From the desk of Hans Bernwall, Scanmar International:

I just came back from vacation in Sweden when the August issue of 'Latitude 38' landed on my desk and I read the story about the amazing rescue of skipper Derk Wolmuth and his boat Bela Bartok in the Single-handed Transpac. I have worked with Transpac sailors since the race was started many years ago. The story was fascinating for Scanmar since we manufacture the Monitor windvane, which steered the “ghost “boat 450 NM without a skipper on board. I believe that this was a first in windvane self-steering history but when I started to look into the matter the story got even better.

I called Derk who answered from his boat in Hawaii. He was back in good health and filled me in on some of the details. Derk mentioned that he believed that the containership captain, Thomas Crawford, also had a small sailboat and it was equipped with the same self-steering device, a Monitor windvane.

We checked our records and found out that Captain Thomas Crawford of Lopez Island in Washington State had purchased a unit for his 31 ft Mariah at the 1994 Seattle Boat show. Quite a coincidence - the captain of an 860-foot containership is also an accomplished small boat sailor, and he's involved in saving a stricken single-handed skipper with a similar boat.

I called Captain Thomas Crawford, the captain of the containership Mokihana, and he was kind enough to write the following letter which he has given permission to publish in its entirety.

"It was nice talking to you and you are so correct about good news as opposed to bad. The below is a copy of the report I sent to the MOKIHANA’s owner and operator Matson Navigation Company after much prodding from them. I try to fly under the radar as much as possible but sometimes that does not always work out."
"In the rescue response the paramount goal was to save Derk.
"Once he mentioned that Bela had a MONITOR, my second goal was to try and get her to the islands. Murphy was someplace else, thankfully. When I asked Derk over the VHF if he wanted to save his boat he probably thought I was nuts as his problem was staying alive. When he answered in the affirmative, I gave him a laundry list of tasks to complete prior to pickup and had him secure his trim for a SWxW reach and adjust his MONITOR to maintain it and avoid using the engine unless he wanted to bail out of the deal. Once he had that and the remainder of the list squared away the long and tedious task of keeping MOKIHANA on a parallel course and slow enough to claw up alongside Bela, started. It felt like hours of engine orders and helm orders from my perspective as MOKIHANA is a rather odd duck with regards to windage (hermaphrodite rig describes her well) and needs copious amounts of water past the rudder to counter the wind effect and to keep from getting weather cocked or in irons. The minimum engine speed is 7 knots so clawing too fast just complicates things.
"When Bela entered MOKIHANA’s wind shadow, Bela was like a cork. Derk kept his cool when many people might have panicked. If he had tinkered with the vane or helm adjustment and trim during the period that MOKIHANA was on near approach and blocking the wind I don’t think Bela would be in Honolulu today. That was the critical part of the salvage, planning for the post rescue passage. The bow thruster wash was used to capture Bela, keep her from moving away from the hull and for washing her aft as the crew passed and hauled on gantlines secured to her bow and stern. Somehow, that worked. During the rescue transfer the wind had carried MOKIHANA with Bela alongside to an easterly heading. After Derk was aboard it was necessary to get Bela headed for Hawaii. Gantline hauling, engine, helm and bow thruster were used to get her headed in the right direction again.
"When Bela was cast off I had her heading 235 degrees T and gathering speed with the MONITOR vane working like nothing ever happened. The radar plot had her up to 3 knots by the time contact was lost.
"The dead reckoned transit expected was for Bela to make the islands someplace between west Maui and Kauai based on currents, prevailing and forecast winds sometime Thursday the 19th. When the word came that she was recovered north of Maui the morning of the 19th, high fives were numerous. Derk had walked down the gangway in Oakland the night before under his own steam. So, both goals were accomplished. Derk was alive and mending and his home was safe in Oahu. Many people working towards a number of goals made for an amazing outcome. Not a Mars landing but not that far removed for a bunch of people unknown to each other and with no planning or rehearsal.
"I read in an online report sent to me that numerous lines were found adrift on Bela and her prop was fouled when she was recovered. At least two, the largest two, were the gantlines MOKIHANA used to bring Bela alongside for Derk’s transfer and the point of sail positioning for the subsequent attempt to get her to Hawaii. They were cut as short as possible when Bela was cast off on her solo-solo passage to Maui. I was worried they might foul the Monitor oar on the transit and felt sure the prop would be fouled by the headline gantline regardless. As it turned out, the prop was fouled and that might have prevented the oar from being fouled by coincidence. Murphy was someplace else, again.
"My compliments on the MONITOR. It is a very cleverly designed and superbly seaworthy piece of equipment. If I did not have one I would buy one. A cruiser without a MONITOR is like a sailor without a knife, etc
"Tom Crawford
"The following was added in a memo to the owners of the container ship:
"Derk Wolmuth is a very lucky man by all indications. Good weather ceased 12 hours after his pickup; he had the good sense to call for help in time. He received excellent attention from the MOKIHANA’s medical officer Todd Campbell. He was lucky enough to encounter the MOKIHANA and her superb and thoughtful crew. The icing on the cake was the recovery of his sail vessel and home, the Bela Bartok, on the morning of July 19th still on a course of 235 T at 3.7 knots approximately 15 miles north of Maui by a salvage team put together by the Transpac contenders. He has good friends. He has physically recovered from his illness as of this writing and is back aboard the Bela Bartok in Ke’ehi Harbor on Sand Island and happy to be alive.
"The potential for such a rescue to go wrong is always there. The training, experience, teamwork and seamanship of the crew of the MOKIHANA reduced that potential to near zero.

