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Old 20-09-2011, 08:20   #1
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Autopilot Options

I have a Hunter 31 (1983) that is relatively new to me. It has no autopilot.

I've already spent more than expected to on this boat -- I bought it in November and the salt water cooled engine went south in April (I have a new, 3 cyl 20 hp in it to replace the old 2 hp, 13 hp engine) ... That and installation, I just can't spend a lot more. Other things had to be done as well.

The wheel doesn't even have a brake.

Are there ANY economical options for me? For instance can an autopilot set up to my 441s? The old owner left the old gps that was used for the autopilot below, but we can't get it to work, and it's ... old.

I'd like to just be able to go below for a minute or so and know the wind or waves won't push the boat off course extremely. I've looked at rigging attachable clips on each side so the wheel could be lashed down momentarily. Am I nuts to be thinking this way? If I print any more funny money the government is gonna get suspicious ...
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Old 20-09-2011, 08:50   #2
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Re: Autopilot options

A tiller pilot should work for you unless you have hydraulic steering, if you have hds, you're screwed because it'll cost you $$$$.
If you can hook up a tiller pilot, youre only in it for $500.
What kind of pilot do you have now? You might be able to get it going for only a few bucks - if you're lucky!
I have a Monitor wind vane and a tiller pilot that operates the Monitor when there is no wind and it works great.
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Old 20-09-2011, 09:33   #3
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Re: Autopilot Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
I'd like to just be able to go below for a minute or so and know the wind or waves won't push the boat off course extremely. I've looked at rigging attachable clips on each side so the wheel could be lashed down momentarily. Am I nuts to be thinking this way?
No, you're not nuts. If you can get the sails balanced really well, then lashing down the wheel is a time honored method of self-steering. It was the only autopilot for centuries of sailing.

A wheel pilot should work reasonably well for a small amount of money, if you're willing to spend anything at all. Wheel pilots are relatively easy to install. See: Installing a Wheel Pilot

Because a wheel pilot acts through all of your steering cables, etc., it doesn't work nearly as well as a hydraulic ram attached directly to your steering quadrant. If you have one of these on board which doesn't work, it may be better to revive it, than to step down to a wheel pilot.
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Old 20-09-2011, 09:39   #4
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Re: Autopilot Options

rakuflames there is a wp30 simrad just listed in the for sale section right now would suit your boat
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Old 20-09-2011, 09:55   #5
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Re: Autopilot options

Quote:
Originally Posted by Geoduck View Post
A tiller pilot should work for you unless you have hydraulic steering, if you have hds, you're screwed because it'll cost you $$$$.
If you can hook up a tiller pilot, youre only in it for $500.
What kind of pilot do you have now? You might be able to get it going for only a few bucks - if you're lucky!
I have a Monitor wind vane and a tiller pilot that operates the Monitor when there is no wind and it works great.

i do not have hydraulic steering, but i do have a wheel.

how could I hook up a tiller pilot to a wheel? That would be fine for my purposes. I'm not going to circumnavigate the globe. I just want to be able to leave the wheel occasionally.
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Old 20-09-2011, 09:56   #6
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Re: Autopilot Options

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
No, you're not nuts. If you can get the sails balanced really well, then lashing down the wheel is a time honored method of self-steering. It was the only autopilot for centuries of sailing.

A wheel pilot should work reasonably well for a small amount of money, if you're willing to spend anything at all. Wheel pilots are relatively easy to install. See: Installing a Wheel Pilot

Because a wheel pilot acts through all of your steering cables, etc., it doesn't work nearly as well as a hydraulic ram attached directly to your steering quadrant. If you have one of these on board which doesn't work, it may be better to revive it, than to step down to a wheel pilot.

Oh there's nothing on this boat in this category at all right now -- not even a wheel brake. Thanks for the information.
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Old 20-09-2011, 10:18   #7
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Re: Autopilot Options

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
No, you're not nuts. If you can get the sails balanced really well, then lashing down the wheel is a time honored method of self-steering. It was the only autopilot for centuries of sailing.

A wheel pilot should work reasonably well for a small amount of money, if you're willing to spend anything at all. Wheel pilots are relatively easy to install. See: Installing a Wheel Pilot

Because a wheel pilot acts through all of your steering cables, etc., it doesn't work nearly as well as a hydraulic ram attached directly to your steering quadrant. If you have one of these on board which doesn't work, it may be better to revive it, than to step down to a wheel pilot.

