You definitely want some sort of self steering
. I installed an Alpha 3000 with a mosfet. It is a hydraulic ram and has steered the boat 99% of the time since it was installed. I even anchor
and pick up a mooring
For long offshore
passages a wind vane
would certainly be the way to go.. but some autopilots can interface with wind instruments and steer to wind and not to course.
I am happy with the auto pilot and not the vane... and have never found it a power hog. The Alpha 3000 does not interface with position fixers so it requires that YOU set the course with a dial which is like a compass
rose. To tack you turn it 90-100°. When you hand steer you mechanically disengage the ram with a teleflex cable. There is no drag or effect on the helm
whatsoever. You can also control how much correction you want.. which WILL use more or less power as it can respond to every motion of the boat and try to correct with the rudder
I have used this pilot for 17 yrs and love it. I would give it a very strong recommendation. I did a delivery
on a boat that had another pilot and it would occasionally go off duty and sound a faint alarm
. To get it back on.. you had to re program your heading before it would "latch on". I thought this was much less effective than the system I use.
I love the auto pilot.