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Old 19-04-2016, 13:47   #1
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Replace the Autopilot?

I'm sailing short handed from New England to Bermuda in June on a 44 foot sloop displacing 28,000 lbs. It has a Raymarine 7001. The computer (below deck) and input panel (at the helm) are from 1998. The ram, a linear 2 , is new. Everything works just fine.

Is there any reason to replace the computer and input panel because they are almost 20 years old? My experience with things electrical has been that they either work or don't, with nothing in between. On the other hand, those input buttons have been pushed since 1998 and perhaps are getting tired.

Your thoughts? Thank you in advance for your input.
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Old 19-04-2016, 14:03   #2
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

On a Bermuda Race in the early 90's we lost the Autohelm 6000 the morning of the start.

I opened up the upper unit and found out that some moisture had gotten in and rust had bled across the board.

I cleaned it up with a toothbrush and it worked for two days then stopped, never to be repaired again.

We had a big crew so hand steering was preferred anyway but shorthanded wouldn't have been much fun.
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Old 19-04-2016, 14:12   #3
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

It depends on the risk. How shorthanded? Singlehanded? Two people? Three people? The Raymarine type 2 linear drive can be used with any of their autopilots and I believe even with competitors. If it's a 4 to 5 day trip how many days could you and your team steer?
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Old 19-04-2016, 14:28   #4
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

We're doublehanding and racing. The autopilot working is critical for success more so than survival.
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Old 19-04-2016, 14:40   #5
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roniszoro View Post
We're doublehanding and racing. The autopilot working is critical for success more so than survival.
Seems like you just answered your own question.. Hope you buy a good one and think about it.. You will have a working spare even..
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Old 19-04-2016, 14:48   #6
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

Whatever you do with the autopilot, drop $50-100 and get Lee Woas's book "Self-steering without a Windvane". Get surgical tubing, seizing line, bits of plywood, and sone cam-cleats. You don't have to do anything with them immediately but you can muck around with them underway and if things go sideways you have the minimum to keep going while only hand steering part of the time.

Even racing boats can use these techniques, look up Foolish Muse.


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Old 19-04-2016, 14:58   #7
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

Instead of replacing, you could get spares (same of everything you suspect), and be ready to install (and if the replacement is drop in or close, that's almost Lego). If you don't need any of it - return unopened to the store; if you do - good you had it?


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Old 19-04-2016, 16:06   #8
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

I have thought about this issue as I may be doing another long trip in June 2017. There are 6 components to these older autopilots. Any failure in any one is shuts the system down. The parts are:
1) compass 2) rudder reference 3) course computer 4) control head 5)linear drive and 6)the wiring. The wiring is least likely to go assuming the connections are clean. The compass and rudder reference you can get backups used for about $150 ea. The drive is new(er) . I talked with Raymarine at Newport Boatshow and he said the rudder reference is a needed spare. I've had a compass go bad. The course computer and control head are not as easy to find used. A brand new system may not be that easy to plug and play do to wiring and different connectors. May be worth a call to Raymarine to check out.
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Old 19-04-2016, 16:39   #9
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

But what I still can't get a handle on is: will "new" mean "more reliable" than existing?
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Old 19-04-2016, 16:43   #10
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

As referenced by Adelie above, whenever you are relying on an autopilot (even a brand new one), you MUST be able to get by without it. Electronics in general, and autopilots specifically, are notoriously unreliable. If the autopilot doesn't break, then your motor won't start or the alternator will break or the sun won't shine on your solar panels, or any number of other things that will cause failure. More voyages have been prematurely halted by electronics failures than any other reason, even million dollar Vendee Globe voyages have been stopped by a software glitch or the failure of a brand new battery.

But the answer is simple with a $3 piece of surgical tubing. It can easily be hooked up on any boat.
You'll find the answer in Chapter 5 of my singlehanded tips book available free at:
http://sfbaysss.org/resource/doc/Sin...rdEdition2.pdf

You'll also find the video about this at:


These are techniques that every sailor should know. They are so incredibly simple and easy to use that you don't even need to practice before hand; just have the book on board in case. You just need that darned $3 piece of surgical tubing.

If your boat has a wheel rather than a tiller, the connections are made to one of the lower spokes of the wheel. Just find the distance from the centre of the wheel that emulates the movement of a tiller.

Have fun in your race.
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Old 19-04-2016, 16:54   #11
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Re: Replace the Autopilot?

In addition to Foolish's resource, and Boas' book, John Letcher's excellent Self Steering for Small Craft is also now available on the internet. There was even a link to it here on this forum.
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