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Old 28-01-2012, 07:02   #1
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Best Location for Autopilot Controller ?

I'm starting to plan out my Autopilot installation for this spring and am now at the point of thinking about cable runs and locations. I'm likely to go with Raymarine (X-30 and P70 controller) and in reading the manual have found some mounting considerations that seem to be in conflict with each other. For example, they suggest that the controller be more than 2'6" from the compass but have no obstructions to reach, and that while it is waterproof they suggest a protected location not continually exposed to the elements. Hmmmm. Simrad had similar suggestions IIRC. Since I don't have a binnacle guard with a navpod to fit the controller anyway, I am considering mounting it on the side of the cockpit next to the helmsman perhaps with a protective guard to save it from the wx and an errant knee or dog. I was also thinking of locating it on the aft bulkhead of the cabin next to my speed and depth displays. It's a bit of a stretch but well protected. I was thinking that would be ideal if I got the remote controller to avoid the long reach but am a bit confused about if it will work with that control head.
Any comments on best locations or other considerations/experiences? What have you done?
I'll appreciate any comments or suggestions!
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Old 28-01-2012, 08:42   #2
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

My AP controller is on the stbd side of the cockpit next to the helmsman's seat. It's not ideal, because it's so far "downhill" when heeled over on port tack. I'm also curious about the ideal location.
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Old 28-01-2012, 09:57   #3
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

The best location is immediately at hand. This, of course, is rarely practical or possible - so in order of "best":
1. Wireless remote control usable anywhere on boat
2. Wired remote control spanning cockpit
3. Multiple MFD's in convenient places that can each control the autopilot
4. Mounted at helm in easy reach at all times
5. Mounted near helm, but not necessarily easy access on all points of sail
6. Mounted somewhere in cockpit requiring one to leave helm for short period of time to operate
7. Mounted below and requiring a complete abandonment of helm for operation

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Old 28-01-2012, 10:05   #4
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I have the wireless remote and love it! Nice to have the head unit near the helm too. The main computer is in an aft compartment under a seat and the gyro is under the opposite seat near the stern. Wireless receiver is just off of the main computer up as high as possible. I can control it from the bow pulpit.
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Old 28-01-2012, 10:34   #5
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

It really needs to be within reach of the helm so you can have one hand on the wheel while you are engaging or disengaging it. If you put it one the cockpit side, make SURE it is high enough that water will not pool over it when it is on the leeward side--spray is OK, but they are not waterproof enough to withstand sitting in water.

Where are your ignition switch and engine gauges? Any semi-protected areas around them?
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Old 28-01-2012, 11:05   #6
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

mine is hydraulic, mounted on quadrant with bits mounted away from any metal items in boat. the control head is in my binnacle. i love it.
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Old 28-01-2012, 11:16   #7
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

Mine is recessed into the port side seat back. Nothing is pedestal mounted because I hated sailing with all that gadgetry stuck in my face and I never but rarely am standing at the helm. Gps is on the companionway bulkhead stbd side Depth is on the bridgedeck bulkhead. Only thing on my pedestal is the compass and engine controls. I am likely if the auto pilot is working to be layed out in the cockpit anyway. So from there I can see the gps depth and access the auto pilot. If I need to take the helm I can see everything just fine. If you stuff all this gear around the pedestal then you have to stand there to see it. Makes no sense for my sailing way.
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Old 28-01-2012, 11:32   #8
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sabray View Post
Mine is recessed into the port side seat back. Nothing is pedestal mounted because I hated sailing with all that gadgetry stuck in my face and I never but rarely am standing at the helm. Gps is on the companionway bulkhead stbd side Depth is on the bridgedeck bulkhead. Only thing on my pedestal is the compass and engine controls. I am likely if the auto pilot is working to be layed out in the cockpit anyway. So from there I can see the gps depth and access the auto pilot. If I need to take the helm I can see everything just fine. If you stuff all this gear around the pedestal then you have to stand there to see it. Makes no sense for my sailing way.

i like my electronix at the helm station i have on the binnacle as it is the best place to see the items i need to see and view as i hand steer, should the situation arise. everything is inside the binnacle, which is an original formosa binnacle, and able to contain all the items necessary for use of cruising boat--except the radar is with the engine gauges in a slightly different place near helm station. as my cockpit area is huge and DRY, and the cockpit well is tiny, and the sofa on my lazarette is comfy, watches are spent there , on the sofa. with everything in sight. auto lives in depths of quadrant space. very comfortable and functional....
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Old 28-01-2012, 12:18   #9
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

