I’ve been reading a great book by Beth Leonard called “The Voyager’s Handbook” which is more or less a systems approach to outfitting and cruising and definitely a worthwhile read, even if you don’t ascribe to her philosophy. If nothing else she might confirm your bias against wayermakers and refridgeration and the like. She includes survey reports and charts delineating frequency of mechanical failure for various systems, allowing sailors to make more informed choices about roller furling, hot water heaters, and auto pilots. The later of which she spends quite a lot of text discussing the necessity of backup systems, suggesting carrying both a wind cane and auto pilot or two auto pilots with a backup electrical system.
At the risk of sounding like a Freshman linebacker criticizing the Varsity coach, I have to suggest an alternative. I know I’ve made a lot of decisions which place me on the fringe of sailing culture, but for those who may not be able to afford a wind vane or an auto pilot and much less both, I think sheet to tiller is at least worth a discussion, and I’ll offer three reasons:
1: it will only cost you $20
2: it will make you a better sailor (it forces you to learn how to balance your boat)
3: even if you don’t like it or use it much, it’s a backup system that weighs less than a pound and fits in a ziplock bag.
There’s no reason for magazines and chandleries to tell you about it because there’s no money in it for them, but you can save yourself a few thousand if you pick up a copy of John Letcher’s “self starring for sailing craft”. The library has it and there’s probably a copy collecting dust in the harbor laundry mat.