Originally Posted by Pizzazz
I have experience with both. My current
boat has an autopilot only. The autopilot advantages for me include more precise steering, auto, track and wind modes, ability to steer the boat from inside, ability to make the boat follow an arbitrary course without any intervention. Up to 30 knots of wind, I would choose the autopilot any time. If you plan extended passages with sustained winds over 30-35 knots and sail short-handed, it would be safer to have a windvane.
Regarding autopilots being unreliable. Not true. You must however have spare parts
for everything, drive, electronics
as things break all the time. You would be surprised how cheap
it is to have multiple backup though. Learn how to repair your wheel
drive. Carry spare belts. Carry a second course computer/control head. You can get a brand new EV-100 for $1000. You can get a backup ST4000+ control head for $300. A modern windvane with installation
will run you about $4-5000 and you will "need to" use it only 3% of the time. Plus, I think windvanes do not look good at all.
Dang, my windvane (25 years old) works fine, I did have to replace the lines, my god, almost $35.00, my Raymarine
autopilot doesn't, the hydraulic ram is leaking, and darn, they just don't sell the replacement $12.00 seal for it anymore, so, they'll give me a bargain, I can buy the whole thing for $2699.00 discounted, $3000.00 list, because they just don't sell the ram by itself, you have to buy the pump and ram as a unit, my pump is fine, I don't need a freeking pump, just the freeking cylinder. Yeah, carry $5000.00 in spares for your auto pilot, when you could just buy the whole windvane for $5000.00 (much cheaper used) and carry a spare paddle or two, for 25 years. Yeah, makes total sense to me.
In light winds, auto pilot, in everything else, including anything over 10-15 knots, windvane, for longevity, for heavy weather
, for average weather
, for power useage efficiency.
So, to use an auto pilot, carry spares for everything, carry a generator
or run the motor
every day a couple of times for a few hours to charge the batteries, carry all the extra diesel
, hope it doesn't fail. Sounds like a plan. Oh, did I mention that electronics always fail at the worst time. How much do you like hand steering for 20 hours or so? I've had the pleasure, no thanks.
Do I seem cranky? You bet I do. I really, really don't like getting screwed. Moving to B&G, I will never have another piece of Raymarine crap on any of my boats. You decide.