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Old 13-03-2016, 15:23   #31
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Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 88
Re: Wheel de-clutch during autopilot operation?

If the idea is to keep arms and other appendages from getting caught in the spokes, why not just have a round piece of Sunbrella with a cord in it's hem?

This cover would be just a few inches larger in diameter so that when the cord is tightened and secured the cover would would go over the wheel rim and be held securely in place. The cord could be secured with those little spring loaded push button clip things like you find on the cord for a winter jacket hood.

By covering the entire wheel, there's not much chance of sticking an arm through the spokes. Of course, the cover turns freely with the wheel.

In one of those situations where you see a mermaid directly ahead of your boat and need to turn quickly, just disengage the autopilot and grab the wheel. If you have a leather wrap on your wheel, you should get enough traction to be able to turn the wheel with the cover on it.

When not in use, the cover will roll into a tiny package and be stored somewhere in the cockpit.

Seems like it would be better than a clutch, which deliberately creates a weak link in your steering system.

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Old 13-03-2016, 15:32   #32
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Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Vancouver Island BC
Boat: 41' Morgan Classic
Posts: 98
Re: Wheel de-clutch during autopilot operation?

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!

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autopilot, clutch, wheel

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