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Old 06-04-2008, 05:05   #1
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Good Autopilot for Cat?

I can't believe this one hasn't been debated to death.

What would make the best autopilot for my litte cat?

I am:

*12,000lbs displacement
*twin inboard Yanmars with saildrives
*Well balanced - can take 1 min away from helm without any real course change
*Hydraulic wheel steering (passive hydraulic - pump is in steering wheel base)
*nearly no resistance when turning wheel
*Very POOR from buying a boat

Anything cheap and good out there? I know that's usually impossible, but I don't need a lot of power from it since the hydraulic steering makes steering with the tip of your nose a possibility. I just need some reliability.
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Old 06-04-2008, 05:35   #2
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The cheapest would be a wheel pilot, then you don't need any pump or ram.
I used to have a raymarine that was fine on a 32 ft cat.
Then you only need to decide how fancy it needs to be regarding communication cabapilities to a chartplotter/PC.

Mounting is easy and fast. Just check distance between your wheel and the bulkhead.

Carry a spare belt for the drive if it isn't a gear type drive.

Regards

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Old 06-04-2008, 13:58   #3
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I also had a Raymarine wheel pilot on my 32 foot cat. The autopilot seemed to work well but I had a lot of slack in my mechnical steering (wheel would turn 3 to 5 inches before rudders would move). I could not trust it for more than a 10 or 15 mins. If your hydraulic steering is tight then you should be all set. Raymarine just introduced a new version with a smarter brain than the one I had. See link Raymarine Marine Electronics - Wheel Pilots

You may also want to look at the Simrad wheel pilot. I have no experience with this untit but it's another option.
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Old 06-04-2008, 14:41   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tburgess View Post
I also had a Raymarine wheel pilot on my 32 foot cat. The autopilot seemed to work well but I had a lot of slack in my mechnical steering (wheel would turn 3 to 5 inches before rudders would move). I could not trust it for more than a 10 or 15 mins. If your hydraulic steering is tight then you should be all set.
The slack will drive your autopilot crazy. Best to have your rudders tight with minimal play. Check on the linkage and perhaps you may need to replace the key between the rudder arm and shaft that may have worn out. This will tighten it up and make your Auto Pilot a lot for efficient - and less drain on your house bank.
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Old 06-04-2008, 15:00   #5
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Many of the newer autopilots have an artificial intelligence of sorts that learns how to steer your boat on its own. Rudder, Counter Rudder, Yaw, Turn Rate etc adjustments I think will slowly become a thing of the past. Either that or they will just be there to augment the artificial intelligence.

I would look into the new ones that I know Furuno and Raytheon have. Perhaps other manufacturers have the same thing as well.
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Old 06-04-2008, 18:42   #6
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So, the wheel pilots are ok on catamarans due to the lack of torque required to steer them?

Even on my old O'day 302 monohull, I would burn through the Raymarine wheel pilots - frequently losing drive motors, all those little plastic gears, etc...

I was leaning toward a belt-drive if it's a wheel pilot. Any reason not to get one of those?

And thanks for the responses.
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Old 06-04-2008, 18:57   #7
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Thanks for the thoughts but the cat had a teleflex steering system with no ability to be tightened. I sold it a year ago. My point was that the steering is critical for reliable autopilot operation. Hydraulic systems also need to be free of air and cranked to minimum wheel turns.
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Old 06-04-2008, 23:48   #8
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I used a wheel pilot type autopilot on my tri (13,000 lbs) that also had hydraulic steering. It was almost as old as the the boat (1984) and was in use till about 2002 when it's brain got scrambled. Like you mentioned, the hydraulic system requires little effort to turn so the motor should hold up pretty well. It's accurracy may depend somewhat on how much slop is in the hydraulic system but it should provide acceptable service. I would imagine that the new units are a bit smarter than my old one.
By the way congratulations on your cat.
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Old 07-04-2008, 04:46   #9
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Thanks, Steve!

I suppose I will go that route. Luckily, the wheel pilots are fairly inexpensive.

Will try the remainder of my delivery without one, but when I get frustrated at not being able to leave the helm, I'll probably stop somewhere and pick one up.

Thanks for the input, guys.
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Old 07-04-2008, 06:00   #10
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Sean,

I have the Raymarine ST7000 and have had no problems as of yet.....same set up as you, dual yanmars, saildrive etc.....
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Old 07-04-2008, 08:45   #11
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Sean,

I have the Raymarine ST7000 and have had no problems as of yet.....same set up as you, dual yanmars, saildrive etc.....

Thanks. I think I'll give that one a try if I can't find a belt unit. (I already have a pretty little teak block in place for a belt drive).
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Old 07-04-2008, 10:29   #12
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I concur Caribnsol on the Raymarine (albeit mine is an older 6000 plus). You may want a rudder position indicator interfaced with your computer (recommended with hydraulic steering) as the position of the wheel will not remain completely constant in relation to the position of the rudders. One is available from Raymarine.

Brad
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Old 07-04-2008, 10:31   #13
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Sean,
I have a belt drive on my boat and while it works in it's own way I have always wished I spent the extra money for a direct drive. Belt tension and alignment can sometimes be an issue and the extra wiring can be a pain. If you are taking it off after sailing (may not be your case as a liveaboard) it is a real pain to put back on, getting the cams lined up right and jabbing the pin through the little hole. 2 cents. Best of luck,
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Old 07-04-2008, 10:38   #14
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Sean,
FWIW, I have hydraulic steering on my BB385. I have a Raymarine a/p plumbed directly into the hydraulic system. The wheel doesn't turn when steering using the a/p which minimises power usage. When I talked to the agent about fitting a second a/p as a back-up they reckoned that because the Raymarine unit directly powered the hydraulic actuator and was so under-stressed a back-up unit wouldn't be necessary(not sure I really believe that, BUT they stood to make money out of me by supplying and fitting a second a/p). They also reckoned that the wheel pilot would not be as good a unit as the setup I have fitted.
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Old 07-04-2008, 11:51   #15
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Anything cheap and good out there? I know that's usually impossible, but I don't need a lot of power from it since the hydraulic steering makes steering with the tip of your nose a possibility. I just need some reliability.

Guys, he wanted something cheap! Adding rams, extra hoses etc is not cheap.

With a wheel pilot you don't need more than a plug for the electrics. Choose one where the drive unit is integrated with the unit that fits on the wheel. No need for rudder indicators, as there is no second pump to move alignment..

Regards

Alan
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