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Old 12-03-2013, 14:35   #31
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

I agree that large quartering seas with strong winds aft of the beam are the point of sail that is hardest on the pilot. This can led to a broach.... and I will hand steer in these conditions... PERIOD. And so I don't know that a better compass and faster response will change much. I work pretty hard at the helm in those conditions and I CAN see what's coming.
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Old 12-03-2013, 15:11   #32
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

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Originally Posted by defjef View Post
I will hand steer in these conditions... PERIOD.
No question that a rested, attentive and experienced human is the best pilot. Single-handers and couples on long voyages simply do not have this option. The last Atlantic crossing I did (2009) was exceedingly rough, with a strong quartering sea in addition to the following sea - no way would I want to have the two of us hand steer in those conditions. (Aside from the difficulty preventing broaching, the cockpit was frequently pooped by the quartering seas.) For ocean crossings the AP should be able to handle all conditions, not just the ideal ones.

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Old 12-03-2013, 15:16   #33
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

I do single hand and in the ocean if one can steer a more comfortable course w/ AP I would do that and look for / wait for better conditions. I haven't been faced with days of conditions unsuitable for my AP and I've done 20,000 mi offshore.

My passages have been limited to about 1,000 miles and perhaps I have been lucky. But I think the key would be to steer the comfortable course... if that was possible.
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Old 12-03-2013, 15:29   #34
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

Of course YMMV. Sailing from the Canaries to Barbados we had in excess of 3 weeks (and 3000nm) of such conditions, without a break. There simply is no alternative course that would have been better. We were in it and had to make the best of it. We, and other boats we knew, pretty much gave up sitting in the cockpit for the watch; we stood in the companionway with the drop board in place. I cannot imagine having to sit in the cockpit and hand steer in those conditions for 12 hours a day. Half way across the trim tab on the rudder broke off trying to fight a broach, thus putting the self-steering out of service and requiring the AP to directly drive the tiller. I was able to keep the AP functioning only because I had a good inventory of spares and the ability to rebuild drives from salvaged parts. Not something I wish to repeat anytime soon.

If I could have installed a below-decks AP then I would have done so years ago, and damn the cost. I am now working on a more powerful and robust approach, but it requires a lot of custom effort. Still, well worth it if it works reliably.

As I wrote earlier, if not crossing oceans then a lower standard may be appropriate. For passages that take weeks, a below decks pilot is the right answer IMHO. However, I would also recommend a good wind vane system.

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Old 12-03-2013, 20:46   #35
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

Greg,

The Las Palmas to St Lucia etc can be a difficult and long run. I think this is not what the OP had in mind and so probably less difficult conditions would be what he needs to be thinking about.

Wind vanes seem to make good sense for ocean sailing as well.
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Old 12-03-2013, 22:43   #36
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

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Well if it really is that mught be a consideration as well: It is the cheapest option for sure and via NMEA it seems to talk to my Garmin Chartplotter... any other input on the SPX 5 pilot?
Separate your choice of drive unit and electronics. Virtually all the big brands will drive a variety of drive units as all they are talking to is a 12 volt motor and possibly a 12v solenoid bypass(clutch) valve. I suggest you add Jefa to your list of possible drive solutions as they have a nice electric drive that is a new creation, and like the alpha, fully disengages from the steering system.

Since your not locked into an instrument set already you can choose the boat instrument elecs. to match the AP. This is nice as you are assured your wind following is going to work without added bits of electronics.

I have four AP's aboard a boat I recently soloed to Kauai and return. The X5, two RM tiller pilots, and a DIY Brain. With the X5 and the DIY brain I can drive both a hydraulic cylinder and the RM Linear tiller stick. The RM electronics survived without incident. The X5 tiller stick disintegrated after about 2000NM(since rebuilt). The hydraulics did the lion share of the steering this voyage. After 7000NM of use the hydraulic motor brushes have finally passed on, a type1 hydraulic motor.

