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Old 27-10-2014, 16:32   #1
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Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

Recently on a 40 day cruise (I was crew) we experienced the following
Brand new 3 month old boat with a complete suite of B&G electronics and autopilot. Without any warning the AP would simply disengage and the
Rudder would become completely free. The auto pilot was a new Jaffa Servo
Type with a cluth. The multi purpose display would error message
"AP lost communication" or something similar I don't remember exactly
And the clutch would completely disengage and the rudder was totally
Free wheeling until there was human intervention.
This made for some very interesting nighttime terror.
We were able to get the auto pilot back by resetting the system with a power
Shutdown or by deleting all previous waypoints and the very next one
The course computer was replaced once during the trip
The owners solution was to have a crew member always at the helm
With a hand on the wheel ready to take over if the AP failed
With 1500nm to go this got a bit trying and led to crew fatigue.
The owner didn't want to address the issue until we got to our destination
3 weeks away. We were in marinas more or less every night but the owner didn't
Want to spend a dime bringing in any techs
Brand new boat, everything under warranty
How should this been felt with?
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Old 27-10-2014, 16:40   #2
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

I think I would have gotten off the boat.
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Old 27-10-2014, 18:05   #3
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

If you are delivery crew stuff will break and you keep delivering.

I'm with the owner. Get it where I want it and then I will deal with non-essential equipment failures.

"Marinas every night"+ 40 day cruise doesn't quite add up to me - Doesn't sound like a dangerous situation though...

You don't say how many crew but with 3 or more you can stand watch 24 hours/day and hand steer no problem.
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Old 27-10-2014, 18:10   #4
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

What is wrong with the concept of a crew member steering the boat? Isn't that what the wheel is for?

It's not like there was a hole in the boat and water coming in, it was not a dangerous situation. The owner had a right to decide to wait to get it fixed.
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Old 27-10-2014, 18:44   #5
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

While bringing my new/used cat from Port Aransas, Tx. to St. Petersburg, Fl. recently the autopilot died on day 2 of the trip. My one crew and I hand steered 3 hours on 3 hours off for 7 days, 24 hours a day.
You're in a marina most nights? No sympathy from this corner.
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Old 27-10-2014, 19:07   #6
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

I was unpaid crew on a race boat delivery across the southern ocean - 2200 miles in 10 days was the plan - AP failed the first night. We went to 24 hour watches with 5 crew - 2 on deck, 1 at the helm steering for an hour then swap.

Being a race boat she was wet and loud and with 2 hours on 3 off it got pretty tiring especially towards the end with 10 meter seas and 40 knot winds and less than 10 degree C night temps.

Not once was there mention of pulling in to repair the AP. we were on a delivery so schedule was king.

was a great adventure but i slept for 2 days when we got to Sydney. Glad i did it. great experience.

marinas everynight??? come on its all in the attitude...
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Old 27-10-2014, 19:27   #7
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

If you look at this youtube video you will see a $3 solution to self steering the boat at any point of sail.

The video shows the system used with a tiller. On a boat with a wheel, you can use the emergency tiller OR you can use a bottom spoke of the wheel to get the same effect. This is all discussed in detail in my singlehanded tips book. I designed the methodology particularly for autopilot failures, because, as I say over and over again, THEY WILL FAIL - GUARANTEED!
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Old 27-10-2014, 20:02   #8
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

Our Simrad autopilot does the exact same thing - maybe once every 24 hours or so but we've never been able to find any correlation to a specific time or event. I have spent hours and even days, not to mention a lot of money trying to solve the problem. Emails to tech support, calling in experts, replacing components and even wiring has failed to stop the problem. Fortunately, all we have to do to get our autopilot to resume steering is to cancel the alarm and re-engage it. But if you're surfing down big seas, it can make your heart go pitter-patter when the autopilot goes into alarm mode and displays 'Can't find autopilot computer'.

Other than that, it's a great autopilot.

Fair winds and calm seas.
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Old 28-10-2014, 05:05   #9
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

what was the battery voltage?
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Old 28-10-2014, 05:33   #10
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

Autopilot? Wow a luxury item, just got my first one,
Up to then it was me and the two teenage kids doing 24 hr watches, no marinas every night, although we were never out more than two weeks and even that is rare. I assume you got to sleep though almost every night since you were in a marina?
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Old 28-10-2014, 05:39   #11
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

In this failure, I would look at both voltage at the AP, and the entire N2k network. In my job as a service manager, I have come across bad networks, either in design or assembly, on boats. Even found one $1m boat with a professionally installed system that had three terminators installed. Wow was all I could say.

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Old 28-10-2014, 05:41   #12
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

Also, radio interference can effect AP computers. On our last boat, the transmission of the HAM radio on certain frequencies would disengage the AP with the same failure.

Chris
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Old 28-10-2014, 05:43   #13
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

Quote:
Originally Posted by sailorboy1 View Post
what was the battery voltage?
Exactly... I have a Jefa drive unit with a Garmin AP. The max output on the Garmin combo is 40 AMPS while the same unit with A simrad AP12 unit is only 12 AMPs.

I'm was also thinking voltage or wiring problem.
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Old 28-10-2014, 05:48   #14
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

Hand steered for 2 weeks coming back from Hawaii after 2 autopilots failed. Such is life, never go offshore on long passages with a single autopilot unless you have spares or you like to hand steer.
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Old 28-10-2014, 05:53   #15
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Re: Auto Pilot Failure. What would you do

It's a b&g system . . . I would have called Jake at B&g tech support (wheelhouse). He most likely would have successfully trouble shot the problem over the phone, assuming anyone on the boat knew which end of a multi-meter to use. You would (most likely) have been "good to go" in an hour or so.
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