I'll give a vote of confidence for the Alpha 3000. I've had one for 20 yrs and it's worked flawlessly and I have had no problems and done thousands of off shore miles with it. In fact, I use it so much that I only helm
the boat when approaching and leaving a dock
, or mooring
What I like about the Alpha 3000:
1. It has a mechanical engagement with a teleflex / morse cable. This means that when mechanically disengaged there is absolutely NO friction or effect on the helm
. It's as if nothing is attached to the steering system.
2. The mos fet circuit means it uses very little power - a good thing.
3. Setting a course is INTUITIVE and done with a large knob delineated in degrees. This is both like a helm AND a compass
. since the indicator will point to the direction the boat is going. If you want to steer to starboard, rotate the knob clockwise. A very degrees of to tack turn it 100 or so depending on your boat. The pilot will move the helm hard over for "large" direction changes and so forth - like a helmsmen. The knob indicator can be easily read from a distance and is not subject to LED failures etc. It's a continuously rotatable knob. Mine is mounted such that I can look ahead, aft etc and turn the knob without having to fiddle with buttons or look at an instrument. This is handy when I want to aim at a mark for example. I turn the know and watch the bow as it turns to and points at the mark and then I stop. I can do this is small steps as well.
4. The unit has a YAW control which essentially controls how much correction the pilot will make. In flat seas the helm hardly moves, and you need very little yaw. But when the waves are pushing the boat around the pilot can compensate for each push off course and correct. Or with the YAW as MAX the helm stays fixed, uses less power and will respond the wave and wind forces without corrections. This is another rheostat with variable settings. Since the pilot is driven by a fluxgate
, boat motion can lead to over corrections in the steering because of the level of damping of the compasss. You can find the right amount of helm corrections to save power and to not travel in a wavey track.
5. It has an auto trim feature which is supposed to learn how the boat behaves. I never got this feature to do anything so I never use it.
6. It cannot be driven by a GPS
which means YOU have to set the course and YOU see the boat turn to that course. This means that if you steer from way point to waypoint you need to take the information from the GPS
and turn the knob! I find this a safety
feature rather than an inconvenience. And it hardlymakes sense to try to sail a course with many turns on auto. You would STILL have to trim the sails
for course changes which is a lot more work than turning the little knob to the new heading. But when motoring with no sail trim you DO still have to dial the new course. Oh My!
This is a great pilot and I have no complaints. Make sure your fluxgate
is properly mounted in the center of motion close to the waterline midship and not near any ferrous objects.
Mount the teleflex cable to engage and dis engage so that your can work the helm and use the teleflex cable. When you want to go to manual helm let the helm come to Center helm under autopilot, turn the pilot off. The helm is "kinda" locked in center helm position by the mechanical pin. Push the teleflex in to disengage and you are under manual helm. reverse the sequence to go from manual to auto pilot. It's important to engage and disengage at the same steering position and center helm makes the most sense.
Go for it!