Whatever your choice be sure to get a rate gyro system. Most include this, but not all. It makes a significant improvement.

If you want to go top drawer with stellar course following and ability to handle severe seas you need to look seriously at NKE or B&G.

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Old 17-06-2013, 13:34   #37
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

I will second Brian's comments. The only AP I trust are either B&G or NKE. They are the only companies even remotely considered for any kind of serious solo racing where the AP absolutely must function, hard pressed, in all conditions, including a significant amount of time in the Southern Ocean. I know one of the guys working on B&G's pilots and knowing what goes into their steering algorithms I can tell you, these two are in a whole different league.

We're using an NKE GyroPilot with Lecomble & Schmidtt ram, LS Newave Selonoid and we have invested in the HR masthead and their very best compass with rate gyros and accelerometers. Having raced Star's & other one designs as well as match raced for years I'm pretty good on the helm, but the pilot can outsteer me after about 30 minutes even in the very worst conditions.
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Old 06-10-2014, 06:21   #38
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

JoeFish: is your solenoid newave or newaveco (they have both)? What's the real life power consumption of this fancy clutch if yours?
Thank you!


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Old 06-10-2014, 09:30   #39
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

They make two, an ecopilot and the newaveco.

The ecopilot is cheap, only about 170.00. It uses 1/6th or 15% the power of a standard selonoid.

The newaveco uses zero to hold. It's a great unit if you're on a open 650 and have extreme power limitations, but it's almost $700.

I'd spec the ecopilot. It's plug & play with the L&S rams.
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Old 07-10-2014, 10:20   #40
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

JoeFish, thank you. I saw the installation instructions for the newaveco, you have to bleed the system. Do you need to do the same to install the ecopilot, or do you just schlep it on? Couldn't find a manual. Also - can you add the ecopilot to any other manufacturer's linear drive, say b&g/raymarine (the same company in the UK makes their drives, hypro, I think they are called)?
Thanks again!


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Old 07-10-2014, 10:44   #41
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

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JoeFish, thank you. I saw the installation instructions for the newaveco, you have to bleed the system. Do you need to do the same to install the ecopilot, or do you just schlep it on? Couldn't find a manual. Also - can you add the ecopilot to any other manufacturer's linear drive, say b&g/raymarine (the same company in the UK makes their drives, hypro, I think they are called)?
Hy-Pro makes the B&G and Raymarine drives but as far as I know L&S still manufactures their own rams in Urt France. They certainly have the facilities there.

I believe the NKE ships with L&S drives, every one I've seen had them.

Not sure if the Ecopilot will fit on any other than the L&S Linear drives.

Here's what it looks like installed:

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Old 03-11-2014, 21:31   #42
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Re: Autopilot recommendations?

I installed a Garmin GHP12 last year Nov 2013 to replace a failed Robertson control unit.
Used the existing hydraulic pump and actuator.
Uprated the wiring from the batteries to the pump as I found the cable was undersized for the max 20A draw. This had caused a few drop outs in big seas in the past.
The new Garmin GHP12 unit had two issues on installation that have bee solved:
1. The compass was initially located too close to the main engine alternator and if motoring and the alternator was loaded up it would cause the compass to deviate badly. Moved it another 0.5m and problem solved.
2. We bought the wireless remote but it would drop its wireless connection. This never affected the AP which would carry on the set heading but you would have to re-connect the wireless remote. Fixed this after shifting the Garmin display unit away from a shielding steel plate.

We have sailed and motored many coastal passages in the last 12 months and have run the AP for up to 20 hours. Heaviest load on the autopilot was a beam reach with full main and genoa in quatering seas, 30knots wind gusts to 40 knots. The AP performed better than I expected without rounding up and maintaining a better course than I could hand steering. However I was close to the wheel in case it did fail!

The important part of the installation appeared to be finding the best location for the compass as close to the centre line of the yacht and as low as possible. This provides the best feed back to the control system.
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