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Old 29-10-2011, 09:00   #61
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

You can always have both. Integrate it but choose to use the non-integrated settings when you don't need them or want them.
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Old 29-10-2011, 09:19   #62
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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Originally Posted by David M View Post
You can always have both. Integrate it but choose to use the non-integrated settings when you don't need them or want them.
Yes! In fact, that's how we use ours 80% of the time (non-integrated - simply steer to compass).

I am just having problems with the conflation of lack of seamanship and integrated systems.

Mark
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Old 29-10-2011, 09:43   #63
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

Offshore I would use the Monitor, can't see using the amps to run an autopilot, it would be my backup. If it's rough I change settings on the autopilot so it isn't constantly fighting the motion of the boat. There is no computation needed to have the autopilot steer to a waypoint if not integrated, just adjust the auto so the heading line on the plotter is on the waypoint, unless currents change it takes very little adjustment to stay on the waypoint even if you are crabbing 20-30 degrees.
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Old 29-10-2011, 10:31   #64
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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Well, I have seen plenty of boats on AP with no one on watch. Manual steering at least insures that there is someone on deck who might be paying some modicum of attention.

And, perhaps, there may be that type of owner/captain who installs all the latest gadgets, including an integrated AP/nav system who is more likely to not pay attention. However I think the correlation between integrated vs non integrated systems and lack of watch keeping is nebulous at best.
But nonetheless, I think a case can be made that as the years and the technology advance, the experiential, intuitive judgements of seamanship can be given over to the technology.

When most of the readers here were children, cars were completely manual and most of their owners could explain in some detail how the engine, brakes and steering worked and a significant subset of that could repair almost every part of the car, having done so since their teenaged years. Many amateur car repairers had extremely well-equipped home garages of daunting completeness.

Today, most of our boats feature little black boxes and quite a few people successfully enjoying the sailing lifestyle without knowing how much of the boat works, and being unable to do a crimp or a solder.

I know this, because I started out this way myself in the late '90s. The biggest challenge for me has been stuffing a basic knowledge of about a dozen trades in order to properly repair and upgrade my boats. The seamanship came in large part because I couldn't afford and didn't desire auto this or electro that. Starting from "I never took shop class", I had to jam small motor repair, fibreglassing, hydraulics, navigation and, God help me, rope to chain backsplicing into my mental ditty bag.

It's made me ornery, frankly. I don't want too much convenience, because I've seen how easily (and almost predictably) the sea environment will kill Man's endeavours and devices. So I prefer the KISS principle, and having multiple and discrete ways of partially automating the operation of the boat.

It gives me a finer resolution to be in the middle of the dynamic environment, so to speak, when I don't leave everything to the gadgets.

And that's why I don't like to integrate the AP, although I agree it can be nice to have as an option.
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Old 29-10-2011, 11:07   #65
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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Again, seamanship and good practices have NOTHING to do with electronics, autopilots or how they are integrated. Nothing.

I am not meaning to be argumentative or personal with you Alchemy, it is just that I remain confused and confounded why the seamanship argument keeps being made.

Mark
Integrated electronics allow stupid people to look smart until they hit something easily avoided, perhaps killing themselves or others in the process.

Integrated electronics are part of the process of turning a skipper into a "passenger".

Integrated electronics also discourage a stupid person, or rather an ignorant person, from educating themselves into competency. A boat with a tiller and a compass and a Windex and maybe a VHF (90% of boats until maybe 15 years ago) is a relatively mute thing. It gives you messages in ways by which you can't help but notice the nuances of wind, waves and weather. The "Star Trek" helm, by contrast, will allow even a near-blind child to steer the boat, but that child will not necessarily learn anything in the process.

So I am not impugning the skilled and seamanlike sailor for whom integration is a convenience only and is merely an extension to the existing and familiar boat operation aids, but I will and do impugn the growing number of boaters who rely on such gadgets because they know very little seamanship.

Those people are trouble for the sport, trouble for the SAR and a bonanza for those who know how to fix boats. We get reports here and elsewhere about sailboats calling MAYDAYs because they've run out of fuel, or going out without doing a weather check, or running into nav aids because waypoints weren't understood, or being unable to dock because the bow thruster's busted and they have a boat with grotesque windage.

