' to a boat for which we do not have drawings.


How big a boat can the Monitor steer?

We have many installations in excess of 60’ but it’s really not about the size of the boat but rather the steering characteristics of the vessel. Because the Monitor steers with the boats own rudder, its limitations are based on the boats steering system - how much wheel movement is needed to steer the boat - and the physical size of the transom.  The other factor is whether a Monitor can be mounted on the transom and still reach the water when the airvane is high enough to catch air.

Note:  An auxiliary-rudder selfsteering system has installation limits based on its rudder size.

My boat has hydraulic steering. Can I use the Monitor?

Yes, if an emergency steering fitting is available on deck (not below under the bunk in an aft-cabin boat!). A tiller is rigged to the emergency steering fitting, facing any convenient direction - forward, aft, or even sideways, if the blocks for the operating lines can be installed. A bypass valve should be installed to eliminate back pressure in the steering system, and a remote push-pull operating cable for the valve run up to a convenient place in the cockpit. With the valve opened and the operating lines engaged on the tiller, the Monitor will operate the same as with any tiller-fitted boat.

My boat has worm-gear steering, and I've been told that a servo pendulum system won't work. Is this true?

No - there are many working Monitors out there on boats with worm gear steering. There are two reasons why it's stated that servo pendulum windvanes won't work with worm gear steering:

A. The steering is too stiff. True, any servo-pendulum steering system is going to have a hard time working a stiff wheel, but so will the helmsman. Worm gear systems are prone to binding and excessive back pressure when they are not properly adjusted and often are not properly lubricated. Check the bearings and/or bushings in your steering system and keep it properly greased.  The helmsman should not have to fight the wheel and neither should your windvane.

B. The wheel has too many turns lock-to-lock. Many worm-gear steering setups give the wheel six to eight turns’ lock-to-lock. This embeds the assumption that a Monitor and wheel adapter, that turns the wheel only about 1/2 turn each way off dead center, will not be able to steer. The question, though, is "how much wheel do you normally use to steer with?". If, when under way, you use only 1/4 to 1/2 turn each way to control the boat, the extra movement is superfluous. You may use that much movement when docking or maneuvering in harbor, but you won't be using it when under way. Too much wheel often causes the rudder to act like a brake - the boat doesn't turn easily; it just slows down - with a lot of strain on the steering gear. If you normally need more than 1/2 turn of the wheel either way off-center to steer with, you can rig a reverse-purchase system to the operating lines.

Tell me about Scanmar’s customer service – What can I expect after I buy a Monitor?

We’re cruisers and know the importance of being able to reach someone with a question or a needed part. Our office is open 9AM to 5PM Pacific Coast Time, Monday through Friday and we’re constantly checking our email.



bottom of page