The AP on my boat is engaged and disengaged by a toggle switch that is at ankle level inside the cockpit
. Handy to turn on and off but can be accidently toggled by a stray foot. The first year I had the boat the AP was accidently engaged without my knowledge (probably by me) and I turned the wheel to change course, and on meeting some resistance gave the wheel a tug. Broke the tiller attached to the rudder
stock! No damage to the hydraulics or the steering cables
, pulleys etc. but I was pretty surprised as the tiller was bronze and seemed quite skookum.
No wonder serious damage can be done to body parts
, your concerns are very real.
My solution has been to educate all concerned but also I never leave the wheel unattended (I always sit right behind it, as is done while driving a car). If I leave the wheel I ensure whomever takes my place is made aware of whether the AP is on or off. I have also rectified the possibility of accidently engaging the AP.
On a lighter note I was leaving my overnight berth in Coal Harbour a few summers ago. I had taken the wheel off the evening before as we had a fair crowd in the cockpit. I jumped on board after pushing off and found to my surprise that the wheel was still tied to the lifelines!
A fair bit of scrambling ensued but I was able to safely exit the marina without damaging any of the megayachts. Haven't added checking to `ensure wheel in proper location` to my checklist but not a mistake I expect to repeat!