We picked up our Helia in May this year. We had problems with the Garmin autopilot however all have been fixed under warranty.
Our Garmin nav instruments were all installed by a local contractor called Pochon (hired by FP). The folks at Pochon are great, and the physical install quality is great, but the software
setup had issues.
Our Garmin autopilot initially sailed fine, but we never really put it to the test until after leaving La Rochelle. Even in 30kt winds, the bay by LR doesnt see seas more than a few feet seas. A walk in the park for any auto pilot with a balanced set of sails
. Once in Biscay, the high winds and high seas completely overwhelmed the autopilot and she did indeed sail like a drunken sailor. We spent hours on end at the wheel to get her across Biscay and further south. She could not hold a heading and had constant "drive unit overload" errors which would kick her into standby when you least expected it.
I reached out to FP, who immediately contacted Pochon, who helped us troubleshoot en route
. We were able to adjust rudder
gains to improve performance, but we kept having "drive unit overload" errors that kicked her into standby. Essentially higher rudder gains were demanding more power which was limited by software
setting that we couldn't resolve (or figure out how via phone
with a language barrier). we sailed for another 1000nm with issues only in moderate to heavy seas, when power demand was high. Pochon then hired a local Garmin tech in Barcelona
(our next long stop) to further diagnose the issue. His fix was to update the Garmin software and re-calibrate both on the dock
and at sea. There's also a setting which you can adjust for max power consumption
allowed by the drive unit which fixed the "overload" problem. Anyway, root cause was improper software setup in LR. It's still not clear to me whether FP or Pochon was responsible for the on the water
calibration and software setup.
Since then our autopilot has been extremely reliable. Worst we've seen since was in a levanter with 35kts and 3-4m seas and the Garmin autopilot did great.
Anyway, I'm happy with the Garmin nav instruments and autopilot. I've been pleased with all parties involved to remedy warranty work at no cost to me. The autopilot mess was a PITA, but I learned an awful lot about the garmin system and software that otherwise would have taken years to figure out.