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Old 14-08-2019, 11:16   #1
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Autopilot replacement on 2001 Hunter 290

Good Afternoon, I have a 2001 Hunter 290 with a Ray Marine ST4000+ wheel autopilot. The wheel assemble is slowly breaking, with 4 wheels which have broken off, and the sheer pin on the clutch has broken several times and the hole in the lever is now round. I have repaired all of the and bought some SS pins so the unit does work, but would not trust it going through NY Harbor, up the East River or on a long cruise. It’s OK for day sailing on the Hudson River.


I am looking into replacing it and looking for advice on the best approach going forward. There are 3 options as I see it. Option 1 Simple buy a new Wheel unit. The downside as I see it is that the electrics are old, original to the boat and the autopilot actually says Raython not Ray Marine. Is it worth spending $500 plus on a new wheel?


Option 2 would be to buy a new up to date wheel pilot for about $1500 or so. The downside for me is the incessant noise the wheel pilot makes. The reason the current one lasted 18 years is that I don’t use it when I am sailing as it drives me nuts. I use it when motoring, or rising / lowering the sails or going below but not when I am just sailing. Also I should note that I sail single handed 99% of the time.


Option 3 would be to buy a new linear drive autopilot and move the noise down below, with the downside being cost at about double $3000 and a 29 ft boat might be on the small side for a linear drive.


What are your thoughts, what would you suggest/recommend. Thanks
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Old 14-08-2019, 11:25   #2
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Re: Autopilot replacement on 2001 Hunter 290

I think you already summarized the pros and cons pretty well. Only comment I might add is an AP can be too small for a boat but, within reason, boats aren't too small for an AP.



You might try other makers for wheel pilots. CPT makes a well regarded unit but have not seen one in operation so no idea how noisy it may or may not be. One thing to consider if you go with a below decks linear drive is you will have a lot more to deal with on the installation. I have a Raymarine mechanical linear drive connected to my Simrad AP computer and am very happy with it. Very quiet and it's right under my bed.
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Old 14-08-2019, 13:02   #3
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Re: Autopilot replacement on 2001 Hunter 290

A below deck linear autopilot will always (if properly installed) be more reliable but as Skip says it will be quite a bit of work to install it properly. If you have a "professional" do it then you will double the cost.

Considering that your wheel pilot is 18 yrs. old and it has caused you a lot of grief with limited use I don't think that is good value.

If you ever consider buying a used A/P I would caution you against that. Someone is getting rid of it for a reason and you wont know what that reason is until you have it installed and are underway. By then it is to late to return it.
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Old 14-08-2019, 13:22   #4
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Re: Autopilot replacement on 2001 Hunter 290

A linear autopilot is an overkill for a 29 ft boat. Note that the power consumption will increase significantly. Another option is just to get a new gearbox ~$120 that usually solves the noise and grinding problems. Replacement is about 15 min of work.

I have had a lot of success with second hand autopilots from eBay but sometimes you can get unlucky.

The above notwithstanding, you will love the silent operation of a below deck pilot if you can manage the cost.

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Old 14-08-2019, 13:28   #5
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Re: Autopilot replacement on 2001 Hunter 290

Sp, we have a similar sized yacht to you. I spent an interesting winter trying to build a ST4000 from bits, but it never really worked properly in my shed, so had no confidence it would work on the boat. Given the age of the system I sold off the bits and there is a strong demand each Spring for bits, then bought the RM Evo 100. Much better and several generations on from the ST4000 series.

I have used the Evo for 2 years but recently fitted a rudder reference unit on advice of the local RM dealer. A big improvement to the point I now wonder if its still working because it doesn't move for several minutes once on course.

Think you need to bite the bullet and just go for a new system, then sell off the bits.

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Old 15-08-2019, 11:21   #6
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Re: Autopilot replacement on 2001 Hunter 290

Google " palagic autopilot", awsome unit, afforadle price.
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Old 15-08-2019, 15:13   #7
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Re: Autopilot replacement on 2001 Hunter 290

There's a world of difference between the 4000 and the new Evo100.
Buy one on line for $1250, install a N2K network and I think you will be happy about the choice
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Old 15-08-2019, 16:24   #8
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Re: Autopilot replacement on 2001 Hunter 290

On a 29 foot boat the linear AP is overkill.
The older Raymarine wheel drive has been replaced by a model that is
30 per cent stronger and far quieter. This now is a no brainer.
Purchase the newer wheel drive only: it will work with the wiring you already have.
Have a great day!
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