The engine and ignition controls are low on the end of the port side cockpit seats (I have a T shaped cockpit) It isn't ideal since they are low and a bit hard to see. I could mount the AP controller higher on the same side as that would be easier to see and reach but is somewhat exposed to the elements. Putting a partial guard or cover would be pretty easy.It wouldn't be exposed to immersion unless I fill the cockpit.
Putting it at the helm has 2 distinct negatives for me. One: it would interfere with my compass and two: it would require a new binnacle guard and navpod arrangement.
The Raymarine site indicates that their wireless controller is not compatable with the P-70 head and Seatalkng. I do plan to connect my existing ST-60 Seatalk instruments via a Seatalk-Seatalkng converter. Will the wireless control the AP if plugged into the Seatalk that way? My thoughts are that if I can use the wireless it may make sense to put the controller in a more protected spot in the cockpit and rely on the remote to activate the AP while at the helm. The P-70 would be easily read and accessed while sitting under the dodger.
Thanks for all the comments!
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Old 28-01-2012, 13:35   #10
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

Boats that ply local waters (day trips) are well off with the control head at the helm.

On offshore boats I like the control to be under the dodger - often next to the other instruments on one side of the cockpit, next to the companionway. This seems to be where I spend most of my watch time.

This much said, one place where I do not like it to be is OVER the companionway (where many boats have space for instruments!) - this is because it is too easy to trip and fall and too difficult to control the unit if the washboards are removed.

BTW the remote control units - wireless - are CREAM.

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Old 28-01-2012, 18:50   #11
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

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Originally Posted by barnakiel View Post
Boats that ply local waters (day trips) are well off with the control head at the helm.

On offshore boats I like the control to be under the dodger - often next to the other instruments on one side of the cockpit, next to the companionway. This seems to be where I spend most of my watch time.
Totally.

I've never had good luck with electronics in the cockpit. The seals eventually go and the displays fog up, and whatever it is eventually stops working. So we evolved into having no electronics in the cockpit because they never lasted more than a year of actively sailing far. When I repowered Boat #1 I even added a second engine control panel at the nav station, for better record keeping of the numbers, and as a backup since I thought it was only a matter of time before the one in the cockpit would stop working, too. I had quite a few friends who had to hot wire their diesel to start it.

So I really think under the dodger is much better, ergonomically and to keep the stuff working longer. We eventually put everything at the nav station with a remote control for the autopilot. If you really feel you need stuff in the cockpit, I'd consider putting it behind a little Lewmar hatch.

Then again, Boat #1 was a 40' aft cockpit, and maybe we tended to have more water in the cockpit than the enormous center cockpit boats that people tend to have these days. I remember some passages with splashy quartering seas where everything in the cockpit was covered in a thin layer of salt crystals-- that can't be good for a depth sounder or autopilot.
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Old 28-01-2012, 19:07   #12
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

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I remember some passages with splashy quartering seas where everything in the cockpit was covered in a thin layer of salt crystals-- that can't be good for a depth sounder or autopilot.
Won't hurt any of the newer displays at all - they are specifically made for this type of environment with glass-bonded displays and waterproof function keys. While they can't take continual immersion (as in your boat sinks), they will take splashes, rain and definitely salt deposits for many, many years.

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Old 28-01-2012, 20:00   #13
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

It sounds like the key for me is to confirn with Raymarine that the wireless remote can interact with the P70 via a Seatalk converter. I've been reading manuals and websites all week trying to learn about Seatalkng,Seatalk, NMEA0183, NMEA2000, and a whole bunch more but I'm far from having it sorted out.
I expect I'll have more questions... Thanks for all your help!
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Old 28-01-2012, 20:51   #14
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Won't hurt any of the newer displays at all - they are specifically made for this type of environment with glass-bonded displays and waterproof function keys. While they can't take continual immersion (as in your boat sinks), they will take splashes, rain and definitely salt deposits for many, many years.
Oh, that's good to hear that modern technology is better. Maybe I gave up on wet electronics too soon-- it's been 8 years since I've tried to put something with buttons on it in the cockpit.
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Old 28-01-2012, 20:51   #15
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Re: Best location for Autopilot controller?

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I've been reading manuals and websites all week trying to learn about Seatalkng,Seatalk, NMEA0183, NMEA2000, and a whole bunch more but I'm far from having it sorted out.
Don't forget Seatalk II.

With Raymarine gear, you will probably never sort the communication out. Raymarine should be taken out back and shot for what they have done to, and how they have bastardized, marine communication standards. Their practices were reprehensible and it is good to see them lose big time in the market, fail as a company, get bought and have the new owners force them back around to standards (I guess they were taken out back and shot). Maybe they can make another go at it now - some of their new stuff looks good and is completely standardized.

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