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Old 20-02-2014, 02:55   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Sointula BC
Boat: Fellows & Stewart Pilot-house Cutter, 62'
Posts: 28
Which Auto Pilot?

MV Content is a 1930 62' motor yacht, weighing 57 tons, with chain & cable steering and twin rudders.

I've been updating her over the past 2-3 years, and I'd like to add an AP. Any suggestions? I'm not totally averse to installing hydraulic steering, but I'd like to understand the pros and cons..... Budget is important, and a pre-owned unit would work for me. My cruising area is BC Coast, and I'll move her to the Med next year or two, so we're talking protected waters here.

Thanks.
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Old 20-02-2014, 17:55   #2
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Join Date: May 2013
Location: Oregon to Alaska
Boat: Wheeler Shipyard 83' ex USCG
Posts: 1,708
Re: Which Auto Pilot?

I have a 1942 ex USGG converted by Monk to a yacht about 40 years ago. The current Wagner hydraulic steering was installed then. From what I can gather it has had almost no repair work done in that time. To run the autopilot requires a separate motor/pump unit. I had a 55' commercial boat with chain and cable steering and have operated other vessels with everything from steam steering engines on down. Hydraulic seems to be very reliable, but you have to find space to run lines. Also, it can be tricky running lines to a flying bridge without exposing them. With hydraulic you need a rudder angle indicator. There is a small amount of slippage and you will find midships is never exactly the same. Chain and cable is reliable as long as the parts are maintained and the cable doesn't rust away. I had a cable break in 40' seas on my commercial boat while moving between ports, alone.
One low budget suggestion would be to find a Wood-Freeman autopilot. You should have many of them around BC. There were thousands built. To me, they are one of the most reliable autopilots ever made. They add an additional chain sprocket to your steering shaft and can be inside your console. A chain connects to a small 12v starter motor and that is controlled by a rotating compass. Parts are available, Ebay and new. You set the pilot by getting on course and pushing in a small clutch lever. You can add a 12 volt solenoid to operate the clutch from other locations.
Someone in the US Southeast bought the rights to the style seen in older fishing boats and still makes and sells them, but there should be dozens around. You need to find a manual because there is a sprocket ratio you need to be within. If you go the Wood-Freeman route there are two types hunting (wheel always moves a small amount) or non-hunting (preferred). Also the electric motor connects to the rotating compass by either small chain or cable. Cable allows a more out of the way compass. With chain the compass has to be very near the wheel. Mine was a hunting/cable type. Try to get on some boats with Wood-Freeman to see how they work and install. They run for decades without failure.
Lepke
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Old 21-02-2014, 13:50   #3
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Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Sointula BC
Boat: Fellows & Stewart Pilot-house Cutter, 62'
Posts: 28
Re: Which Auto Pilot?

Thanks Lepke,

That was very helpful - I'll go and find out more about the WF unit. I just need it to do a simple job, so a simple system will work for me!

Eamonn.
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