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Old 17-04-2015, 06:00   #1
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Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

I am looking to purchase a Jefa direct drive autopilot unit and powered by a Garmin Reactor headunit as Jefa inform me that the Garmin is designed for the Jefa unit and don't require rudder feedback sensors when installed in unison.

I originally just searched down the Jefa route with Jefa pushing me towards Garmin.

The boat is 45ft long, ex ocean racer, light, and I am setting her up for long distance cruising with the view of sailing from Europe to Asia via the Carribean.

Does anyone have any insight into this or recommendations for/against?

BG or NKE also id be interested in comparison against the Jefa/Garmin unit if anyone can?
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Old 17-04-2015, 06:51   #2
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

I would be very wary about installing an autopilot on a sailboat without a rudder feedback sensor. In fact, I'm willing to bet that if you dig a bit further with Garmin, they will recommend one. Generally, only powerboats get away without one. It can be done on a sailboat, but you will not have good steerage, and the AP will be working constantly.

IMO, the quality/performance ranking of those three would be NKE>B&G>>Garmin. However, I suspect the pricing is also in that order.

Jefa has a business relationship with Garmin, but their drives can be used on any autopilot from other manufacturers. There is nothing special about the Garmin/Jefa combination, other than Jefa OEM's Garmin with drives and doesn't have to compete with a house brand.

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Old 17-04-2015, 07:02   #3
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

So what about a Jefa unit with BG or NKE system?
I was looking for something a bit above the standard "leisure setup" and Jefa seamed to be simple.
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Old 17-04-2015, 07:25   #4
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

There should be no problem using a Jefa drive with B&G or NKE gear.

For linear drive systems like this, autopilots simply supply clutch and drive voltage. The drive itself is dumb. Unlike the rest of the AP components, there is nothing proprietary or special about the connection between the AP computer and the drive unit.

I don't understand the comment about being above the standard leisure setup. Jefa makes decent drives with some interesting technology, but there really isn't anything "above and beyond" about them. Other manufacturer drive units, made by Octopus, Lecompte-Schmidt, and the like are certainly of professional quality and used on high-end racers, etc.

As for simplicity, these are all just linear drive units. You give them a solid mounting point and make sure they are properly installed within their angle and throwout specs, connect the 2 or 3 wires and you are done. I don't see much difference between them regarding simplicity.

You may want to consider the rest of your electronics systems when choosing an AP. If you wish to control the AP through a chartplotter, you will need to have an AP system the same brand as the CP. Note that this is for controlling an AP, not for navigating to waypoints, routes, etc. - all AP's will use any CP data for navigation. Also, if you have an NMEA2000 instrument system, I think the NKE AP's are still only NMEA0183, so there will be a few hoops to jump integrating them into NMEA2000 data.

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Old 17-04-2015, 07:33   #5
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

The Simrad dd15 is the Jefa drive with Simrad rudder position sensor already installed...this can be used with B&G or Simrads autopilots.

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Old 17-04-2015, 07:53   #6
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

I was meaning to steer away from Raymarine or general stuff from the chandlery.
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Old 17-04-2015, 08:44   #7
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

i also spoke with Jefa some time ago. i suspect what they are recommending is their LD100 sold as Garmin class A drive unit. the reason you don't need a separate feedback unit with that is that it's already integrated into the drive design, and all the necessary wires are already combined in the two garmin plugs (so you get clutch, drive, and feedback all ready to plug and play). so it's not the "virtual rudder feedback" thingie, it's a real feedback unit but already integrated. after all, it's just a potentiometer calibrated to how far the push-rod is extended.

i don't have personal experience using these. if i had the money when i was talking to Jefa, i would have bought one, probably. i ended up installing an LS (Lecomble-Schmitt) hudraulic drive that i found cheap on ebay (the unit was new but had a faulty o-ring so leaked badly, so i rebuilt it with guidance from LS).

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Old 17-04-2015, 11:34   #8
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

If I may add to this thread, hopefully not drifting it too far from the OPs questions, I have several thoughts and questions on AP drives.

I too have looked at the Jefa web site and they make a good sales pitch. However like anyone trying to sell anything, how much is hype, exaggeration or irrelevant smoke and mirrors and how much is true, to what degree and pertinent to real world usage?

Here's the factors I'm thinking about for a new AP drive.

1. Reliability, of course
2. Power usage.
3. Mounting options.
4. Noise.

1. Reliability.

For the top brand drives it seems from what I'm reading they are comparable in this regard. Where I do have a question (which I believe I addressed to Mark in a previous thread) is hydraulic vs linear drive units.

A lot of cruisers recommend hydraulic as more reliable than a linear drive. This I don't quite understand since:
a) both have electric motors to provide the power
b) hydraulic adds the pump, valves and hoses vs some form of gearing for electric.
So the hydraulic on paper sounds more complex with more potential failure points and possibilities for hydraulic leaks that some complain of as a constant battle.

2. Power usage.

This seems like one of the most difficult variables to nail down since all boats will handle differently under different wind and sea conditions and no one that I know of has two different systems installed to do an A/B comparison between units under identical conditions.

To me this is very important to most cruisers as the AP will probably be by far the biggest power draw on the system while underway. If I recall, Jefa advertises one of its units as very low power draw. Forget why but they claim this based on some design feature.