Like the stories of people dying in the wilderness because "the GPS told them to go this way", individuals, to paraphrase Franklin, who give up their autonomy in order to secure a little convenience deserve neither.

See, told you I'd gotten ornery! Half the guys who taught me how to break down engines and do CN are already dead of old age, and the number of bozos at the helm continues to be high where I live. These days it's bozos texting on smart phones as they enter basins. I use the horn more than I used to, just to pry their eyeballs up from the glowing screens.

Sailing should be learned in electronics-free boats, in my view. Once you understand on a visceral and seamanlike level which aspect of boat operation the electronics mimic ...and the limitations of that mimicry...fine, go nuts, turn the helm into Mission Control. If you know how to sail safely, it's no matter to me. But I find that is not always the case, and guys in driveways seen fixing their own cars have just about vanished from North America. As has in some respects the experiential method of acquiring seamanship via, you know, actually sailing by hand and eye.
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Old 29-10-2011, 11:14   #66
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
Yes! In fact, that's how we use ours 80% of the time (non-integrated - simply steer to compass).

I am just having problems with the conflation of lack of seamanship and integrated systems.

Mark
I think we are essentially discussing the same thing from two ends. You are advocating the use of integration as just another tool available to the already skilled seaman, and I am saying that integration aids and abets the presence of underskilled skippers and crew and unseamanlike behaviour in conditions that can turn unpleasant rapidly.

The fact is that I've used integration of the "patch it in as needed" type myself...and liked it. But I have also seen it break, as I've seen windvanes break offshore. Stuff happens: Seamen know how to get back to basics because they've experienced such basics. It seems of late, however, that people are dying or requiring rescue because their electronics-laden boats break in the real ocean, and they have no knowledge base from which to extract themselves from danger or distress.
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Old 29-10-2011, 11:25   #67
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
It gives me a finer resolution to be in the middle of the dynamic environment, so to speak, when I don't leave everything to the gadgets.

And that's why I don't like to integrate the AP, although I agree it can be nice to have as an option.
Pretty much my philosophy. If I had unlimited time and budget to tinker then I do enjoy gadgets and might install an integrated system just to play with. But, when it comes to mission critical equipment (which I consider APs, my diving gear, etc) then I do prefer to follow the KISS principal.
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Old 29-10-2011, 11:42   #68
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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Originally Posted by S/V Alchemy View Post
I think we are essentially discussing the same thing from two ends. You are advocating the use of integration as just another tool available to the already skilled seaman, and I am saying that integration aids and abets the presence of underskilled skippers and crew and unseamanlike behaviour in conditions that can turn unpleasant rapidly.

The fact is that I've used integration of the "patch it in as needed" type myself...and liked it. But I have also seen it break, as I've seen windvanes break offshore. Stuff happens: Seamen know how to get back to basics because they've experienced such basics. It seems of late, however, that people are dying or requiring rescue because their electronics-laden boats break in the real ocean, and they have no knowledge base from which to extract themselves from danger or distress.
This year in the San Blas islands we have had 5 boats go aground on reefs with significant damage and total loss for a couple. None of these boats (maybe one) had integrated electronics and were relying on estimating leeway and current to navigate around reefs. Some were hand steering with constant watch. Had they autopilots navigating to known good waypoints, they would still be afloat.

Stupid people will always find ways of messing up. Smart people will always find themselves in unfortunate positions from small errors. This has been the case since the caveman ("Ugg no understand how use new clovishead spear - he get in trouble with sabertooth"). Blaming new technology for making people stupid is an age-old past time for curmudgeons throughout history. But history always shows that people are people and new technology doesn't change that ("see I told you that newfangled automobile thing would just lead to stupid youngsters tearing around in the darn things getting into all sorts of trouble").

Mark
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Old 29-10-2011, 12:28   #69
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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All the electronics manufacturers seem to be promoting totally integrated electronics packages for new fit ups. I can see some advantages and some disadvantages. The major disadvantage seems to me that one component failure may mean that you lose the functionality of every component in the system. My major concern is the autopilot. If the autopilot can't trim the sails then what advantage is it to have course changes etc programmed into the system?

