Cruisers Forum
 


Join CruisersForum Today

Reply
 
Thread Tools Rate Thread Display Modes
Old 01-08-2009, 11:03   #1
Registered User

Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 6
Autopilot: How Important?

Just got the bad news from the marine electronics tech that my old Autohelm 5000 is shot. He quoted me a ball-park replacement with a new one at around $6500. Ouch! (I have a 41 foot, 22k displacement ketch, so I guess it needs to be an internal/linear style drive). That amount of money would kill my emergency cruising kitty, and possibly delay my departure (back to work? yuck!).

The plan is to go south from San Diego soon. First to Cabo (via the Baja Haha), then eventually on to Panama, east through the canal, and then ??? Anyway, if I always have at least 1 crew member, am not on a time schedule and can thus anchor/moor/dock as often as possible, and, at least for the leg south have the wind behind me, how important is it for us to have an autopilot anyway?

PS: I'll have in place most of the other navigational gadgets; radar, gps, ssb, vhf, etc.
__________________

__________________
Jim Wilson is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 11:27   #2
Registered User

Join Date: Apr 2008
Location: Manchester Washington
Boat: Irwin- Barefoot 37CC (Custom MK V) "Quest"
Posts: 159
I consider an autopilot one of the most if not the most important things to have on a cruising boat, but I cruise with my wife, and the autopilot makes it happen. But if it were me I would look for a used replacement unit that could be installed for a lot less. That cost amount would shock me too.

Joe S
__________________

__________________
svquest2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 11:39   #3
Moderator
 
Dockhead's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Cowes (Winter), Baltic (Summer) (the boat!); somewhere in the air (me!)
Boat: Cutter-Rigged Moody 54
Posts: 19,764
On a long passage you will often not have any place to "anchor/moor/dock". Hand steering for days on end sucks completely and totally, even if you have a few crewmembers. It's actually dangerous, because the helmsman is tied to the wheel and can't do anything else. I think you'd be crazy to go on a long trip like that without some kind of self steering device.
__________________
Dockhead is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 11:40   #4
Eternal Member
 
imagine2frolic's Avatar

Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Las Brisas Panama AGAIN!
Boat: Simpson, Catamaran, 46ft. IMAGINE
Posts: 4,508
Images: 123
You will regret it immensley if you don't have one. Why not get a windvane for less than half? There are other options......i2f
__________________
SAILING is not always a slick magazine cover!
BORROWED..No single one of is as smart as all of us!
http://sailingwithcancer.blogspot.com/
imagine2frolic is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 11:48   #5
Senior Cruiser
 
Cheechako's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Skagit City, WA
Posts: 19,371
very important...
__________________
Cheechako is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 11:56   #6
Registered User

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Lakeland, FL
Posts: 1,296
I agree. Even a few hours of manually steering a sailboat completely changes the experience and can be mentally exhausting even in benign conditions. Sometimes when conditions are just right and the boat is well balanced, it will more or less hold course on its own or with little intervention. But, how often does that happen?
__________________
"There's nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats."

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows (River Rat to Mole)
slomotion is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 11:59   #7
Registered User

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Boyne City, Michigan
Boat: Camper Nicholson 35
Posts: 5
Jim,
As you state:
1. Not on a sked
2. Always have at least 1 crew mwmber
3. Can anchor as often as possible
4. Leg south has the wind aft.

All these things are wonderful, BUT crew members get sea sick, have illnesses along with many things YOU have no control over. Hand steering is awful when offshore. You have no refrence, it's boring and it ties one person down. With an auto pilot you can enjoy time with crew, get more rest, especially in an emergency. Bad stuff happens no matter how well you plan. Get an auto pilot. The idea of a wind vane is great. They use no power amd cost considerably less than the electronic ones. An auto pilot is like having another crew mwmber along. My advise! Bite the bullet and purchase an auto pilot. We had one during the 7 years we sailed full time. It was wonderful. My wife only steered 3 hors during her Atlantic crossing.

Jack KB8RJ
s/v Iona
Camper Nicholson 35
__________________
iona350 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 12:03   #8
CF Adviser
Moderator Emeritus
 
Hud3's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Virginia
Boat: Island Packet 380, now sold
Posts: 8,929
Images: 49
I'm in the minority, because I prefer to steer the boat by hand when sailing, even on long offshore passages. Why let the autopilot have all the fun?