Thanks, Dockhead, but this is the kind of expense I'm trying to avoid. There's an added expense too ... I read a "simple" explanation of how to install it, and it might as well have been written in a foreign language, so I would have the expense of installing it.

I just had to unexpectedly replace the engine and I can't handle any more four-digit bills.
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Old 20-09-2011, 10:25   #8
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Re: Autopilot Options

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Originally Posted by Rakuflames View Post
Thanks, Dockhead, but this is the kind of expense I'm trying to avoid. There's an added expense too ... I read a "simple" explanation of how to install it, and it might as well have been written in a foreign language, so I would have the expense of installing it.

I just had to unexpectedly replace the engine and I can't handle any more four-digit bills.
Then I would suggest you learn a new "foreign Language"

DIY is doable, and this list can certainly help with any question you might have. It's cheaper to do it right than to do it twice.
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Old 20-09-2011, 20:42   #9
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Re: Autopilot Options

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Then I would suggest you learn a new "foreign Language"

DIY is doable, and this list can certainly help with any question you might have. It's cheaper to do it right than to do it twice.

So -- it being a foreign language and all (I'm still trying to get conversant in "Diesel") --

I have NO auto steering system whatsoever of any kind on this boat.

The wheel does not have a brake on it. The steering system is all cables, no hydraulics.

There is a setup for an emergency tiller, but that tiller is EXTREMELY short -- MAYBE 1 foot. Frankly I hate to think how hard it would be to steer with that tiller in a storm.

I went below for 30 seconds and felt the boat lurch into a circle. It was scary. I need something.

Someone suggested that there might be a way to use a tiller tender. I'm curious about that because I've seen the price difference.

Realistically I do not have the skill to install an autopilot. I started sailing four years ago and until recently had a much simpler boat. I simply don't have the body of knowledge.

I may just stick with my original idea of lashing the wheel off when needed. Even if I have someone with me, that person could get sick or injured. Even with another person on board, I need a Plan B.

If anyone has suggestions given this set of circumstances I'm allllll ears.

Ready for one of those after reading up on how to put in an autopilot!
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Old 20-09-2011, 21:00   #10
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Re: Autopilot Options

Hi Raku, try a Raymarine X5 wheel pilot. Save your money, buy the pilot, and read the instructions carefully and install it. It may be difficult, NOT impossible, and you will learn some new skills. Cook someone dinner or something to help you through the parts you don't understand. Raymarine tech support can be slow to return calls but eventually they'll get to you. Sailing singlehanded without some means of steering the boat is not fun after a while.

Good luck-
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Old 20-09-2011, 21:19   #11
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Re: Autopilot Options

Installing a wheel pilot is a very simple job. 90% of it is just drilling holes, screwing things down and plugging the wires and parts together. Just don't mount the compass somewhere too close to electric lines or large steel objects that will throw it off.

Only part that might require any technical skill at all is connecting 12V power from the boats system to the pilot but even that is not too tricky and certainly you could find a helpful sailor around the docks to lend a hand.

BUT, it will cost some money. If budget does not allow for now then rig a way to lash the wheel. Just make sure that however you do this it can't jam and in an emergency you can grab the wheel and turn it without waiting to untie the lashing. Bungee cords and a couple of small eyes mounted on the side of the cockpit are one option.
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Old 20-09-2011, 22:31   #12
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Re: Autopilot Options

Was reading through the wheel pilot install instructions.
Wonder, is it enough to connect the fluxgate compass alone, or do you need to integrate other instrumentation (Seatalk/NMEA wind, water speed, GPS, etc) with the navigation computer for this system to keep you on a course?
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Old 20-09-2011, 22:59   #13
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Re: Autopilot Options

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Was reading through the wheel pilot install instructions.
Wonder, is it enough to connect the fluxgate compass alone, or do you need to integrate other instrumentation (Seatalk/NMEA wind, water speed, GPS, etc) with the navigation computer for this system to keep you on a course?
Compass is all you need. Set a compass course and the AP holds you on that course.

Wind sensor will allow you to set the AP to hold a course against a set wind angle. I would rather hold a compass course and adjust the sails as needed.
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Old 20-09-2011, 23:15   #14
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Re: Autopilot Options

Thanks Skip, I'm in similar position to Raku, i.e, wheel with no lock and also no working wind instrument at present.
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