Let’s face it, if you are sailing, there is a critical piece of information you need to know.
How windy is it?
Many boats, mine included, have an onboard wind meter, or wind vane, that will give us this information. These are expensive though, from $500-$1000. Wouldn’t it be great if there was an affordable and easy alternative that could be used as a standalone or a backup to your main system?
There is – the Vaavud Wind Meter.
The Vaavud wind meter is a deceptively simple anemometer which slots into the head phone jack on your iPhone or Android. Magnets spin in the vane which are picked up by the phone and converted into wind data.
In 2013, Vaavud, a Danish company, funded by a micro-funder “kickstarter” system launched their windvane. I was able to get my hands on a couple of units to test, and it’s an outstanding bit of gear. All you have to do is download their (free) App, slot in the wind meter and starting measuring wind speed. In keeping with the gear review philosophy on Sailing With Kids, I handed (nervously) my phone over to our 11 year old Helmsman to test.
Peter was able to download the App in a few minutes. Slotting the wind vane into the jack, he then was quickly and easily able to collect data. The App itself follows Vaavud’s minimalistic approach and is easy to use. Pressing the units will change from mph to knots. A single button starts and stops the data collection.
While testing, one interesting thing we found was that the wind vane does not actually have to be in the iPhone to work. The magnetic signal has a range of perhaps a foot. One test we did was to attach the vane to the top of a car and have the iPhone on the inside. We were able to confirm a high level of calibration as we drove down a quiet road and matched the car speed to the iPhone App reading for wind speed.
The device excels at being able to get a wind speed reading quickly and easily. Its creators mainly had in mind applications such as windsurfing and kiteboarding. For sailors, two further refinements would be useful.
First is wind direction. It already seems to have been a feature request. Knowing wind speed and direction makes the data doubly useful. The second potential improvment is true vs apparent wind speed. Once we know the direction, it should be “relatively” easy to leverage the iPhone internal GPS to get a reading of apparent wind speed.
Even without these features, at just $50, a price comparable to other hand held anemometers, the Vaavud Wind Meter is a compelling buy for the sailor who has no wind vane on his boat. It’s definitely worth consideration as a backup to a main marine wind vane. One huge appeal is the fact that it is built for smartphones. Unlike a stand alone handheld device, Vaavud will be able to leverage more of the smartphone’s intrinsic technology for new features.
Now if we could just increase the range, you could stick one on your cabin roof with Sugru and measure the wind speed from your nav station!