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Old 18-05-2009, 16:41   #1
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Autopilot Recommendations

It's time to replace my autopilot. The Navico is finally dead, and I can't find replacement parts for the circuit boards. A lightning strike has sealed it's fate. (yes, I've tried to have it rebuilt)

The hydraulic pump and drive arm has recently been rebuilt. I need the brains of the outfit.

I'm looking for recommendations from users as to which/what works well on a 40' sailboat. I'm looking for the basics, nothing fancy.

I am looking for a dealer / installer on the west coast of Florida. (personal recommendations please)
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Old 18-05-2009, 23:06   #2
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Simrad Robertson like the AP25. Will work with your existing hydraulic drive.

FL west coast... can only advise that we had bad experience with tropical marine.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 19-05-2009, 15:08   #3
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I second Jedi's Robertson suggestion. Ours has been bullet proof and has handled our yacht in some pretty nasty conditions without difficulty.

FWIW...
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Old 19-05-2009, 15:25   #4
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I'm getting a coursemaster autopilot. Australian made, used in heaps of commercial vessels, trawlers etc. over here, and I haven't been able to find a bad report about them.

A few people I know have them and love them.

Will suit existing hydraulic drive. Prices are extremely competitive too.

Coursemaster Autopilots
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Old 19-05-2009, 17:51   #5
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I replaced the electronics of my Navico system with Simrad AP on my 37' cat. I've been very happy with Simrad after 3yrs of heavy use. I kept the hydraulic system that came with the boat and Simrad worked great with it. The AP works great in big seas and with weather helm. It also is very precise in holding a heading. One of the nicest features is the error warning diagnostics. I got an AP disconnect once with an error code that indicated the electric motor/hydraulic pump was faulty. I pulled out the electric motor and found the brushes worn out. Without the error codes, the troubleshooting would have taken a long time.
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Old 19-05-2009, 17:58   #6
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Sorry I forgot to mention that I bought Simrad AP in St Petersburg Beach at HWH Electonics (hwhelectronics.com). Their price was competitive and I wanted a "brick and mortar" company with tech experts in case I needed help with install.
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Old 20-05-2009, 04:41   #7
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I don't have much experience with many auto pilots but a lot with Alpha Marine 3000 the one which has been in service on my boat for 20 yrs and does 99% of the steering. I've only has one electrical problem and I had Alpha upgrade to a mos fet.

What I like about this unit is:

It's strong
It mechanically detaches using a teleflex cable from the rudder post and there is NO drag for manual steering
You "dial in" the course with a large rotary knob ticked off in degrees. This is like a small helm - turn clockwise boat turns to starboard, anticlockwise boat steers to port. It works just like the real helm! Very intuitive.
No GPS interface so I have to see the course. (I am not an advocate of GPS autopilot interfacing as I see it as a danger not a safety feature).
It adjust for the amount of corrections you want (save power)
It's reliable - at 20 yrs it's one of the longest lasting peice of gear on the boat! Out lasted the ports and hatches!

I've used a few others on deliveries - Autohelms which I thought were awful. Hated the button press headings where you have to view a display and it was always going off duty and sounding some alarm I could not hear in the ocean. YUCK... a piece of crap.
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Old 20-05-2009, 15:30   #8
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I have had very poor reliability from my Simrad/Robertson hydraulic gear. The electronics have been fine. The hydraulic cylinder has needed rebuilding in about 3 years of seasonal use.
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Old 20-05-2009, 15:46   #9
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Ah, I can't speak for the Simrad Robertson hydraulic packs. We have a big mean Hynautics ram with two 1/4 hp motors/pumps in parallel from WH autopilots connected to the Simrad Robertson AP25. I think it's always better to go with industrial hydraulic parts and they interface with most pilots. The worst of the worst I've used were those Autohelm/Raymarine wheel-pilots. They sound like the plastic is cracking all the time, which is what is happening actually until they fall apart. Not much better are those electric-linear drives. The hydraulic solutions for yachts are much better but fail too often. I think it's much better to select ram, reservoir etc. for hydraulic steering (Hynautics/Teleflex etc.) and connect a pump that can be driven by your pilot to that. Most pilots have such a pump in their offerings.