Can anyone help me with one advantage of having the autopilot integrated?

Greg
It's been interesting reading this thread. Probably a good idea to quote the OP's question, as it seems the arguments have drifted away from the question of "integration" a bit.

I'm thoroughly in the "go integrated" camp. And, no, I don't put the autopilot on "GoTo WPT" and go below to take a nap. I'll tell you why I like integration with some examples.

I've found it really helpful to use the autopilot + chartplotter "Track" function under certain circumstances, e.g., offshore in the Sargasso Sea, where you can experience 1-2 knot currents shifting by very large amounts several times in the space of 24 hours. It's also great to have when motoring or motor-sailing in light winds on the the Chesapeake Bay. But if the wind's up, I love to hand-steer and hardly ever use the autopilot in any mode, even on offshore passages. Why let the autopilot have all the fun?!!

The radar overlay on the chartplotter is also a great feature. It was a major benefit on an overnight motor-sail up the Delaware Bay. It was slightly foggy that night, and the channel markers were very hard to see, with shore lights behind and ship traffic confusing things. A number of the markers were unlit and invisible until they loomed up two or three boat lengths ahead. We were making 7.5 - 8 knots with a fair tidal current. We had two on watch at all times, and it was still sensory overload It was really great to be able to see the markers on the chart, verified by radar, before they flashed by our beam, while keeping track of all the commercial traffic on the radar, as well. Invaluable!

I had B&G Network Wind/Depth/Speed instruments, a B&G autopilot, and Raymarine RL 70 CRC chartplotter/radar/GPS receiver setup. They all spoke politely with each other at all times. When the masthead wind instrument failed, the rest of the system carried on with their usual functions in spite of it.

Speaking from my own experience, I believe the electronic systems were tools that helped me be a better sailor. More information and more control is good in my opinion. I could make better decisions more quickly compared to fiddling with paper charts, dividers, parallel rulers, etc.

This is especially true for the single-hander or single watch-stander. With integrated systems, I had more time available to pay attention to actual conditions, traffic and hazards around me, especially if things were happening fast. Like the time I was rounding Windmill Point on the Chesapeake Bay just as a squall dropped visibility to near zero, and a menhaden ship was coming at me from behind, moving fast. All the depth, chart and radar info I needed for a quick decision on how to get out of his way without running into shoal waters was instantly available.

BTW, having been on the water in boats for several decades, I'm thoroughly proficient in coastal navigation and dead reckoning using the traditional tools and techniques, so if the electronics "gadgets" blow up, I'll be able to find my way home safely.
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Old 29-10-2011, 14:10   #70
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

This has become another thread that basically says the way I sail etc. means I'm a stupid dangerous person out on the water.

I'm OK with this, but keep hoping to learn the proper flag to fly so others will know this and keep the f**k out of my way to make it easier on me and safer for them!
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Old 29-10-2011, 14:12   #71
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

As the OP I have found all replies and particularly #68 & #69 very helpful. My reasoning that if the integrated autopilot makes a course change predetermined on the chartplotter (meaning that it is not steering to the wind angle) then I would have to trim the sails for the new wind angle anyway. To bring the autopilot round a few degree at the same time doesn't seem like a lot of extra work. My concern also was that if the central computer was the single component that died on an integrated system then I lose all functionality. I think the pros for integration seem to outweigh the cons so far. As the autopilot would be the most missed item on the boat, I also like the suggestion of having it wired so that it could operate independant of the rest of the electronics or integrated at the flick of a switch. I would then have the advantage of integration without the possible downside. I feel entirely comfortable with a spare handheld GPS and paper charts as a back up anyway, so I'll probably integrate. The latest systems being marketed don't even have a control panel for the AP, it is all done through the chartplotter. That's probably too big a step for me.

Thank You for all the replies.
Greg
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Old 29-10-2011, 14:29   #72
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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This has become another thread that basically says the way I sail etc. means I'm a stupid dangerous person out on the water.

I'm OK with this, but keep hoping to learn the proper flag to fly so others will know this and keep the f**k out of my way to make it easier on me and safer for them!
Perhaps the proper flag?



