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Old 19-11-2014, 05:44   #1
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Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

Has anyone installed a below deck auto helm on a Catalina 30? We need to replace our Raymarine ST4000, as it will not hold a heading under sail. I haven't heard good things about Raymarine support and I don't care for the lack of fit and finish on the CPT. I want function, but I also want good looks. I will never get used to the exposed belt and look of the other CPT components. In addition I expect I will be often scraping my shins on the drive box.

It seems the challenge with installing a below deck helm on the C30 is that the steering tube has to be cut to expose the rudder post. Then a shaft seal(s) would be needed. That's a fair amount of work, especially if the steering tube is providing any cockpit sole support. In a really tight space, working mostly upside down.


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Old 19-11-2014, 06:45   #2
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

Our Raymarine ST4000 doesn't have an exposed belt. Sounds like you have one of the older style units. You might want to look at the newer wheel drive units.

I am sure you can do a below deck but I don't know if it would be worth it. The newer wheel drive ones work really well for a 30 foot boat.
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Old 19-11-2014, 08:11   #3
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

The 4000 should work fine. What is the issue you are having?
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Old 19-11-2014, 09:31   #4
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

Our ST4000 doesn't have an exposed belt. I was referring to the CPT in that regard. It seems that CPT & Raymarine are the only producers of wheel driven auto helms. As I mentioned, I've been seeing a fair number of comments regarding Raymarine customer support.

Several companies make below deck auto helms.

Thanks for the comments though!


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Old 19-11-2014, 09:48   #5
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Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

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Originally Posted by ctl411 View Post
The 4000 should work fine. What is the issue you are having?

It just doesn't hold. For example, one day late summer my wife and I were out. Winds were picking up so we decided to put in a reef. Started up engine, headed directly into wing and turned on auto helm. Waves at the time we about 1' - 2'. A very short time later we caught wind in the foresail and the auto helm couldn't steer back into wind. Note: we hadn't totally released foresail sheets and wind had not changed direction. The boat had been turned so the foresail was backed.

More info: The boat is a 1990. I am assuming the ST4000 could be almost that old. I never thought the auto helm was calibrated because the fluxgate compass was just screwed to a board that was laid flat under a settee. I had corrected that right away after we took ownership.

So a week or so after the example above we took to the calibration task. One of the tests to be done is to check how far over or under "Otto" went with a course change. I believe the instruction was to push one of the "+10" buttons either 4 or 8 times. The boat never stopped turning!

The auto helm works fine when we head into the wind under power to raise or douse the sails, or when running under power only.

I've tried the tack function. It worked, sort of. Took us through the tack but then less than a minute later it was steering somewhere else.

After discussing with others at our sailing club, the conclusion is that Otto is just plumb worn out.


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Old 19-11-2014, 10:04   #6
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

When the jib backed you may not of had enough rpm for the pilot to correct. I think the compass is supposed to be mounted vertical not screws down. Anyway the pilot may be wore out. But a newer ray marine wheel pilot will work. I've had a few an boats to 37 feet 20000 pounds unladen. A below deck will be $3000 a new wheel under $1500 and way easier to install.
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Old 19-11-2014, 10:31   #7
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

The compass thrown in the locker has me thinking bad install all the way around. Check power supply wiring. Pilots don't like low voltage. Mine would shut down when the refrigerator started when the batteries got low. I replaced the batteries and increased bank size no more problems. Your pilot isn't that old a friend is still using a ray 3000 on his 39 footer.
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Old 19-11-2014, 13:13   #8
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

Might try this autopilot. It's a wheel pilot but supposedly way stronger than the Raymarine. Features of the CPT Autopilot - CPT Autopilot Inc.
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Old 19-11-2014, 13:26   #9
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

I've been using the CPT on my 37ft cutter for ten+ years and love it, but I agree its not the prettiest autopilot out there. I'm thinking that a below decks ap will be a problem to install and maintain on a C30 given the amount of room you have to work with.
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Old 19-11-2014, 19:57   #10
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

Thanks for the idea on the wiring ctl411. I am planning to trace all the wiring on the boat this winter. Hopefully that may shed some light.


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Old 20-11-2014, 00:49   #11
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

The belts on the st4000 wear out. I replaced the belt from a shop online and it gave new life to the st4000.

http://shop.polybelt.com/Belt-for-ST...AUTOST4000.htm

Also make sure it is aligned.

I have a new auto pilot on my wish list. The raymarine should work for your 30 footer.


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Old 20-11-2014, 04:09   #12
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

Jeffjd - awesome tip! For $19 I'd be a fool not to try that. I don't know that belt slippage would explain why Otto didn't return to center during the calibration test I mentioned (waters were calm, no wind). I could see belt slippage being the cause (or part of) why Otto doesn't perform well under sail.

At this point In our sailing lives we really just need Otto to be able to hold course. Tacking ability would be nice but it's not a necessity.

Ain't forums great!!


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Old 20-11-2014, 04:46   #13
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

I installed a furuno navpilot belowdeck autopilot 10 yrs ago and have been happy with the investment. Under warranty I had early problems but furuno took care of it at no cost to me. Was a software upgrade as I think the unit was in the early stages of production. Since then Ive logged over 20k miles and the only thing i had to do is clean the brushes up in the drive motor once under the advice of accusteer. Mine has a hydraulic reversing pumpset but there are different drives for different applications. I solo most of the time and the tack function is very handy. I like having all the components except the control out of sight and element exposure.
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Old 20-11-2014, 06:00   #14
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Re: Below deck auto helm for Catalina 30

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Originally Posted by George Da Porge View Post
Jeffjd - awesome tip! For $19 I'd be a fool not to try that. I don't know that belt slippage would explain why Otto didn't return to center during the calibration test I mentioned (waters were calm, no wind). I could see belt slippage being the cause (or part of) why Otto doesn't perform well under sail.

At this point In our sailing lives we really just need Otto to be able to hold course. Tacking ability would be nice but it's not a necessity.

Ain't forums great!!


Happy sailing, everyone!!
The auto tack angle is adjustable and I found if I hit the 10 degree course change then quickly hit auto tack it works better. Easier to get boat back up to speed if you fall off more after tack. Especially when I am solo.
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