But the OP is happy with the hydraulics of the old pilot so can just use that with the AP25.

About that Aussie pilot: I see that the model 650 and up is commercial use indeed so it will be good stuff. The smaller ones don't look that good to me, as you get that button pushing again for course changes instead of the dial. But another thing worth considering is how their service network is... are they active worldwide? I don't know but like to have a pilot that's common.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 20-05-2009, 16:16   #10
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I went with furuno navpilot. Had one computer glitch which furuno took care of at dock ,they also extended warranty 1yr. Give A for service experience. I like the smartauto function that compensates for currents and wind so if you want to go a certain course you don't end up crabbing sideways pointing in the right direction. It has a dodge function where you hit port or starboard buttons ,the boat turns then takes you back to your original course when released. Works good for dodging crab pots. Has rotary knob that changes heading one degree per click I use when on intracoastal like steering wheel. Has all functions standard that come at added cost from others.
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Old 20-05-2009, 16:38   #11
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That Furuno appears to have the same functions as the Robertson. I didn't know others had that smart-auto function too.

cheers,
Nick.
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Old 20-05-2009, 16:39   #12
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Does anyone know if Wood-Freemans are still around? They used to be top notch in the PNW.
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Old 20-05-2009, 17:32   #13
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I went to HWH in St. Pete and talked to them. They wanted to charge me $90 to come onboard to look at my hydraulic drive so they could tell me which system I needed. The Admiral was so furious over that, I'm not allowed to talk to them anymore. Had it not been for that we would already have purchased a unit from them.

I too am looking for a brick and moarter business. I like doing this kind of business in person. The internet is okay for buying underwear and hoseclamps... but something this expensive...

And I need the technical support of a human being, so I'm trying to stay within reasonable sailing distance on the west coast of Florida.

I like the Simrad so far, anyone using the Raymarine products?
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Old 20-05-2009, 17:36   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by forsailbyowner View Post
I went with furuno navpilot. Had one computer glitch which furuno took care of at dock ,they also extended warranty 1yr. Give A for service experience.
Do they have a rep/installer in the Tampa area? I didn't find anything on the web.
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Old 25-05-2009, 16:34   #15
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Raymarine nightmare

Couldn't agree more about Autohelm/Raymarine although I have the electric linear drive unit. And their tech support guy (Trevor Townsend) made things so much worse when my unit took a dump. I asked him what would be a compatible replacement, giving him the model number, the number of wires and color of all 7 wires. I bought the $1500 replacement, packed it to MX, paid the $$200 import duty and guess what. It was not compatible!

Quote:
Originally Posted by s/v Jedi View Post
Ah, I can't speak for the Simrad Robertson hydraulic packs. We have a big mean Hynautics ram with two 1/4 hp motors/pumps in parallel from WH autopilots connected to the Simrad Robertson AP25. I think it's always better to go with industrial hydraulic parts and they interface with most pilots. The worst of the worst I've used were those Autohelm/Raymarine wheel-pilots. They sound like the plastic is cracking all the time, which is what is happening actually until they fall apart. Not much better are those electric-linear drives. The hydraulic solutions for yachts are much better but fail too often. I think it's much better to select ram, reservoir etc. for hydraulic steering (Hynautics/Teleflex etc.) and connect a pump that can be driven by your pilot to that. Most pilots have such a pump in their offerings.

But the OP is happy with the hydraulics of the old pilot so can just use that with the AP25.

About that Aussie pilot: I see that the model 650 and up is commercial use indeed so it will be good stuff. The smaller ones don't look that good to me, as you get that button pushing again for course changes instead of the dial. But another thing worth considering is how their service network is... are they active worldwide? I don't know but like to have a pilot that's common.

cheers,
Nick.
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