I made a facebook comment a few days ago about rebuilding my Aries, and have had a few puzzled queries as a result. What’s an Aries?
Aries is a brand of servo-pendulum self-steering gear for yachts, developed and produced by Nick Franklin, Isle of Wight, based upon the basic design concieved by Herbert “Blondie” Hasler. While there are modern reproductions available, and many successive generations of copies and inspirations, my Aries is an original ’70’s MkII.
Getting the Aries up an running is pretty exciting for me! While service kits are supposedly available from Nick’s daughter in the UK, the time and expense to obtain them is probably greater than that of simply fabricating the neccessary parts myself. This is facilitated by the design of the Aries, sometimes regarded as “industrial” or even “agricultural” in appearance; everything is tough, simple, and easy to work on.
Self-steering is key. With a small crew (or none at all), it is very tiring to continually hand-steer. Electronic autopilots are subject to more possible breakdowns, and consume power, while a robust windvane is usually tougher than either the boat it is attached to, or the human hands it greatly aids.
The gear rates very highly on my list of core priorites: a sound hull, round rig/sails, the Aries, and life support systems (stove, heater, tanks, etc.). It’s really that important; when other systems begin to fail, having to continually hand-steer introduces so much further fatigue into the mix that is is there that things can really break down. It’s part of my whole ethos that the boat ought to be able to “look after itself” as much as possible.