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Old 24-11-2012, 08:12   #1
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Autopilots

Lots to know re autopilots. How well do the better units hold a course in rough seas? Do they tend to lose control at a certain deviation from course? I saw one recently lose it if a following sea pushed esp. hard.

Also, has anyone heard of gyro based autopilot or stabilizer systems that interface with the the throttle and adjust speed for safety/comfort?


Thanks much.


Chuck
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Old 24-11-2012, 08:20   #2
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I have a Raymarine hydraulic autopilot. I works great, even in large following seas. It has a rate gyro and it has enough smarts to learn about how the boat responds. Used it in three trips off shore, San Diego to puerto Vallarta and back. It's never faltered or failed. I would stress get the largest capacity unit you can. I bought the type III hydraulic motor, type II would have worked but a lot less stress on the larger unit and not much pice difference.

We find that the gyro input lets the unit anticipate yaws and start the correction early. It steers better in rough weather than I or the crew can do.
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Old 24-11-2012, 08:53   #3
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Re: Autopilots

What type of steering do you have - direct or hydraulic? We have been aboard a boat with a hydraulic helm, NAIAD gyro stabilizers & an autohelm set to Nav. In a moderately powerful following sea we had a hell of a time maintaining control of the boat. We were yawing at times 45-60. Not fun + very tiring. The helmsman would have to spin the wheel 6-10 times and then bring it back 3-5 turns. Not for the inexperienced or faint of heart. So, does something seem amiss there? When we tried to speed up that made things much worse. When we slowed from 8.5 to 6.5 knots we seemed to get into the wave rhythm much better and the autopilot held with much more comfortable travel.

Is it feasible that inputting gyro activity from an autopilot +/- stabilizer system to good boat control s/w could then provide better throttle/speed management?
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Old 25-11-2012, 10:33   #4
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Re: Autopilots

Hello folks, I am an author but not much of a sailboat guy (I was a pilot, if that matters). I need to know something about sailboat autopilots that were available circa 1994 for sloops (40 foot, more or less). Two sails and a tiller. My memories from boating days was that on long trips, the skipper of a single-handed boat needed to takes hands off sometimes, even if only to sleep. I will appreciate any pointers, descriptions, or experiences you care to share. Thanks much. VeryOldBill
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Old 25-11-2012, 10:55   #5
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Re: Autopilots

I have a 30 year old Benmar, chain drive, works surprisingly well - The downside with the older A/P units is that they turn the wheel/tiller constantly, increasing wear on the components.
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Old 25-11-2012, 11:17   #6
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My experience has been that even with new pilots, at certain speeds and sea states the stabilizers and pilot fight each other. The best bet is to pull back or push forward a bit on the throttles.
As far as interfacing the stabilizers to the pilot and throttles, to the best of my knowledge no such beastie exists. But a newer pilot will have a rate gyro that will help it to hold a tighter course.
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Old 25-11-2012, 11:47   #7
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Re: Autopilots

Believe it or not I have a Wood Freeman model 500 hydraulic auto-pilot that must be 30 years old.....and it still works well. The only thing I have had to do to it in the last 10 years is change out the brushes in the drive motor a couple of times. I was using it today in 5 foot quartering seas and it holds course well.
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Old 25-11-2012, 11:54   #8
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Re: Autopilots

Thank you very much. Does your auto pilot control sails(s) and steering? How is it connected? Where do the parts sit? Any physical description would be very helpful at this point. I have looked at the Woods Freeman website where they show the model 500? Any similarity to yours? /s/ VeryOldBill
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Old 25-11-2012, 12:25   #9
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Re: Autopilots

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Originally Posted by VeryOldBill View Post
Thank you very much. Does your auto pilot control sails(s) and steering? How is it connected? Where do the parts sit? Any physical description would be very helpful at this point. I have looked at the Woods Freeman website where they show the model 500? Any similarity to yours? /s/ VeryOldBill
Have never heard of an autopilot controling sails. As far as I know they do not exist. Standard autopilot controls the steering and course. Most connect to an electronic compass and hold the course you set. Some also can connect to a wind vane and adjust the course to keep the boat at the best sailing angle to the wind.
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Old 25-11-2012, 12:33   #10
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Maybe the Maltese Falcon has an autopilot to control sails as they're all electronic control anyway, but not really practical for the rest of us.
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Old 25-11-2012, 12:51   #11
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Re: Autopilots

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Originally Posted by Sailmonkey View Post
My experience has been that even with new pilots, at certain speeds and sea states the stabilizers and pilot fight each other. The best bet is to pull back or push forward a bit on the throttles.
As far as interfacing the stabilizers to the pilot and throttles, to the best of my knowledge no such beastie exists. But a newer pilot will have a rate gyro that will help it to hold a tighter course.
Thanks. Good observation - interaction between pilot & stabilizers. They should communicate thru a computer driven process with output to control both plus the throttle. Manual override of any component would have to be available at any time. The real question perhaps is whether one central gyro would control both devices. That would perhaps minimize conflicts better.

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Old 27-11-2012, 11:13   #12
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Re: Autopilots

Thank you all for your replies. Very helpful, especially the brand names which vastly improved my googling. Too bad about auto pilots not controlling the sails, but I could have guessed that considering the difficulties. No matter. I can write around that little problem. Good sailing to all. I am looking at Keehi Small Boat Harbor (on Google maps) at the moment. Looks like a nice way station... /s/ Bill
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Old 28-01-2013, 23:36   #13
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Re: Autopilots

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Originally Posted by newlazydays View Post
Believe it or not I have a Wood Freeman model 500 hydraulic auto-pilot that must be 30 years old.....and it still works well. The only thing I have had to do to it in the last 10 years is change out the brushes in the drive motor a couple of times. I was using it today in 5 foot quartering seas and it holds course well.

The fishing fleet still has tons of these in operation - they are very reliable.
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