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Old 17-10-2013, 22:51   #1
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Location: Evia Channel
Boat: Roberts 45
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Which Autopilot?


I spent quite a bit of time looking for previous posts on choice of autopilots and getting advice from UK installation chaps but we are still undecided.

Our yacht is a heavy Roberts 45 (with barn door rudder!). The rudder drive is a Lewmar 1/4 hp Constellation sprocket drive which has plenty of power. The original linear-hydraulic drive just wasn't up to the job. So far the recommendations seem to be between Simrad AP 24/28 and Raymarine EV 400. To date we have spent over 3500 on autopilots in the last 5 years and don't want to make another mistake!

Another possibility is the Coursemaster CM 90 (or CM85i), but both CM dealers I've contacted have been unable to give details of satisfied customers. Has anyone had experience of Coursemaster?

Any recommendations or suggestions would be welcome.


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Old 18-10-2013, 00:06   #2
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Re: Which Autopilot?

We've used a CPT wheel autopilot to bring our Roberts 44 Offshore (similar rudder to your boat?) up from Sydney with no "problems".

I ran some moderately heavy duty wiring to the drive box and it's handled everything we've thrown at it so far.

It's run by an optical compass on a steel boat so I never plan on going near anything expensive.

Your setup sounds like it should steer the boat quite easily. If you were to list the problems with the present setup some of our members may have some insight

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Old 18-10-2013, 01:12   #3
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Location: Adelaide, South Australia
Boat: Swanson 42
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Re: Which Autopilot?

Our Swanson is a bit similar to your boat and has been fitted with a coursemaster cm600' sometime in the early nineties. The person who fitted it did nearly twenty years of solo sailing with a lot of long haul stuff, the boat has no windvane so I assume it was used a lot. It still works perfectly. It is the chain and sprocket sort and I believe the drive motor is original from my correspondence with coursemaster about what I should do to maintain it. Incidentally the coursemaster people were very helpful and emailed me all sorts of useful documents.

It uses a lot of power but then I guess that is unavoidable when you have to move a big barndoor rudder.

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Old 18-10-2013, 07:59   #4
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Location: Toronto
Boat: Custom 41' Steel Pilothouse Cutter
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Re: Which Autopilot?

I am in the process of selecting an autopilot for a boat with two hydraulic helms (on deck and in the pilothouse). She's steel and has a transom-hung rudder moved by a ram from a Marol rotary pump.

The two candidates left are Wil Hamm (W-H) and Comnav, both on the west coast of North America. Mr. Hamm got back to me with a quote in 24 hours; I am still awaiting ComNav's reply.

Both are relatively no-frills units (the W-H unit is rather primitive-looking) and neither would be integrated with a GPS but rather would steer to a heading from a fluxgate compass. Both have a significant portion of their trade with workboat and fishing boat operators. I would suggest that you should think of your boat as more "commercial grade" and also poll the type of sailors whose trips you wish to emulate and whose vessels resemble yours.

That gets you away from a lot of the more popular brands pretty quickly.
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Old 18-10-2013, 22:50   #5
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Re: Which Autopilot?

Thanks chaps for the replies.

We've kind of got used to the "navigate to" function so it would be nice to have GPS input. Also we are in Europe and importing from America can be a hassle + what about back-up? Coursemaster are represented in UK and Greece.

The problems we were having is controlling the boat on flat calm sea and rougher conditions. The 1st pilot failed after 4 years of summertime use and because we were on our way to join a rally we decided on an up-grade of the same make thinking (justifiably) it would be improved. Not so, it could not be used in the Suez Canal as the boat wandered all over the place. After quite a few emails that problem was cured but when the seas pick up the wheel is driven back and forth almost continuously. It will turn the wheel 1/2 a spoke then turn it back again immediately before the boat can re-act. I put a post up about this some while back as we couldn't get any help from the manufactures. The current one is not working and the replacement part is nearly 900. Then we will still have a badly performing unit. I think it's time to cut our losses and instead of an electric winch - another autopilot!

Any more suggestions would be most welcome.

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Old 19-10-2013, 02:40   #6
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Re: Which Autopilot?

We installed the Simrad AP24 on our 20-ton, 48' ketch about three years ago and have since sailed almost 20,000 miles. It was very easy to install and it interfaced flawlessly to the rest of our Garmin electronics via NEMA 2000. We have the Whitlock Mamba steering system so our autopilot motor is part of the steering system.

I only wish I could steer as well as our autopilot does. Even in heavy seas, we're never more than a few feet off our rhumb line and this is with an absurdly small amount of wheel movement. Granted, our boat balances very well but I struggle to keep the boat within a 100 feet of our course while our autopilot does it effortlessly. We use the navigation feature almost exclusively but sometimes the wind mode is a really great feature.

I can recommend the product without reservation.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 20-10-2013, 04:58   #7
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I am not a cruiser but we are equipping our 1995 Nonsuch 354 for coastal sailing on the West Coast.

I recently personally removed the original Cetrek C-net 930 AP and an inoperative CRT ChartNav and replaced it with a Garmin 740s and RM evolution EV-200 (the 15 amp version of the 30 amp EV-400). I just finished a 130 mile trip from Sausalito across San Francisco Bay up the San Joaquin Delta. Fabulous results. Also in 38 knots to San Fran with 5 knots cross current.

We used the original hydraulic pump/ram drive on a quadrant drive and simply replaced the Cetrek Steering System Interface Unit and Heading Sensor with the EV-1 and ACU-200 Control unit wire for wire. The P70 Control Head connects via NMEA 2000 flawlessly with the Garmin.

Route and Heading holds have tested well; have not tested the Wind hold on the open Bay or the Pacific yet.

IMHO, the Evolution is the most state-of-the-art most advanced unit on the market today with 2013 era processors software and control electronics. The EV-1 is a 9 axis heading sensor requiring no sea trials or even a rudder reference to keep a tight 2ft to 15ft variance off coarse.
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Old 20-10-2013, 05:36   #8
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Re: Which Autopilot?

The EV series are newer units, not much backup on how well they are yet.


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