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Old 23-02-2011, 12:50   #1
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Lightbulb Raymarine X5 Wheel Autopilot Review

I own a 1984 Watkins 29 (Cando) and I will be replacing my old ST4000 with the new smartpilot X-5 wheel. boat displacement is 8800 lbs, well below the rec. of raymarine . has anyone used this unit and how well did you like or dislike it. I know that in the past when it first came on the market , they had problem with the motor drive burning up, but I have spoken with Raymarine direct and was told that problem was corrected in the newer units, any comments would be great. You know that sailor tested is the only true word on any product thanks to all SEABEE
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Old 23-02-2011, 18:18   #2
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

I have used the 4000 'G' (drives - tiller GP & tiller regular model) and various Ray 'G' and pre-G models.

I think the 'G' models from Ray is one of few autops that deliver on a sailing boat.

With a wheel steering check if perhaps you can forego the wheel drive and get one driving on the quadrant belowdeck.


I think the wheel drive is the poorest part of the whole setup. Otherwise the ap you are talking is great tool.

b.
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Old 23-02-2011, 18:41   #3
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

Two seasons @12K lbs displacement, and no problems so far with my x5. Medium coastal use, not yet storm tested.
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Old 23-02-2011, 19:59   #4
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

I've got one on my P35. The boat has an unbalanced barn door rudder that takes a lot of force to move as speed increases. It will not handle the boat under sail above about 4 knots as the motor stalls. It's not really a surprize given the high forces required on the helm. It has steered the boat 24/7 for 36+ hours at 6 knots in the open ocean under power without a hiccup.
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Old 08-03-2011, 22:05   #5
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

SEABEE- If my boat were that size, I'd definitely get the X-5. Even though the reviews are very mixed.

I've been debating this for around a year. My Hunter 36 has #13,500 displacement and it seems likely that I would reach or exceed the X-5 recommendations. Hearing that Peters' 35 is having a hard time is sad for me. The alternative (for my boat, judging by the steering setup) looks like a rotary drive unit below deck. Unfortunately the drive unit alone is as much as the complete X-5 wheelpilot, total cost for an X-10 system is likely to approach $7,000 (if I do the majority of the installation).

It seems insane to install an autopilot that costs around half of what I paid for the vessel, especially if is not likely to significantly increase the value. But it sounds stupid to install an autopilot that will not work when I want it to.

Options...
Wheelpilot- $1,500 and might not work.
Rotary Drive- $7,000 -a bit overkill for my needs.

I'm left wondering if there any "affordable" options for a cable wheel steering sailing vessel above #16,500.
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Old 08-03-2011, 23:56   #6
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

Well, after looking again the CPT (CPT Autopilot Inc.) unit seems like my solution. More robust than the X-5 and much more affordable. Don't know why it took me so long to find tho... Apparently it is 30 yr old technology, uses only magnetic compass readings as GPS, and should last a long time. Not very popular, but looks like it has reasonable reviews by the majority of recent posts.
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Old 09-03-2011, 07:04   #7
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

I've never understood the reasoning behind displacement limits on autopilots, especially wheel and tiller models. Can someone please explain that?
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Old 09-03-2011, 10:08   #8
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

They probably use displacement for lack of a better standard. Helm forces and directional stability would be a better standard but that differs drastically between different boat designs and even among the same design because of trim.

In my case, the boat has a strong weather helm and a rudder that is unbalanced and a wheel with limited mechanical advantage. As hull speed increases above four knots, the forces required on the helm increase geometrically. At hull speed on a reach, it takes all my strength to give full throw to the rudder that is required to hold the boat on course. It's just too much force required from the wheel pilot and the motor stalls. It would take a really big motor with a resultant huge increase in amps required to steer the boat under those conditions. I can reduce the helm forces required by slowing the boat and/or reducing mainsail area.

On the other hand, a much larger boat with a balanced spade rudder, less weather helm, and more mechanical advantage in the steering, could get by quite well with a wheel pilot.

