Thursday, December 02, 2010

Why 2+2=$3500 or more... Some thoughts on self-steering gear

We all know prices on boat stuff are more akin to rape and pillage than something based on simple profit and user demand but in this current economy a lot of pricing is just nuts.

I've been working on a newish design based on appropriate tech for a self-steering gear to get around a few problems I've seen that DIY builders of self-steering gears seem to run into. In doing so, I've been keeping a serious eye to costs of materials and labor that goes into it. What I've found is that it's really hard to make a home built self-steering gear cost a lot unless you are doing something seriously wrong... Windvane self-steering systems being such simple systems and all.

Back when I designed mountaineering gear, one of the first things I learned was that building something in bulk and taking advantages of the economics of scale made things CHEAPER than building something one-off because it allowed you to cut the amount of labor and get the materials a lot cheaper. So, with this in mind, a production self-steering gear should cost less than a one-off project...

What we find instead is that the pricing on self-steering gears is way more than if you were to do a one-off... Sort of the reverse of how economics actually work. Which is not to say that the various builders of commercial self-steering gears are necessarily ripping you off, as they could simply be somewhat inept in their business practices or design and passing off their incompetence in silly high prices.

Whatever the situation there is something seriously wrong when you can build a proper take you anywhere servo-pendulum windvane for a couple of hundred dollars while the current flavor-of-the-month windvane starts around $3500...

Might want to give that some thought before you buy a new, rather than used windvane.