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Old 06-03-2016, 16:02   #1
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Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

We are refitting a IOR racer for cruising. She is a Yankee 38 and was raced on both sides of the Pacific. The rudder is attached to a skeg rather than the balanced rudder used on the later Catalina 38s.
Can anyone recommend a good autopilot that will handle a tiller for a boat this heavy? The Raymarine units specify that they are for lighter boats.
We don't plan any offshore cruising but would like to have the extra help when the two of us are handling the sails and taking a break.
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Old 06-03-2016, 17:35   #2
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

I've had an Alpha marine 3000 for awhile on my 8 ton ketch, good piece, and good people.
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Old 06-03-2016, 20:55   #3
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

Really depends on how much effort it takes to steer the boat. If the tiller is light, almost any tiller pilot will work. If it's heavy, you'd probably stuck with a below deck pilot for long distance voyaging.

Raymarine used to make a tiller pilot they called the X5 Grand Prix tiller pilot. It was rated for boats up to about 13,000# IIRC. It had more robust gearing than their X5 tiller pilot but looked almost identical. Been out of production for at least two years but may find one gathering dust on a shelf or a used one around. Believe Simrad makes a one armed bandit that is rated for a pretty big boat. FWIW, seem to remember someone used a Raymarine 2000 on a Westsail 32 which has a pretty strong weather helm. They sailed the boat all through the Caribbean and most of the way to Tahiti before it burned out. Raymarine was amazed that it would even steer the W32 let alone last for many thousands of miles.

If you want something to steer for sailing, go with a WindVane. A Pendulum Servo Vane should be an easy setup on a tiller steered boat and steer the boat if it will sail. Can pick up used vanes for under $2,000 or look at the WindPilot if you want a more affordable new Vane. You can get a cheap tiller pilot to use when powering or hook to the vane for steering a compass course when sailing.
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Old 06-03-2016, 22:30   #4
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

Thanks for your information. When I was reviewing the various specs for the tiller autopilots I really didn't see why the Raymarine ST2000 would not work fine.
Every experienced sailor knows that you get optimum speed if the sails are properly trimmed to reduce excessive helm. So if you trim the boat the same way that you would if you were hand sailing then the "normal" tiller master should work fine. I will search for the X5 Grand Prix tho thanks for the info.
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Old 06-03-2016, 22:49   #5
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

I hear this outfit makes an industrial strength tiller pilot.

Tiller Drive | PelagicAutopilot

Steve
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Old 06-03-2016, 23:06   #6
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

Simrad tp32. You won't regret it.


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Old 07-03-2016, 09:17   #7
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

Lucky man. Great boat. Love tillers, simple, fast and talk to you.
Larger Raymarine or similar tiller pilot will do just fine.
Worked well on my cruiserfied Ron Holland one ton, 36 footer.
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Old 07-03-2016, 10:03   #8
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

I have an Autohelm ST4000 AP, with the GP drive unit mentioned above. I have a first-gen Catalina 30, with the older rudder design, not as balanced as the newer one. Due to this the tiller is fairly heavy, even with the sails well-trimmed, but especially so when motoring. The Grand Prix drive handles it quite well. I had occasion to take mine apart, and it's not just the gear chain - the motor is an absolute gem, built like a Swiss watch, and in two years I've only seen one on eBay - for over $500 (that's the motor alone, not the drive).

The GP drive units are easily recognizable because they have a larger diameter aluminum tube, about 4" long, at the mounting end, needed due to the beefier motor and gears.

