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Old 21-08-2006, 09:25   #1
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Auto Pilot: Looking for input

This past weekend, we had one heck of a blow come through while heading back home. The admiral had to steer while I trimmed the sails. We were close hauled and the paddle wheel was saying 6.2 and SOG was 8.5! (27' Hunter) At that point I realized we should reef. It was a fantastic time, but what does that have to do with autopilot? Well the admiral hates to stand at an angle and is too short to brace her feet on the other side.

She has approved me researching the potential purchase of an autopilot.

So here are the needs as I see them.
1. Cheep
2. Only needs to hold a course, not necessary to do routes.
3. Cheep
4. Must fit a Lewmar pedestal
5. oh by the way did I mention cheep?

Is there other things I should look for? Avoid?

Thanks in advance for the input!
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Old 21-08-2006, 10:40   #2
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CHEEP!!!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Did I mention HAHAHAHAHAH!!!!
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Old 21-08-2006, 10:51   #3
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I don't know how much constitutes cheep (cheap?).
Your profile doesn't mention where you are located, but if in the U.S. check out Sailorman in Ft.Lauderdale. http://www.sailorman.com/newsailor/base/index.php
They may have a functional used unit.

Check eBay. I occasionally get a good deal there.

You can always fabricate a bracket on your pedestal to mount instruments.

George
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Old 21-08-2006, 11:18   #4
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There are basically two types of autopilot. The toys that work fine for a short passage and those that are designed for 24/7 operation.

In addition some of the modern autopilots can also be fitted with rate gyros which make a big difference in bad weather.

The cheaper the autopilot, the less capable it is. So if you want one to work in bad weather or in a quartering sea, you will hve to pay for it!
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Old 21-08-2006, 12:52   #5
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Talbot, you make an excellent point. This is a coastal cruising sailboat, that we weekend on the Chesapeake Bay with. Mind you it is a 27' boat so in no way intended for water sailing">blue water sailing.

So I guess I am looking for peoples input about brands and styles. I know there are those that attach to the wheel and those that attach below.

Mind you Cheep for this piece of equipment may be 2k. I just don't want to drop that kind of cash on something that is junk just because I am inexperienced in autopilots.
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Old 21-08-2006, 13:16   #6
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You should be able to get something worth while for $2k.
Most of the stuff on my boat is Raymarine and it does a nice job.
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Old 21-08-2006, 13:33   #7
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Raymarine, Simrad, Navman all have good pilots. Navman has a rate Gyro internal and as the package. Some others have that feature as an add on, so becareful. However, Navman only do hydraulic installations, so it may not suit you.
DON'T buy cheap. It will be throwing away money. However, 2K gets you up in a realistic area. but be prepared to spend just a little extra to get what you need, NOT get what you can afford. Cheaper pilots will not stear you in ruff weather, which in your situation you need it most. So if it gets wild out there again, then your wife would be called upon again when the unit you bought fails to do the job you intended it to take care of.
NOTE: In very heavey sea's, a Pilot most likely will not do the job. Not because pilots can't handle the sea, it's because you often have to make a steering correction in advance of the boat needing it. A pilot can only respond to the now, or even slightly after the now and the baot would have needed to have been in the rate of correction well by then. Steering down a wave, (and it doesn't have to be a big wave) you may want to correct the attitude of the boat as you approach the bottom. If the boat ios at speed, you need to set the boat in motion slightly before the bottom to correct the differing water flow on the bow and resulting turn it wil take. A pilot can not predict what is going to happen, only you with eyes can.
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Old 21-08-2006, 13:52   #8
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In very heavey sea's, a Pilot most likely will not do the job. Not because pilots can't handle the sea, it's because you often have to make a steering correction in advance of the boat needing it.
I can relate to what you are talking about, however the addition of the rate gyros has made an enormous difference to the capability of the top of the line autopilots such that they can be more efficient than most average helms, and particularly so after a long time on watch and at night. I will always remember some video footage of Ellen Macarthur in the southern ocean, sat inside her boat, with the autohelm managing the boat surfing at 36 kts down big waves.


For the sort of work you want I reckon you can get by with the Raymarine 4000. This is a reasonable compromise between capability and price, and although is not designed for boats across the pond, you will find that it has been used for this. It wont be as effective as the new S1 S2 or S3 systems based on the older 6000 7000 and 8000 systems, but is also a lot cheaper!
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Old 22-08-2006, 08:40   #9
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What are the pro's and cons of wheel pilots vs rams or rotary drives?
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Old 22-08-2006, 09:27   #10
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The hydraulic ram or the electric linear drive both work directly to the rudder. They are both much stronger, more rubust, and capable of continuous operation, whereas the wheel drives are much less robust, and much less powerful and slower to operate, (but do use less power)
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Old 22-08-2006, 12:42   #11
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I like this one.

Got it for less than $800.00

http://www.onlinemarine.com/cgi-loca....htm?E+scstore
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Old 22-08-2006, 13:13   #12
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Correction to Navman capabilities....

Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Wheeler
Raymarine, Simrad, Navman all have good pilots. Navman has a rate Gyro internal and as the package. Some others have that feature as an add on, so becareful. However, Navman only do hydraulic installations, so it may not suit you.
The final comment about Navman working only with hydrauic installations is NOT true. It has a standard polarity switching relay and will drive almost any drive motor, of any manufacturer. My Navman pilot drives an old CPT cockpit drive unit shorn of its old, inadequate, brain.
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Old 22-08-2006, 13:34   #13
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We logged 25,000 miles across three oceans on our old boat with a simple Navico WP-5000 driving the entire way. It was (is) a simple belt driven wheel pilot which cost us $400.

Simrad now makes them for just over $500.

Our boat was a 37' pilothouse sloop displacing 15,000 lbs. She had two helms which made for lots of friction in the steering system - but "Otto" handled the task perfectly, through thick & thin.

I could have easily spent $3K for a below deck system... but I'm glad I didn't.

Kirk
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Old 22-08-2006, 13:56   #14
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Great Ketch, you are entirely correct. I meant to add electric rotary drive, but somehow it didn't. My brain thought it, my fingers ignored my brain. Happens all too often darn it.:-)
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Old 22-08-2006, 14:10   #15
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Well I think I have it limited down to the Raymarine S1 or the Simrad WP32. Thanks for the input everyone. I see ups and downs for both of them. I tend to think that the Raymarine is a cleaner installed unit, but the customer support problems makes me wonder. The only potential problem with the Simrad unit is that the lewmar enguard pedistal's throtle may be blocked by the control unit. I will have to do some measurements...
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