Or all three on the starboard hoist? I would likely veer off, for one!
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Old 29-10-2011, 14:31   #73
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

From a ethical point of view I can only accept the first flag! One must stand for something!
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Old 29-10-2011, 14:42   #74
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

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Originally Posted by Eleebana View Post
As the OP I have found all replies and particularly #68 & #69 very helpful. My reasoning that if the integrated autopilot makes a course change predetermined on the chartplotter (meaning that it is not steering to the wind angle) then I would have to trim the sails for the new wind angle anyway. To bring the autopilot round a few degree at the same time doesn't seem like a lot of extra work. My concern also was that if the central computer was the single component that died on an integrated system then I lose all functionality. I think the pros for integration seem to outweigh the cons so far. As the autopilot would be the most missed item on the boat, I also like the suggestion of having it wired so that it could operate independant of the rest of the electronics or integrated at the flick of a switch. I would then have the advantage of integration without the possible downside. I feel entirely comfortable with a spare handheld GPS and paper charts as a back up anyway, so I'll probably integrate. The latest systems being marketed don't even have a control panel for the AP, it is all done through the chartplotter. That's probably too big a step for me.

Thank You for all the replies.
Greg
Good luck, Greg. I think you're on the right track.

For the record, I don't think anyone argued against having your pilot connected to the rest of your electronics. Most of the argument was about how and in what circumstances to use what functions.

You should keep in mind what components are used for what functions:

1. For regular "heading mode", your pilot doesn't need any data from outside sources. It will have a control head, a heading sensor -- fluxgate compass with or without a gyro -- a course computer, and a rudder position sensor, and a hydraulic pump and ram drive. If your chart plotter, GPS, other instruments go down, the pilot will still work in its main and most useful mode -- to keep the boat on a particular heading.

2. For "wind following mode" the pilot will take data from your wind instruments. Still doesn't need anything from GPS or plotter.

3. For "track mode" or "follow route mode", the pilot will now start to interact with your plotter. But these are by far the least used modes.

So you don't need to worry about whether or not to integrate -- of course, integrate. If your plotter crashes or your network goes down, you don't even have to flip any switch. The pilot will simply refuse to work in those modes, but will always work in its basic, most useful mode as long as the fluxgate and course computer are working.

Just one tip -- If I were you, I would invest in a system with a separate control head for the pilot. As far as I know, all of the better systems have separate pilot control.
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Old 30-10-2011, 06:35   #75
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Re: Why Integrate the Autopilot ?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eleebana View Post
As the OP I have found all replies and particularly #68 & #69 very helpful. My reasoning that if the integrated autopilot makes a course change predetermined on the chartplotter (meaning that it is not steering to the wind angle) then I would have to trim the sails for the new wind angle anyway. To bring the autopilot round a few degree at the same time doesn't seem like a lot of extra work. My concern also was that if the central computer was the single component that died on an integrated system then I lose all functionality. I think the pros for integration seem to outweigh the cons so far. As the autopilot would be the most missed item on the boat, I also like the suggestion of having it wired so that it could operate independant of the rest of the electronics or integrated at the flick of a switch. I would then have the advantage of integration without the possible downside. I feel entirely comfortable with a spare handheld GPS and paper charts as a back up anyway, so I'll probably integrate. The latest systems being marketed don't even have a control panel for the AP, it is all done through the chartplotter. That's probably too big a step for me.

Thank You for all the replies.
Greg
Greg,

To clarify, as far as I know, an integrated autopilot operating in the "Track" aka "Follow Route" mode will not automatically change course for the next waypoint when it reaches the current waypoint. At least mine wouldn't, and I wouldn't want it to.

As it approaches the current waypoint, it will give a beeping signal to alert you. You then push a button instructing it to make the turn necessary to aim for the next waypoint. The only course changes the AP will make in the "Track" mode are those necessary to offset crosstrack error due to setting currents or leeway.

The advantage of the "Track" mode is that it allows you to do your route planning in advance of the trip and load it into the chartplotter, so you have less (potentially distracting) things to do once underway.
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