The X5 works just fine for me as I don't depend on it for steering under sail. That's what my WindPilot Pacific Plus self steering vane is for. It steers the boat just fine on all points of sail and boat speed. With the addition of a tiller pilot to give it steering input, it even works to keep a compass heading or dead downwind with the spinnaker. I use the X5 under power where it's proven quite reliable for rather long stints keeping the boat on course for days at a time and maneuvering in close quarters single handing.
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Old 09-03-2011, 10:49   #9
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

Sad if you need to spend more than required to do the job.
The wheel pilot manufacturers certainly lay down upper tonnage lmits but I've actually seen a tug in France being steered by a cheap Autohelm wheelpilot, and it was proof to me that you do not need an expensive unit if your helm is well balanced.
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:13   #10
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

I would naively think that yacht designers would take forces properly into account when they call for their steering gear ratios.

If you ever need all your strength on a wheel, even an unbalanced one, isn't that surely a sign of an improper gear ratio?
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Old 09-03-2011, 11:33   #11
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

Quote:
Originally Posted by EmilF View Post
Well, after looking again the CPT (CPT Autopilot Inc.) unit seems like my solution. More robust than the X-5 and much more affordable. Don't know why it took me so long to find tho... Apparently it is 30 yr old technology, uses only magnetic compass readings as GPS, and should last a long time. Not very popular, but looks like it has reasonable reviews by the majority of recent posts.
Great find on that CPT. I too have been pretty limited to my autopilot knowledge, being limited to what I've seen at west marine and defender.

I love converting relative/compass/true courses and bearings so I think this will work great for me.
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Old 09-03-2011, 14:10   #12
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

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Originally Posted by EmilF View Post


Options...
Wheelpilot- $1,500 and might not work.
Rotary Drive- $7,000 -a bit overkill for my needs.

I'm left wondering if there any "affordable" options for a cable wheel steering sailing vessel above #16,500.
In fact, the options only exists if you are going to use the autopilot in flat waters.

From my experience, the bigger/stronger the drive unit, the better. There is no overkill there. That is to say, if any extended / choppy passages are expected. If you are only going to use the AP now and then and then only lightly then a light unit may be just as adequate.

I have sailed my boat with the manufacturer recommended unit (Ray, 1000) and an overkill one (Ray, 4000). Guess which one survived the real tear and wear.

b.
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Old 09-03-2011, 14:23   #13
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

One thing that a wheel or below deck AP will do, at least the newer ones, is steer to the wind in light air, even lighter than can be done with a windvane. Mark J posted about this some time ago, he was steering his Bene at 1-2 knots boat speed with the Raymarine AP interfaced with a wind instrument. I hope to be able to put this to the test in the future as well.

The CPT would not be able to do that, but a guy in my marina says it his steers his 37' hunter well in various conditions, without issue. But it is just a "steer to this heading" unit.


Chris
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Old 09-03-2011, 14:46   #14
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

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One thing that a wheel or below deck AP will do, at least the newer ones, is steer to the wind in light air, even lighter than can be done with a windvane. Mark J posted about this some time ago, he was steering his Bene at 1-2 knots boat speed with the Raymarine AP interfaced with a wind instrument. I hope to be able to put this to the test in the future as well.

The CPT would not be able to do that, but a guy in my marina says it his steers his 37' hunter well in various conditions, without issue. But it is just a "steer to this heading" unit.

Chris
You end up with problems either way and I like how the CPT owner's manual has print outs from COLREGS of "you will always maintain a proper lookout...".

With the compass steering system you'll need to keep tabs on the wind and your trim, and on the wind systems (wind vane or auto-pilot tuned to wind direction) you'll need to adjust the angle to make sure your CMG is along your intended track line.

And with the autopilot clearly winning while motoring and in super light air (that doesn't get squirrelly), the sheer force that a wind vane can produce in heavy weather dwarfs all but the largest and most powerful autopilots.
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Old 21-03-2012, 21:10   #15
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Re: raymarine X5 wheel autopilot review

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Originally Posted by anotherT34C View Post
I would naively think that yacht designers would take forces properly into account when they call for their steering gear ratios.

If you ever need all your strength on a wheel, even an unbalanced one, isn't that surely a sign of an improper gear ratio?
A wheel pilot is designed for lighter sailboats. about 12K or less. I have seen many wheel pilots on larger vessels even a catalina 42, however it will not perform well under sail or in a heavy sea the forces against the tiny motor are just too great. but it is real convenient when under power. on a P35 I would use a linear ram old autohelm type 2 with a new or newish controller. you just have to make sure the control processor can handle the load rating.
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