Comment from the MONITOR side.
This is a fantastic sea story and an amazing example of coincidence, luck, skill and seamanship and in a world full of negative news this feel good story deserves to be told in detail, in my opinion. I personally would like to find a way to way to nominate Captain Tom Crawford and his crew for the SEAMANSHIP OF THE DECADE AWARD if there is such a thing. I have a feeling that quite a few Masters of large containerships could have lost both boat and skipper in their effort to do this rescue operation. The Matson line should be proud of having such a Master on one of their ships.
Hans Bernwall
President/owner and circumnavigator 1970 – 76 BGPS (before GPS)
Point Richmond, CA.


Matt Rutherford is one of our many impressive Monitor customers. A few years ago Matt bought a Monitor and sailed single-handed from the US East Coast across the Atlantic and down to Gambia in West Africa and back to the USA. His boat was a Pearson 323.

We met him in Annapolis, Maryland at the boat show in October 2010. He told us that he was now planning to circumnavigate the Americas, North and South, single-handed! His “new” boat was an ALBIN VEGA 27, which was a 40 year old fiberglass boat designed to sail in the Swedish archipelago. His MONITOR was taken off his Pearson and mounted on the Vega and in June 2011 Matt left Annapolis. He successfully went through the Northwest Passage and sailed into the record books to become the smallest boat to sail through the Northwest Passage, single-handed. He was never off the boat but had two emergency deliveries of manual water makers delivered by fishing boats at sea, one off New Foundland and one off the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

Matt then sailed south and early January 2012 he rounded Cape Horn. He is now sailing towards his starting point, Annapolis, Maryland. He has not been off the boat since the start in June 2011. If you want to read about his fantastic sailing adventure we suggest that you go to his blog After rounding Cape Horn Matt wrote:…”my Monitor is still steering like a champ. All in all I’ve put 40,000 miles on that windvane over various trips (I love my windvane).
His voyage is a fundraiser for Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (CRAB), a non-profit organization promoting sailing for people with disabilities. Join Matt's challenge to raise money for CRB - go to

Eric Loss - another solo circumnavigator heard from

Eric Loss finished his solo circumnavigation in July of 22. He's published an article "The Mental Ramifications of Sailing a Small Boat Alone around the World" in the Bowdoin Daily Sun. It's available here

How much does cruising REALLY cost?

Far too often we've heard from sailors who have been planning their cruise - and planning and planning - as they've tried to accumulate all the newest, biggest and best mechanical and electronic equipment they need, or think they need, before finally leaving. Some have even given up their dreams because the cost was just too daunting. A basic fact seems to have been forgotten - folks have been going to sea safely and enjoyably for generations before the arrival of electronic everything. You really don't need a bigger engine to power a generator to run an autopilot, a freezer, a sewing machine, and whatever else we're bombarded with in the latest ads in "sailing" magazines. David and Jaja Martin have written an excellent article in the November/December 2005 issue of "Good Old Boat" that describes the planning and decisions that permitted then to take their entire family cruising at a far lower cost than most people would believe possible - at little sacrifice of comfort, and none of safety. With their kind permission, and with the permission of Karen Larson of "Good Old Boat", you can download the PDF article "Setting Priorities" here.
Additional photos of the Martin family and their boats can be found on the Cal 25 and Chatham 33 pages.

"Electric Fever" - Jerry Hickson
(We had this listed as "To Sea In A High-Tech Boat - anonymous" for years, until Jerry contacted us in May of 2009 - thanks!)

I must go down to the sea again, in a modern high-tech boat,
And all I ask is electric, for comfort while afloat,
And alternators, and solar panels, and generators going,
And deep cycle batteries with many amperes flowing.

I must go down to the sea again, to the autopilot's ways,
And all I ask is a GPS, and a radar, and displays,
And a cell phone, and a weatherfax, and a shortwave radio,
And compact disks, computer games and TV videos.

I must go down to the sea again, with a freezer full of steaks,
And all I ask is a microwave, and a blender for milkshakes,
And a watermaker, air-conditioner, hot water in the sink,
And e-mail and a VHF to see what my buddies think.

I must go down to the sea again, with power-furling sails,
And chart displays of all the seas, and a bullhorn for loud hails,
And motors pulling anchor chains, and push-button sheets,
And programs which take full charge of tacking during beats.

