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Old 14-01-2009, 23:39   #1
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i have a few questions on auto helms if you could clean a light a few dark corner that would be cool
Can you hook any autohelm to any GPS? or do they have to be compatible

do you hook a autohelm to your wind gauge or was i miss informed?
and if so is that also compatible

so how much to you like your autohelm?

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Old 15-01-2009, 01:57   #2
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In short not all autohelms can be interfaced with a GPS.

If you require this feature then look for an autohelm that will work with the NMEA standard, in this way it will work with all GPS units.

Additional features on some autohelms include interface with wind instruments for wind mode, this can be useful but I do not use this feature much, great for windward work.

And yes my autohelm is my best friend some times!!

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Old 15-01-2009, 02:30   #3
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Biggest difference in autohelms is the job that they are designed to do.

These categories are:
long term continual use
short term (i.e. abt 24 hours max)

the short term versions tend to operate directly on the wheel or the tiller, and a very much weather constrained.

The longer term versions tend to work directly to the rudder, and use either an electric linear drive or a hydraulic unit for movement of the rudder. The longer term units also tend to be sited primarily in dry compartments.

Some of the longer term units not only have the standard heading sensor, but also have rate gyros to sense speed of course alteration, and thus are able to better maintain the course, as they not only sense the change earlier, but also are able to apply an appropriate rudder correction due to speed of change.

Most modern units of both types will not only allow a fixed course to be selected, but also a feed from a plotter to a waypoint. The more expensive units also allow a feed from a wind direction sensor to allow courses in accordance with the wind rather than a fixed direction.

The bigger and more capable the unit, the higher the power requirements, especially for the electric linear drive.
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Old 15-01-2009, 06:57   #4
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We use a GPS connected to our Raytheon (Autohelm) ST-4000 TP. We especially love it on a day with absolutely no wind, and we need to get somewhere here in Puget Sound. Plot a route in the morning and upload it to the small Garmin GPSIII. Connect the GPS. Fire up the engine. Pull the anchor. Engage!

The GPS will steer the autopilot to the next waypoint. The pilot alarms when you arrive. Press the button to advance to the next waypoint.

The only complaint is the auopilot steers by magnetic via the fluxgate compass, and the GPS sends directions as true. As a result the pilot understeers/oversteers at the change of a waypoint about the same as the local deviation. I have tried setting up the offsets in the pilot and switching between true and magnetic but I cant seem to get it quite right. Not a big deal in that over a short distance the XTE will smooth things out. Just make sure you are well in deep water at the waypoint to give yourself room.

The addition of the wireless remote unit allows control from anywhere on the boat. Its nice on the dead wind days to hang out on the bow, control your course, keep a lookout, AWAY from the noise of the engine.
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Old 15-01-2009, 07:51   #5
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I was introduced to the Autohelm advantage in 1987 and haven't been without one since. The extra hand they lend to a solo sailor is a big help, but they are machines, and will eventually fail, with the usual interesting results unless you remain on watch. Jesse
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