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Old 11-10-2011, 16:03   #1
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'Tiller Master' Brand Autopilot - Opinions ? Experiences ?

Reading up on various brands and sizes of autopilot systems for tiller-steered boats, I see a wide varierty of opinions on Tiller Master. Some owners say they are tough as nails, built back when men were men and women were girls. Others say they are archaic technology, best used as a dinghy anchor on the beach. They are no longer made, but some suggest that they are simple enough to repair in remote 3rd world locations.

All I need is for the thing to reliably steer my boat (Catalina 27) straight in a variety of conditions while I attend to other duties aboard. Downwind seems to be the toughest test of any autopilot, and I don't have any info on the TM hard-over times to compare with newer models. Any ideas?

BTW, I searched a few forums and sub-forums, and autopilots seem to be like stepchildren - not quite "navigation" and not quite "electronics". If I'm asking, or have been looking, in the wrong place, please advise. Thanks!

John
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Old 11-10-2011, 16:10   #2
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Re: "Tiller Master" brand autopilot - opinions? Experiences?

Google "tiller pilot"
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Old 11-10-2011, 16:14   #3
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Re: "Tiller Master" brand autopilot - opinions? Experiences?

Quote:
Originally Posted by perchance View Post
Google "tiller pilot"
Finding current model tiller pilots is easy. What I'm looking for is first-hand knowledge and experience regarding "Tiller Master" brand tiller pilots.

Thanks,

John
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Old 11-10-2011, 16:18   #4
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Re: "Tiller Master" brand autopilot - opinions? Experiences?

Sorry. No help here.
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Old 11-10-2011, 16:18   #5
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Re: "Tiller Master" brand autopilot - opinions? Experiences?

I had one twenty years ago andit worked very well. I did have it in the shop twice in about 5 years.
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Old 11-10-2011, 16:26   #6
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Re: "Tiller Master" brand autopilot - opinions? Experiences?

I have one a board my 42' 24k pound sailboat works great . I have used it up and down the Washington coast, Straits of Juan DE Fuca, Gulf Is etc. I am looking for 1-2 more as spare parts/backups. Not very much money I think I payed $75 a couple of years ago. I use it when single handing on the Columbia river when raising and lowering the sails.
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Old 11-10-2011, 16:31   #7
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Re: "Tiller Master" brand autopilot - opinions? Experiences?

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Originally Posted by pdxsailordiver View Post
I have one a board my 42' 24k pound sailboat works great . I have used it up and down the Washington coast, Straits of Juan DE Fuca, Gulf Is etc. I am looking for 1-2 more as spare parts/backups. Not very much money I think I payed $75 a couple of years ago. I use it when single handing on the Columbia river when raising and lowering the sails.
Are there various sizes or models? Is it as "strong" and as fast as newer models? What about power consumption? I have first dibs on one for $250, nearly new (as in used very little).

Thanks!

John
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Old 11-10-2011, 16:42   #8
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Re: "Tiller Master" brand autopilot - opinions? Experiences?

My very first auto pilot was a "Tillie", and it worked fairly well on my Yankee-30 at that time. I later replaced it with an early Autohelm 2000.

The Tillie is indeed archaic technology. From memory, it used discreet componants mounted on a non-potted board, and the circuitry was simple. I remember blowing a switching transistor and being able to replace it myself. It;s response speed was pretty slow, and that is what lead me to replace it. I was doing a lot of single hand ocean racing, and it wouldn't keep up with a kite, and the Autohelm would (barely). It's biggest drawback was the crude feedback mechanism. This consisted of a bit of string that wound around the driveshaft and the optically read compass and rotated the latter as one approached the course line. The specific drawback was the string wearing out and breaking, always at an oddly timed moment (like under the Golden Gate bridge with a kite up). Wasn't too hard to replace, but a real nuisance. It had adequate thrust to drive the helm on that well balanced boat.

All in all, I'd think that 250 bucks is sorta steep. I would expect that one could get a newer and more sophisticated used pilot for that, but I'm not really up on the market.

Good luck with it'

Cheers,

Jim
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Old 11-10-2011, 17:23   #9
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Re: 'Tiller Master' Brand Autopilot - Opinions ? Experiences ?

Tillermaster main
Everything you wanted to know but were afraid to ask about a tillmaster.
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Old 11-10-2011, 22:13   #10
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Re: 'Tiller Master' Brand Autopilot - Opinions ? Experiences ?

How fast is the Tiller Master compared with newer pilots? My Catalina 27 reacts fairly quickly to both sea state and helm inputs. If I mount it closer to the rudder post, will it improve the "reaction time"?

Thanks,

John
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Old 17-10-2011, 10:09   #11
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Re: 'Tiller Master' Brand Autopilot - Opinions ? Experiences ?

I bought one that was inoperable for $20. I tore it down and rebuilt the sensor system. The unit is what they call a "floating control with feedback" setup which means you have to go off your designated course by a fixed (5-10 degrees) angle before it'll make any correction. Modern systems (RAYMARINE, SIMRAD etc) are digital Proportional-Integral systems with adjustable settings, these make small corrections for small errors and large corrections for large errors continuously. Depending on how closely you want to follow your course the TM will give you a snake effect in smooth conditions while the others will hold a steadier course.
The unit I bought was an older one that didn't have adjustable power for the LED (it actually had a small incandescent bulb). The bulb was paired to a photo sensor and used a plastic disk mounted like a compass needle. When the opening in the disk allowed the light to shine through the unit turned off (on-course condition) when the compass rotated and light turned off (off-course condition) the motor ran to move the tiller and put you back where you wanted to go. Later versions might have a little more sophistication. The best part was when I went to put the compass sensor system back into the aluminum container and found the Pepsi logo on the bottom. Truly a field repairable unit! Feedback was accomplished by string wrapped around a potentiometer which indicated the rod position to the electronic board. All in all it worked reliably in smooth water but wasn't suitable for heavy sea states.
Modern units are much more controllable and have NMEA interfaces for both autopilot control and heading information. I use SIMRAD TP22 and TP32 units on my Islander 30.
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Old 17-10-2011, 15:15   #12
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Re: 'Tiller Master' Brand Autopilot - Opinions ? Experiences ?

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the TM will give you a snake effect in smooth conditions while the others will hold a steadier course.
All in all it worked reliably in smooth water but wasn't suitable for heavy sea states.
Is there a way to improve the reaction "time" (course deviation reaction time) to, say, 3 - 6 degrees vs 5 - 10? Narrow the light passage on the disk? Change the pulley size or potentiometer sensitivity? Chants, talismans, and incense?

Personally, I'm rooting for chants, talismans, and incense.

John
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Old 29-10-2011, 14:14   #13
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Re: 'Tiller Master' Brand Autopilot - Opinions ? Experiences ?

I do have a practically brand new "Tillermaster" in the original shipping box as I bought it new in the late 1970's and only used it a couple of times on a lake in western Pennsylvania. I would be happy to sell it. I don't know the worth of it today but I remember paying in the $500 category.
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Old 17-09-2013, 09:04   #14
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Re: 'Tiller Master' Brand Autopilot - Opinions ? Experiences ?

cowelld do you have any information on the led and photo sensor components? I just purchased a second tillermaster with a bum led circuit in the compass unit and I'm going to attempt to tear down and repair the unit myself.
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Old 17-09-2013, 11:37   #15
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cowelld do you have any information on the led and photo sensor components? I just purchased a second tillermaster with a bum led circuit in the compass unit and I'm going to attempt to tear down and repair the unit myself.
Keep me in the loop. I have 4 TM's. they are the only unit out there that you can fix yourself.
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