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Old 01-11-2006, 16:44   #1
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Autopilots and collisions

Several years ago a pleasure boat was run over in Horseshoe Bay near Vancouver when it did a sharp 90 degree turn in front of a BC ferrry. Several years later the exact same thing happened in Swartz Bay near victoria . Both incidents resuted in fatalities . Lately its been revealed that BC ferries have done sudden 360 degree turns without warning when their autopilots jammed.
This has happened to me several times . Its not uncommon for electronic auto pilots to have their buttons jam and for the boat's helm to be suddenly thrown hard over.. Its time the coastguard started to warn peole in their safe boating guide and in ads in boating magazines of the danger in using electronic auto pilots in close or potentially dangerous situations especially when near large ships. You could suddenly find yourself in front of large ships without warning.
Auto pilots should never be used near large ships or other dangers. They should only be used in clear waters, away from any dangers.
Brent
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Old 01-11-2006, 17:58   #2
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Especially as high power transmissions can cause that exact problem. Push the VHF to talk and the pilot takes a sharp turn. We had that exact incedent happen here a few years back, but in this incedent the guy went straight up on rocks.
I have a circuit breaker for JUST my pilot and in very easy reach. If anything should go heywire, then I can kill the feed in an instant.
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Old 02-11-2006, 06:13   #3
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A few years ago a buddy and I were taking a boat to Newport, going through the N.Y. State canal system. We were taking it real easy and on straight stretches in the canal we'd put it on autopilot. As a test we left it on auto when we went under a low steel bridge. Boat nearly went into an abutment when we went under the bridge! Luckily we were ready but it surprised us that steel twenty feet away could affect the fluxgate compass that much.
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Old 02-11-2006, 06:30   #4
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A tale of caution:

Back in the mid 90s I was crusing singlehanded in the Carib. I was in English Harbor and I decided to go down isalnd first stop Deshais, Guiadaloupe. The trip is about 50- 60 miles and I decided to leave early and make a day light landfall.

Everything went swimingly. I set a waypoint, the GPS gave me the heading and I set the autopilot to track on the highway in the water... straight and true. It was a reach and I was able to set the exact course to hit the waypoint 60 miles to the south.

Lovely sail and no one out here in the midfdle of the carib.. sun, warm breezes.. making 6-7 knots.. life couldn't be better. Noon arrives and I decide to do some serious cooking down in the galley. Down I go... and I start doing up a complex pasta sauce.

There is a small port light at the Galley and as I looked out across the waves a sailboat scresms past on a reciprocal heading. Holy Moses! A near miss 25 miles from Antigua, 25 miles from Guadaloupe.

I jump up into the cockpit and see the other vessel sailing under autopilot on a receiprocal course.. a reach and no one in the cockpit. Two offended he and me. So I take the binocs and scan aherad and astern.

A parade heading south a parade coming north.. all on the imaginary highway in the water. Presumable all autopilots aimed at the same waypoints and all potential collisions.

I see the same thing from Watch Hill to Block Island... boata on autopiliots following programmed waypoints on reciprocal courses.

WATCH OUT. MAINTAIN WATCH.. ALWAYS... especially in seal lanes. ALWAYS. Be aware of GPS driving your autopilot.

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Old 02-11-2006, 07:09   #5
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We were scheduled to be on a Jeanneau 51 charter vessel in Croatia. Two weeks before we left we get a call from the charter company that the boat we were to use was in an accident. We found out at the base the vessel was on autopilot around 2:00 PM and all on board were below having lunch and no lookout. Another boat was doing the same thing. No look outs on either boat; but because they were in open sea they figured it was OK. Obviously it wasn't. The Jeanneau (6 months old) had a hole almost 6 feet long from the bow anchor crashing through the hull.

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