But I agree with the previous posters, if you can find a way to afford it, it's an extremely handy piece of equipment for a cruiser.
__________________
Hud
Hud3 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 12:05   #9
Moderator Emeritus
 
David M's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: San Francisco Bay
Boat: research vessel
Posts: 10,153
As far as keeping crew fatigue to a minimum...very important. A fatigued crew is a more dangerous crew. Its especially true the fewer people the number of people you have onboard.
__________________
David

Life begins where land ends.
David M is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 12:11   #10
Moderator Emeritus
 
Pblais's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Hayes, VA
Boat: Gozzard 36
Posts: 8,700
Images: 15
Send a message via Skype™ to Pblais
Well. I'm spending a fair amount to replace a course computer. It's important. Very would be the word. It steers longer then you could every hope to steer in conditions you may not steer as well. If it can't do that then it's not a real autopilot. Many of the wheel pilots installed on large boats are just a toy for fair weather not an auto pilot.

The $6,500 sounds close with installation. Installation has details that have to be exactly right. Done well it might take several days to run all the wires and get the install just right and calibrated. All boats are a little different. Experience matters and being factory authorized would be not nearly enough of a reference. You can be authorized and screw it up. Moving up to the bigger version would cost the same for installation. At 18,500 displacement we use an ST7000 and it takes a serious beating.
__________________
Paul Blais
s/v Bright Eyes Gozzard 36
37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
Pblais is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 12:15   #11
Registered User
 
Rising Star's Avatar

Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: aboard
Boat: Freedom 32
Posts: 65
My wife loves taking the helm and will do so several hours at a time, BUT, she won't go offshore without the autopilot!
__________________
Merrick
Diesel Free since '07
Rising Star is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 12:27   #12
Senior Cruiser
 
Talbot's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Brighton, UK
Boat: Privilege 37
Posts: 3,579
Images: 32
If your name is Slocum, and your boat is a Spray, then it is not necessary.

However, if you are a mere mortal like the rest of us, it is probably the most important piece of gear on board.
__________________
"Be wary of strong drink. It can make you shoot at tax collectors - and miss."
Robert A Heinlein
Talbot is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 18:35   #13
Senior Cruiser
 
roverhi's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Kona, Hawaii, Carlsbad, CA
Boat: 1969 Pearson 35 #108 & 1976 Sabre 28
Posts: 6,006
Send a message via Yahoo to roverhi
Hmmmm, my self steering vane hasn't asked for one electrical fix since I installed it. Buy a self steering vane and get a cheap autopilot to input course to the vane for those few times the Self Steering doesn't work.

Just out of curiosity, do you have a way to feed the autopilot other than running the engine??

Aloha
Peter O.
__________________
roverhi is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 20:34   #14
Moderator Emeritus
 
Pblais's Avatar

Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: Hayes, VA
Boat: Gozzard 36
Posts: 8,700
Images: 15
Send a message via Skype™ to Pblais
Quote:
Buy a self steering vane and get a cheap autopilot to input course to the vane for those few times the Self Steering doesn't work.
Wind vanes require one element an auto pilot doe not - a balanced helm with properly trimmed sails. Without properly trimmed sail a wind vane is not very good. When sails are trimmed the wind vane uses no electrical power. Thi is the sweet spot with wind vanes.
__________________
Paul Blais
s/v Bright Eyes Gozzard 36
37 15.7 N 76 28.9 W
Pblais is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 01-08-2009, 23:10   #15
Senior Cruiser
 
44'cruisingcat's Avatar

Cruisers Forum Supporter

Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 7,459
Images: 69
Do you really need to replace everything? Course computer, drive, fluxgate, control head - is it all really shot? Maybe you can just replace the bit or bits that really need replacing for a lot less.

Another option: http://www.coursemaster.com/

Very good quality pilots, widely used by the commercial side, and depending on the type of drive you need, you might get one for around 1/2 the price you've been quoted.
__________________

__________________
44'cruisingcat is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Tags
autohelm, autopilot, navigation, wind vane, Central America

Thread Tools
Display Modes Rate This Thread
Rate This Thread:

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off


Similar Threads
Thread Thread Starter Forum Replies Last Post
Important NOBELTEC Notice GordMay Marine Electronics 3 07-01-2008 13:00
How important is A/C for tropics Low Country Home Builder General Sailing Forum 31 05-06-2007 02:47
HOW IMPORTANT IS `HF' RADIO? Lloyd Price Marine Electronics 23 14-12-2006 01:08
Most Important Advancement to Sailing? GordMay General Sailing Forum 24 19-08-2005 06:06
Important Discovery ! GordMay Electrical: Batteries, Generators & Solar 3 30-06-2005 14:48



Copyright 2002- Social Knowledge, LLC All Rights Reserved.

All times are GMT -7. The time now is 10:29.


Google+
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Social Knowledge Networks
Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 1
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

ShowCase vBulletin Plugins by Drive Thru Online, Inc.