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Old 23-05-2015, 23:07   #1
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Wheel autopilot experiences

I've read some mixed reviews about wheel autopilot performance.

I'd like to know people's experience with them. What's your setup like (displacement, mechanical advantage at the wheel, rudder style, autopilot model) and what were your results? Also, are they noisy?

I've got a 20,000lb yawl with an unbalanced barn door rudder, but my steering effort is not difficult. Perhaps my mechanical advantage (3.5 turns of the wheel to go across the ~90degree range of motion of the rudder) is unusually high, in which case I might expect to have reasonable results with something like the evo-100.

(For the record, I preferred the idea of a below deck ram, for redundant steering and to get it out of the way, but I just spent the whole day under the cockpit sole with cardboard mock ups of several popular models, and I frigging give up. Plus what's a glorified day sailor like me doing spending $6k on an autopilot when wheel drive systems can be had for less than a third of that....)
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Old 23-05-2015, 23:47   #2
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Wheel autopilot experiences

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris95040 View Post
I've read some mixed reviews about wheel autopilot performance.



I'd like to know people's experience with them. What's your setup like (displacement, mechanical advantage at the wheel, rudder style, autopilot model) and what were your results? Also, are they noisy?



I've got a 20,000lb yawl with an unbalanced barn door rudder, but my steering effort is not difficult. Perhaps my mechanical advantage (3.5 turns of the wheel to go across the ~90degree range of motion of the rudder) is unusually high, in which case I might expect to have reasonable results with something like the evo-100.



(For the record, I preferred the idea of a below deck ram, for redundant steering and to get it out of the way, but I just spent the whole day under the cockpit sole with cardboard mock ups of several popular models, and I frigging give up. Plus what's a glorified day sailor like me doing spending $6k on an autopilot when wheel drive systems can be had for less than a third of that....)

It's important to consider what your plans are for voyaging the vessel.
Extended Ocean sailing you might want to consider a wind vane of some design.
If your motoring a lot, you don't need a lot of tech, just some power, that being reserve power for sailing with electric powered servo motor autopilots, and motoring to waypoints.
If you've got hydraulic steering it's pretty easy, if you've got cable or mechanical gearing it's a bit more maintenance. Be sure your AP will have adequate power and reserve to work as it should for you.
Where are you going to sail this Yawl, distance or within 100miles of HomePort.


Sent from my iPad SV Cloud Duster
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Old 24-05-2015, 01:21   #3
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Re: Wheel autopilot experiences

IME the principal short coming of a wheel autopilot over a below decks autopilot is the speed of corrective steering. Given your 3.5 turns of the wheel stop to stop a wheel autopilot is going to have a tendency to under steer then over steer in certain conditions. However if you intend to remain a "glorified day sailor" I don't think that's going to be a major issue for those times when the AP can't handle the conditions and you must remain at the helm. The below decks models can be overcome by sea and wind conditions as well.

John
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Old 24-05-2015, 02:24   #4
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Re: Wheel autopilot experiences

Evo 100 wheel pilot, 15,000 lbs., barn door rudder, 6 turns stop to stop (90 deg.), no rudder position sensor, no wind direction sensor.

Wheel pilot never overloads and is able to maintain course easily on any point of sail (with balanced sail trim).

Note: I am just a glorified day sailor so no heavy weather/seas testing - yet.

Steve
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Old 24-05-2015, 07:23   #5
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Re: Wheel autopilot experiences

Quote:
Originally Posted by Boatyarddog View Post
It's important to consider what your plans are for voyaging the vessel.
Extended Ocean sailing you might want to consider a wind vane of some design.
If your motoring a lot, you don't need a lot of tech, just some power, that being reserve power for sailing with electric powered servo motor autopilots, and motoring to waypoints.
If you've got hydraulic steering it's pretty easy, if you've got cable or mechanical gearing it's a bit more maintenance. Be sure your AP will have adequate power and reserve to work as it should for you.
Where are you going to sail this Yawl, distance or within 100miles of HomePort.


Sent from my iPad SV Cloud Duster

I'm looking for a good day-sailing solution - if we ever started taking bigger trips I'd likely move to a hydraulic ram under the cockpit.

My steering is pull/pull cable + quadrant.

I'd definitely want something functional _under sail_, so I was concerned that so many folks felt the ST4000 / evo-100 (are they the same?) autohelms really only functioned under power.

Panope's experience is useful, although sounds like they've got a good deal more mechanical advantage than I do.

Roverhi pointed me to the CPT autopilot range - thats a neat unit. It doesn't appeal to me on a superficial level, and it looks like the drive unit could be in your way under your feet, but it may be my cheapest way into a functional autopilot.
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Old 24-05-2015, 07:37   #6
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Re: Wheel autopilot experiences

For below deck, you have other options than a linear drive, if space is an issue. One option is a rotary drive off a second wheel sprocket, or even off the main chain. Another is the Jefa direct drive compact unit.

Mark
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Old 24-05-2015, 07:41   #7
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Re: Wheel autopilot experiences

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris95040 View Post
I'm looking for a good day-sailing solution - if we ever started taking bigger trips I'd likely move to a hydraulic ram under the cockpit.

My steering is pull/pull cable + quadrant.

I'd definitely want something functional _under sail_, so I was concerned that so many folks felt the ST4000 / evo-100 (are they the same?) autohelms really only functioned under power.

Panope's experience is useful, although sounds like they've got a good deal more mechanical advantage than I do.

Roverhi pointed me to the CPT autopilot range - thats a neat unit. It doesn't appeal to me on a superficial level, and it looks like the drive unit could be in your way under your feet, but it may be my cheapest way into a functional autopilot.

The new CPT wheel pilots are excellent products with much improved electronics. We had one as a backup to our big below decks pilot when we sailed from Turkey to the Caribbean this year. It worked so well that we used it 99% of the time in all conditions including flying the spinnaker as it sipped little energy and was dead quiet. This was on a 42 foot boat with about 25000 lb. displacement and 3 turns lock to lock. Maybe not the prettiest wheel pilot but certainly one of the best, if not the best.
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