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Old 20-11-2012, 09:00   #1
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Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

Hi everyone,

I'm a Westsail 32 owner and I'm doing a refit for long distance cruising. I want to upgrade my autopilot, but the options for the tiller are few. I've been using a Ratheon ST4000+ for years. It has worked well in most conditions, but I have needed to replace the control head twice in the past 8 years. Unfortunately, the control head is no longer available, because the unit has been replaced by Raymarine with the SPX-5 tiller pilot, which appears to be the same equipment, but for the control head, which is now two separate pieces (the computer and the display). In any event, I would need to purchase the whole package ($2,500) to replace what I have.

Simrad also makes a tiller pilot, the TP32, which have been used on sister ships with some success. It's a cheaper option, but I'm looking for something more robust.

Is there any reason why a hydraulic liner ram unit couldn't be mounted above deck and attached directly to the back of the tiller? The motor could be installed below decks and the hoses routed through water-tight fittings. A large pin could be slipped through the back of the tiller at its lowest possition, which would allow for a quick disconnect to free the tiller for hand steering.

Has anybody seen this done or have any ideas on the subject?
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Old 20-11-2012, 09:19   #2
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

The hydraulic rams sold with autopilots are not designed to be exposed to weather. I imagine that it would corrode/fail prematurely if installed in that manner.

Perhaps you could find a ram that is designed for this sort of use, I have seen rams, like those on a travel lift, used outside.

The raymarine tiller pilot unit you are looking at, why are you shying away from that? We had a tiller boat previously, and although we used a tp-32 with success, I always thought that the new Ray unit was the best option.

Chris


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Old 20-11-2012, 09:47   #3
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

A plain ray spx5 may be too wee if this is to be the major auto thing onboard. It might be a good backup to a windpilot though.

Maybe an spx5 gp will work for you.

See how much your ship will displace in full cruising trim and then get an auto that is twice the limit.

b.
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Old 20-11-2012, 15:05   #4
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

When I looked at the stats for the spx5 and the spx5(gp), everything was the same: the weight of the unit and the power consumption. In fact, it appears to be exactly the same at my 4000+. Seriously, it's not a bad autopilot, but it won't steer the boat in all conditions.

They put hydraulic equipment on all sorts of outdoor applications (like bulldozers). Even outboards use them for their tilt function. Maybe I could build a little box for it.

Another idea would be to make another bracket lower on the tiller and run it through the back of the transom into the lazarette. I was hoping that this had been done before. I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel.
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Old 20-11-2012, 15:11   #5
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

The Westsail 32 balances well enough to go without an autopilot if you find them beyond your means.

We sailed 2500 miles in our W32 by balancing the helm and tying off the tiller.

I have heard that windvanes are a very good option on these boats too.

Enjoy your boat. Westsail the world!

Bill
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Old 20-11-2012, 15:47   #6
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

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Originally Posted by Bambolera View Post
They put hydraulic equipment on all sorts of outdoor applications (like bulldozers).
That is what I was thinking. My tractor has all sorts of rams on it and they have all been outdoors for 4 years now. Condensation if not outright rain or snow makes them wet 365 days a year.

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Old 20-11-2012, 16:29   #7
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bambolera View Post
When I looked at the stats for the spx5 and the spx5(gp), everything was the same: the weight of the unit and the power consumption. In fact, it appears to be exactly the same at my 4000+. Seriously, it's not a bad autopilot, but it won't steer the boat in all conditions.

They put hydraulic equipment on all sorts of outdoor applications (like bulldozers). Even outboards use them for their tilt function. Maybe I could build a little box for it.

Another idea would be to make another bracket lower on the tiller and run it through the back of the transom into the lazarette. I was hoping that this had been done before. I'm not looking to reinvent the wheel.
And when I looked at them stats I immediately noticed that the newer series have in-built G sensor that vastly limits the amount of time the engine is running (thus limiting wear and extending life while saving energy). Also, the GP is rated well above the non-GP unit as it is supposed to have stronger gears (this, again, extends life).

You can combine spx series with any arm, it can be a hydraulic arm too. Still, go for the spx as the brains of the system.

Now back to your hole in the transom idea: yes, it will work. I have seen boats with outboard rudders steered exactly this way. Build a mighty bracket inboard under the deck, build a matching bracket for the rudder. Couple the brackets via the hydraulic ram.

Plenty of measuring and little cutting highly advisable, as usual. Make the ram hole as high as practical to limit water ingress.

b.
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Old 20-11-2012, 16:39   #8
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

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Originally Posted by Bambolera View Post
(...) mounted above deck and attached directly to the back of the tiller? The motor could be installed below decks and the hoses routed through water-tight fittings. A large pin could be slipped through the back of the tiller at its lowest possition, which would allow for a quick disconnect to free the tiller for hand steering. (...)
+1

BTW this too can be done.

Beware many hydraulic rams are NOT salt-water proof. I have seen their joints (hydro rams often have ball joints) corroded to the point where I could remove them only with help of an angle grinder. Another weak point are hose connectors which tend to be made of metals that differ from cylinder metal. The rod and the cylinder seem to be pretty non-corrosive most of the time.

So, IMHO, if you find a high non-corrosive unit (or if you can prime yours), I think what you want sound absolutely doable.

Cheers,
b.
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Old 20-11-2012, 17:16   #9
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

This boat was designed with exactly the feature you are looking for. I believe it had 2 pieces of overlapping rubber that the hydraulic arm went through.

J. Simpson Ltd. Marine Designers and Consultants -
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Old 20-11-2012, 17:53   #10
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

I believe my ram is bronze and stainless. Never seen a bit of corrosion barring a thin green film. The stainless ram gets lubed and cleaned each stroke. Outside I might devise an extra seal to wipe the rod in its travel to keep the salt off the seals as I could see the salt wearing the seal excessively.
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Old 20-11-2012, 18:32   #11
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

Amendment to my above post.

The ram did not extend outside the boat. There was a slit covered by overlapping rubber and another "tiller arm" to the rudder came through that. The hydraulic ram was then attached to the lower "tiller". Sorry for my lapse of memory in the above post.
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Old 20-11-2012, 18:55   #12
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

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I believe my ram is bronze and stainless. Never seen a bit of corrosion.
What band of autopilot are you using?
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Old 20-11-2012, 18:56   #13
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

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Amendment to my above post.

The ram did not extend outside the boat. There was a slit covered by overlapping rubber and another "tiller arm" to the rudder came through that. The hydraulic ram was then attached to the lower "tiller". Sorry for my lapse of memory in the above post.
I'd love to see some photos.
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Old 20-11-2012, 19:03   #14
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

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So, IMHO, if you find a high non-corrosive unit (or if you can prime yours), I think what you want sound absolutely doable.
I'm looking to either buy something off the shelf or build the system from scratch, if necessary. I'm not really looking for a project, but I need a dependable autopilot that can steer the boat in all conditions.
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Old 20-11-2012, 19:03   #15
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Re: Westsail 32 Hydraulic Autopilot Project

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What band of autopilot are you using?
My autopilot is Furuno Navpilot, the boat has hydraulic steering so the ram is Teleflex I believe.
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