Alpha claims very low power draw for their linear drive (which I believe is proprietary to them and not purchased from another maker) because they use a manual system to connect the drive to the rudder, eliminating the power used by the electric clutch used by all other systems. Otherwise I believe the power usage will be primarily be determined by the AP brain and how well the algorithms reduce motor time, hunting, etc.

3. Mounting options.

In my case not a major concern except the possibility of remount mounting the motor for a hydraulic drive as it relates to point 4.

4. Noise

I have read comments that the hydraulic drives can be noisy. Since the rudder and quadrant in my boat are right under the bed this could be an issue for me. Probably similar concerns for others I would bet.

So how noisy? How much quieter is a linear vs hydraulic? I think Jefa also advertised quiet as one of their features. For me, I would be willing to give up just a bit of longevity for more quiet.


So, at the end of the day I might be way overthinking the whole issue, but since an AP drive could be a couple of boat bucks and will be a very critical piece of kit on the boat I want to get it right.
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Old 17-04-2015, 12:25   #9
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Never heard of Jefa autopilot. NKE on the other hand are pretty famous. My point is that you don't win much (if any) buying Garmin instead of Raymarine.
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Old 17-04-2015, 12:28   #10
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
Where I do have a question (which I believe I addressed to Mark in a previous thread) is hydraulic vs linear drive units.



So how noisy? How much quieter is a linear vs hydraulic? I think Jefa also advertised quiet as one of their features. For me, I would be willing to give up just a bit of longevity for more quiet.
If you mean me above, I don't remember seeing the thread - unless is was a while ago and I already answered.

Noise is probably highly dependent on the actual drives themselves. We have both a B&G linear hydraulic drive and a Raymarine linear electromechanical drive. The noise comparison between those two are night and day - the B&G hydraulic is so loud we hear it in the cockpit (we have a catamaran and the cockpit is very isolated from the AP drive mount). The Raymarine mechanical drive is completely silent - it is mounted under our berth and it cannot be heard even with your ear directly above it.

I'm sure other hydraulic and mechanical drives can be very different in noise - that is just our experience with those two particular ones.

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Old 17-04-2015, 12:30   #11
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

Quote:
2. Power usage.

This seems like one of the most difficult variables to nail down since all boats will handle differently under different wind and sea conditions and no one that I know of has two different systems installed to do an A/B comparison between units under identical conditions.
L&S have a solenoid that switches on or off. Draws very little power while underway. This cuts down on the amount of power used as the solenoid is not using power to hold itself in the activated position.
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Old 17-04-2015, 12:37   #12
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

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Originally Posted by ullar View Post
Never heard of Jefa autopilot. NKE on the other hand are pretty famous. My point is that you don't win much (if any) buying Garmin instead of Raymarine.
Jefa makes drives, not autopilots. Think of them more like Octopus or LeCombe-Schmitt. They have an OEM agreement to supply Garmin with all their drive units, as well as supplying a couple of the Simrad and B&G drive options.

Likewise NKE doesn't make drive units - they simply OEM them from others (LeCombe-Schmitt, I think).

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Old 17-04-2015, 12:42   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by colemj View Post

Jefa makes drives, not autopilots. Think of them more like Octopus or LeCombe-Schmitt. They have an OEM agreement to supply Garmin with all their drive units, as well as supplying a couple of the Simrad and B&G drive options.

Likewise NKE doesn't make drive units - they simply OEM them from others (LeCombe-Schmitt, I think).

Mark
OK. So, the comparison should have been Jefa against Octopus, LeCombe-Schmitt and other drive makers. How would you order those?
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Old 17-04-2015, 13:20   #14
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

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Originally Posted by colemj View Post
If you mean me above, I don't remember seeing the thread - unless is was a while ago and I already answered.

Noise is probably highly dependent on the actual drives themselves. We have both a B&G linear hydraulic drive and a Raymarine linear electromechanical drive. The noise comparison between those two are night and day - the B&G hydraulic is so loud we hear it in the cockpit (we have a catamaran and the cockpit is very isolated from the AP drive mount). The Raymarine mechanical drive is completely silent - it is mounted under our berth and it cannot be heard even with your ear directly above it.

I'm sure other hydraulic and mechanical drives can be very different in noise - that is just our experience with those two particular ones.

Mark
I was indeed referring to you.

It was on another general AP discussion several months, maybe a year ago. I mentioned noise from hydraulics in one post which you replied to. Amazing isn't it, that some people actually pay attention to what you post.

Based on a few comments and articles I've read I'm thinking that in general, hydraulics of any kind, not just APs, tend to make some noise. But like any generality there may be exceptions to the rule.
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Old 17-04-2015, 13:31   #15
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Re: Autopilot Jefa vs BG vs NKE

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Originally Posted by DeepFrz View Post
L&S have a solenoid that switches on or off. Draws very little power while underway. This cuts down on the amount of power used as the solenoid is not using power to hold itself in the activated position.
So instead of a clutch that is powered and draws power continuously to connect the drive motor to the rudder, the L&S has no clutch, the motor is always connected and the signal from the controller turns the motor on directly to rotate as needed? Is this basically correct?

If so, then isn't the motor being turned by the system even when manually steering or is there some way to disengage it?
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