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Old 30-04-2010, 19:25   #16
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There is an ongoing controversy among cruisers regarding the practice of carrying loaded firearms aboard while cruising. I personally don't carry loaded firearms aboard my boat because I know if the autopilot ever failed I would shoot myself.
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Old 18-05-2010, 21:25   #17
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Biggles...?? he's on duty all the time at sea... best crew I ever had.... waffles on a bit at night when I'm in my bunk and he's on his own but...
What the hell... I can't criticise... do it myself pretty often
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Old 18-05-2010, 21:39   #18
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gosh. it would seem like mutiny to relieve the pilot of duty. the only time I hand-steer is when photographs are about to be taken.
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Old 18-05-2010, 23:49   #19
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We are flying down the west coast of sumatra in 18 knots of wind 170 degrees over the port rear quarter and the new raymarine wheel pilot called Amanda, is loving it!!!
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Old 19-05-2010, 10:15   #20
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I don't like to drive and let the vane, mostly, steer ALL the time. The WindPilot Pacific Plus windvane steers well, even in light air downwind, so the auto pilot doesn't get much of a workout except when I'm real close, like 100s of yards to land.

The new Raymarine X5 wheel pilot is a BIG improvement over the 4000+ it replaced. I'd use it more often and it seems to be more than capable of steering my barn door ruddered boat on all points of sail but don't like to eat electrons or stess it. Can't beat an A/P when you have to maintain a careful heading.
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Old 19-05-2010, 11:54   #21
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I let the autopilot steer always offshore, in open coastal waters or even going down the ditch.

David
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Old 19-05-2010, 12:15   #22
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Our auto pilot is 'Venus'. We love her. We use her 99.9%. If ever she needs repairs and we can't afford to fix her or get a replacement, I'll tell my husband to hang it up... we're done!
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Old 19-05-2010, 12:21   #23
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Even down the Intracoastal waterway I/we us it. So, about 99% of the time. The embarrassing part is it steers a better coarse than I do.

When we were racing, we would not use it at all. Not sure that would have made any/much difference in our results however!
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Old 19-05-2010, 12:55   #24
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I hand steered to learn how the vessel handled, when I got bored, thought the autopilot wasn't doing as good a job as it should. Nowadays, the only time I hand steer is on and off the hook and to the dock.

I've not used a wind vane but it's on my list for my next boat. I had an old Autohelm 3000 and it worked just fine.

The only downside is you get spoiled. You get to sit back, watch the scenery, read, tweak the sails, and relax. If cars had autopilot....
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Old 19-05-2010, 12:58   #25
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They can put autopilots in planes! When will they do it for cars!!!???
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Old 02-06-2010, 23:13   #26
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Viva la Autopilot!

I agree with almost everyone else on this thread. We used the autopilot 99.9% of the time on ALL passages: no need to submit to the tyranny of the helm in these modern times. However, I would like to add the following comments.

We used the Autohelm 3000 because of its simplicity. I carried two control heads, five drive units and a couple of spare belts! It's a cheap, not extremely reliable, autopilot but, with the spare parts and its simple design, I can replace any failed unit within a few minutes. I've also learned which components typically fail (e.g., the drive motor) and how to repair them using spare parts I've accumulated over the years.

I differ a bit with some of the other comments made here. I NEVER trust that tiny Autohelm 3000 autopilot when heading downwind, especially when under sail in large following seas. I always angle about 20 degrees to one side or the other from straight downwind, even if it means our course will be a little longer. This, of course, applies when we are sailing and the possibility of an unintentional jibe exists.

Also, on the many long offshore passages we've made, power consumption has been a consideration. Using the autopilot most efficiently when under sail to windward is a matter of sail and rudder trim. In fact, when going to weather, I've found that the autopilot is often not even needed. Correct sail trim and rudder setting will keep you going on a close-hauled course with little deviation, even without an autopilot.

However, I have often wished that I had a good windvane steering system. This is especially the case when singlehanding on long offshore passages. Due to wind changes, an autopilot following a magnetic course just doesn't cut it when you want to get a long stretch of sleep. Having a small windvane input to the autopilot can be a great convenience, if your model of autopilot implements that.
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Old 03-06-2010, 08:10   #27
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On ocean passages, She Who Must Be Obeyed and I tend to hand steer at night.

As you can't read your book it helps pass the time. Boat goes faster too. Makes a difference if you've got a boat that's a pleasure to steer.
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Old 03-06-2010, 08:43   #28
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99.9% of the time offshore and starting to use it daysailing unless hard on the wind, which is when I enjoy hand steering.
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Old 03-06-2010, 11:50   #29
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The only thing I didn't like about the now antique Autohelm 3000 was the noise. Talk about being spoiled. In my next boat, I'm giving serious consideration to a quadrant autopilot but the 3000 sure let me know when the sails weren't trimmed though.

I'm looking at a wind vane but they're more expensive than most small boat autopilots. I do like the idea of an aux and backup rudder, the power savings, and yes, the lack of noise. I'm not sure I want to give up the stern for the vane, but everyone I talk to speaks very highly about the effectiveness, efficiency, and power savings.
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Old 03-06-2010, 13:37   #30
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Used Windvanes turn up fairly regularly in the SF Bay Area on Craig's List. Have also seen them on Ebay, SSCA classifieds, etc. If you have patience, you should be able to find a used one at a good price, typically from one to two boat units. I sold a Monitor for $1700 and bought a Windpilot Pacific Plus for $1800. Also bought a Sailomat 601 for $1700. Have seen Aries, Monitor, Navik, Windpilot Pacific, Flemming and Cap Horn turn up in the past year, all for under 2 boat units, some well under.

The Cap Horn are custom made for each boat though adapting to another boat is not a big deal. Yves will sell what you need to make the conversion. Scanmar/Monitor has an extensive list of mountings for their vanes on various boats. They probably know exactly what's required to set their vane up on almost any production boat. They don't sell their SS tubing cheaply, however. The other vanes may also have some 'custom build' traits for the boat they are on so be sure that the vane will fit on yours and any different mounting pieces that you may need are available from the Manufacturer or easily fabricated. I've installed 4 different vanes and all were easily adapted to the sterns of the boats they went on. For Pendulum Servo vanes, be sure that the control lines can be easily run to the wheel or tiller.

The initial cost of an autopilot is the cheap part. If you are going to use it a lot, you've got to figure out how to feed it. If nothing else, running the engine for several hours every day would be mandatory. A solar/wind charger installation would certainly cost more than the autopilot. Then there is the problem with A/P failure. Doubt if you'll find anyone who has made long passages that hasn't had an issue with their pilot. So you need to take spares along which can easily double the initial purchase cost. Autopilot failure for a crewed boat is an inconvenience, for a single hander, it could be fatal.

In light of the above, I think a windvane is invaluable for passages and a necessity for the single hander. They don't eat and are usually easily repaired by a rank amatuer if something does go wrong. The big problem is occasionally swapping out the control lines on a pendulum servo vane. Easily done and they give you plenty of warning.
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