Your Yankee is bigger and heavier (though I don't think it's quite 12 tons, is it?) and the GP drive is getting pretty hard to find, but Raymarine has current production drives that are bigger and stronger than the GP. Check out the "Type 1" drive, good for 24,000 lbs displacement:
Raymarine Smartpilot - Drive Unit Selection

Ooohh, just checked and found a type 2S (s for short) on eBay with a $500 buy it now price... And a type 1 with a $400 starting bid.
(neither are my listing)

You'd have to get the control unit, as well, and altogether may be pretty pricey. This type is usually mounted below deck, connected to a separate, shorter tiller arm. Depending on how your boat is built, this might not work for you. It certainly wouldn't on my C30, as the rudder shaft is inside a fiberglass tube below deck, and there's no seal at the bottom of the tube (yes, really).
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Old 07-03-2016, 10:22   #9
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

Alpha 3000. Fast, reliable and very low energy draw. I've got over 10K miles on mine and my friend had a circumnavigation on his.

You won't go wrong.
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Old 07-03-2016, 10:32   #10
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

A second vote for Pelagic (see above link), for strength, performance, and price. He offers a good linear drive, and he also sells the controller/drive electronics for use with your drive motor. I have my eye on a very powerful linear drive, for much less than RM sells the motor only.

I have owned (and broken) Raymarine ST2000, ST4000 GP, ST4000+ GP and currently X-5 GP. Nice bling but not robust enough. The Simrad all-in-one units are as powerful as the RM units, but still not strong enough - at least they are cheaper to replace.

How to break an autopilot: have it steering an unbalanced rudder on a heavy boat in F6+ winds and seas on the quarter. As the waves hit the quarter the boat will yaw and the AP will try to fight it. Do this for a few hours and it will probably fail. I prefer to run the AP through the wind vane system to reduce the loads and power consumption.

BTW the GP has a better motor, but the larger case is just marketing - not needed. IIRC the nylon planetary gears and the linear drive are the same as the non-GP units. The motor should have a longer life than the non-GP motor but do not expect greatly increased power or survival of overloading.

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Old 07-03-2016, 14:05   #11
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

I installed a Simrad AC42 that drives a Simrad DD15 electric drive unit on my tiller steered Crealock 37. It took a little sorting out initially, but works perfectly. It is very efficient electrically, too.
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Old 07-03-2016, 15:00   #12
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

Quote:
Originally Posted by Panope View Post
I hear this outfit makes an industrial strength tiller pilot.

Tiller Drive | PelagicAutopilot

Steve
Thanks for that link Steve, they look awesome, and a real good price compared to the usual leaky disposable simray toys.

For what it's worth I had an old raymarine st 4000 on snow petrel1. 34 foot and about 17000lbs she was much heavier than the unit was specd for, though she had a small skeg rudder that was quite light to turn.

It worked ok but felt very undersized in a seaway. I used the windvane where possible in any wind, especially in a swell or sea and kept the autopilot for motoring in calms or sheltered waters.

The integrated simray units usually seem to leak and ruin the electrics in short order.

Had I seen these pelagic units it would have been perfect for her.
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Old 07-03-2016, 20:52   #13
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

According to Sailboatdata.com, the Yankee 38 displacement is 16,000 lbs, more like 8 tons.
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Old 07-03-2016, 21:07   #14
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

Depends what you intend to do with the boat. For ocean sailing forget cockpit pilots, simply not robust enough. I would suggest using a hydraulic ram or electro-hydraulic drive with below decks pilot components. Either fin a bypass valve or make the drive removable just like a cockpit pilot. For coastal sailing you could get away with a good tiller pilot but will probably burn gears rather often. You have to remember that peak loads are in gnarly weather with a big sea coaming under the quarter and slewing the boat or getting her surfing. That is not a good time to find the pilot is to light!
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Old 07-03-2016, 23:16   #15
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Re: Need an Autopilot for a 38', 12 ton sailboat with a tiller

To all who have commented. THANKS! Yes I did mis-state the weight. The 12 ton number comes from the Coast Guard Documentation for this Vessel. The correct weight is 16,000 lbs.
I too was impressed by the Pelagic Autopilot. It is stainless and the package is designed so the circuit boards are not in the cockpit. Only the motor case is. It also has a cover to keep the spray off. This forum is really wonderful and again thanks for all of your contributions.
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