The Kestrel 1000 handheld wind meter is an inexpensive wind measurement device effective for many cruising sailors who don't need an expensive masthead wind meter. While it is possible to read the wind by observing telltales and other environmental clues, a handheld meter is much more precise and useful for adjusting sails and determining changes in wind strength that may necessitate reefing the main or furling in the jib.
Note that the photo above shows a slightly older Kestrel 1000 model that looks a little different from the 1000 sold now but has the same functionality.
To use the Kestrel, simply hold the meter up into the wind and turn it on. Other buttons cycle through the basic functions.
- Present wind speed moment to moment
- Average wind speed for the period the meter was turned on
- Maximum wind speed during the period the meter was turned on
- Runs a long, long time on a single common watch battery
- Waterproof, floats
- Slip-on cover case and lanyard
- Accurate for wind speeds to a tenth of a knot
I have used the Kestrel 1000 on my sailboats and others for several years and find it accurate and durable. I keep it in a pocket in the cockpit or, when circumstances warrant, hung around my neck on its long lanyard.
While the wind measured at deck level may be somewhat less than at mast height, the difference is unimportant in most circumstances. I've also found that the little impeller in the unit spins fairly consistently at various angles close to the wind, so you don't get false readings if you fail to hold it pointing directly at the wind. It is important, however, to use it on the windward side of the boat because the wind flowing off the sails is not a true representation of the actual wind.
Remember too that any simple wind instrument determines apparent rather than true wind. If you are on a downwind run, for example, the measured wind will be the true wind speed minus the boat's speed; when close-hauled into the wind, the measured wind will be the true wind speed plus up to 3/4 of the boat's speed. Note that mounted wind instruments that also measure wind direction and that are wired into a system including measurements of boat speed and direction can do the math internally to also display true wind speed and direction, which is not directly possible with a handheld unit. But since this math is fairly simple, that feature alone doesn't really justify the higher cost of such instruments for most sailors.
Uses of a Wind Meter
- Check the wind at your dock or mooring before heading out, when it is much easier to reef or select sail configuration.
- Monitor the wind periodically to detect gradual increases or decreases in order to make sail changes before they become more difficult once underway.
- Discover wind strength when sailing downwind (when many sailors are fooled by lighter-seeming winds) before changing course into the wind and discovering how hard it's actually blowing).
- Learn more about how different sail adjustments are more efficient at different wind speeds.
Other Kestrel Wind Meter Models
As of this writing, Kestrel produces 12 different models, from the model 1000 at about $75 up through the model 4500, retailing for about $600. All models show current wind speed, average, and maximum speed. Following are key additional features (in general order of increasing cost):
- Air temperature
- Wind chill factor
- Backlit display
- Barometric pressure, pressure trending
- Relative altitude
- Relative humidity
- Heat stress index
- Dewpoint temperature
- Data storage
- Computer interface
- Bluetooth connectivity
- And additional features
At the high end, the Kestrel meter is actually a personal, portable weather station. To select the advanced features you may want, check the Kestrel website.