I must go down to the sea again, and not leave friends behind,
And so they never get seasick we'll use the web online,
And all I ask is an Internet with satellites over me,
And beaming all the data up, my friends sail virtually.

I must go down to the sea again, record the humpback whales,
Compute until I decipher their language and their tales,
And learn to sing in harmony, converse beneath the waves,
And befriend the gentle giants as my synthesizer plays.

I must go down to the sea again, with RAM in gigabytes,
and teraflops of processing for hobbies that I like,
And software suiting all my wants, seated at my console
And pushing on the buttons which give me complete control.

I must go down to the sea again, my concept seems quite sound,
But when I simulate this boat, some problems I have found.
The cost is astronomical, repairs will never stop,
Instead of going sailing, I'll be shackled to the dock.

I must go down to the sea again, how can I get away?
Must I be locked in low-tech boats until my dying day?
Is there no cure for my complaint, no technologic fix?
Oh, I fear this electric fever is a habit I can't kick.

New 2006 Windvane Selfsteering DVD Available

We've updated our windvane DVD - if you'd like a FREE copy, use the "Contact Us" tab above, tell us what boat you have, and request the DVD. We'll mail it to you, and we'll include any mounting drawings and photos of your boat that we have on file.

Monitor compared to Electric Autopilot by Solo-Sailing Legend Tony Gooch

Tony Gooch, who completed his non-stop circumnavigation in 2003, wrote an article in the January 2004 issue of Cruising World in which he compared the efficiency of mechanical windvane and electronic coursekeeping systems. Read his surprising results here, and look up pictures of "Taonui" in our Boats & Photos section. The article is in PDF format. Download the article.

Return to the Sea

Webb Chiles' new book describes his fourth circumnavigation - Boston, Portugal, Senegal, Brazil, Cape Town, Sydney and onward....
Some Exerpts:
From the Acknowledgements - "Hans Bernwall and the people at Scanmar Marine continue to provide personal service and support for their Monitor selfsteering gear unusual in our consolidated times."
Page 181 - THE HAWKE OF TUONELA was making six to seven knots under bare poles - and it can be stated categorically that if you can do seven knots under bare poles, you should be under bare poles - the Monitor steering."
Page 185 - "Partially blocked in the troughs, on the crests of the waves the wind, which on the last recording had been 59 knots, staggered me. I pulled myself aft to examine the Monitor, which is the most important piece of equipment on the boat. It seemed undamaged, the control lines unchaffed. Turning forward I checked the deck and rig. Nothing unusual."

Lessons from the ARC

In the April 2004 issue of 'Blue Water Sailing' author Greg Jones discusses windvanes in his article "Lessons fron the ARC", about the 2003 Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. After writing about the growing prevalence of generators and electronic systems on board current cruisers, he states "With the availability of ample power supplies there were more boats using autopilots than windvanes, at roughly a 4:1 ratio, but the windvane proponents were vocal in praise of their units, for the most part. As might be expected, the Monitor was the most common since there are simply more of them out there. Part of the affection people felt for their windvane was their pride in making it work right. "Once you get into it, it's easy," said one sailor of his windvane, and "That's our friend," were typical comments. Some, with both a windvane and an autopilot, used the windvanes until the apparent wind slacked: "Below two and a half knots of boat speed we went to the Autohelm system" [Note: "Autohelm" is an electric tillerpilot, "Auto-helm" is our auxiliary rudder windvane selfsteering system] said another windvane sailor.

The caption on an accompanying photo reads "Only 25 percent of the ARC fleet used windvanes and of those Monitors were the most common".

In the March 2004 issue of "Blue Water Sailing", author Ellen Mandeville describes her and her husband Mark's 23-day passage from Mexico to the Marquesas in "Gear To Make You Grin".

Here, with "Blue Water"s permission, is the text of the section about their Monitor windvane:

"Hurray, Helmsley. You're the best helmsman here," we cheered and clapped during our daily display of appreciation.
I cannot imagine an overnight let alone an ocean passage without our Monitor windvane, which we have affectionately named Helmsley. With only two people on board the off-watch person is generally asleep. The on-watch person needs to be able to make sail changes, download weatherfaxes, watch for squalls and ships, keep the boat on course, throw out a fishing line, make a cup of tea, listen to a favorite CD, sing with the dolphins and lear the mythology of constellations.
The on-watch person is definitely too busy to steer the boat.
Helmsley steers more consistently than we do without getting tired, grumpy or hungry. Thus, we almost never steer "Mandolin", even on daysails. If there was enough wind to sail, there was enough wind for Helmsley to steer, no matter what point of sail we were on. The harder the wind blew, the better Helmsley worked and kept working, day after day. He also doesn't use any battery power. We have had two electronic tiller pilots fail in normal operating conditions - calm wind, flat seas, little spray - even though they were rated for larger and heavier boats than "Mandolin". We don't really trust our autopilot but do use it when there is not enough wind for Helmsley to steer.