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Old 16-01-2019, 12:26   #1
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Forgetful old fart and autopilot

So I've toyed with an autopilot and so far have decided against one. I cruise the Inside Passage area so change of course requirements usually occur sooner than latter. I tell my guests they are my autopilot and I often do an hour on and an hour off schedule for daylight running on the helm.

It has occurred to me I could use an autopilot when running solo on my power boat, top speed currently 11 knots. But I could see going down below to the galley and V birth area and then getting caught up in some task I had not intended to do while my boat cheerfully carries on without my attention and ....

So is there some benefit of autopilot I'm not taking into account? My longest cruise time will be 8 to 10 hours, but that will definitely be the exception, not the rule.
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Old 16-01-2019, 12:53   #2
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Simply standing watch for 8-10 hours is still a lot easier than hand-steering for 8-10 hours.

Plus, being similarly distractible, i feel the autopilot keeps a tighter course than my snakewake.

And it frees me up to noodle around with the sails.

And tinkle.
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Old 16-01-2019, 18:56   #3
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Sailboat I can definitely see autopilot for sail changes, etc. With a power boat in somewhat close quarters cruising, I'm not seeing as much. For example, the proverbial pee, I just stop the boat, go down below and pee and come back up and throttle back on up.
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Old 16-01-2019, 19:28   #4
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Isailed up from SF to BC over six weeks with my son as crew. We woulda killed each other without the autopilot.


OH, WAIT!!!


The AP died halfway up in Newport, OR.


8-13 hours days tending the wheel sucks.


Period.


APs are like microwave ovens and ATMs. How'd we ever live without 'em?
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Old 16-01-2019, 20:12   #5
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Once you get one, you can't live without it
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Old 16-01-2019, 20:36   #6
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Wife and I cruise BC inland waters every summer. Use the autopilot all the time. Makes being under way much easier. I layout the route in opencpn and get heading, distance and estimated time from it while under way. Then set a timer to some interval shorter than the waypoint arrival time - usually about five minutes. Then I am free to be the lookout without worry about course until the timer goes off. I do watch opencpn for off course error during each leg and adjust course with the AP. Sometimes the currents are so squirrely that the ap needs seemingly constant adjustment but even that is better than being tied to the helm. Some autopilots can be kept on course by feeding cross track info to them. Mine is too abrupt in it's corrections so I don't. Maybe some newer ones behave better.
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Old 16-01-2019, 20:40   #7
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

We cruise at 7knots and almost always on autopilot. My buddy runs at 15knots without autopilot.

We both left our harbour at the same time for a 25 mile run to another marina. We arrived at the same time.

I had made one course change while he had probably made 100. Every time he talked to his kids or wife he would go wildly off course.
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Old 16-01-2019, 21:07   #8
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Just completed the Baja Ha Ha without AP. Total PIA. To my mind, anyone in this day and age traveling a long distance voluntarily without it is just looking for a medal.
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Old 16-01-2019, 22:32   #9
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Fancy autopilots mated to a chart plotter can follow a course including headings changes. Literally draw a line on the chart plotter using "drop a pin" routing and the boat will follow the route. That would reduce your chances of catastrophe if you go below and forget to check in on it for a period of time. I'M NOT SUGGESTING THIS IS ACCEPTABLE BEHAVIOR.

I think it's good to have even if all you do is press a button to hold course. Allows you to get a jacket or blow your nose or get more sunscreen ...
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Old 16-01-2019, 22:48   #10
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Boats in for a major refit, new engine, deck, some rebuilding in the interior, upgrade to electronics and radar added. So now...sigh... I have to look at autopilot. The Vancouver Boat show is just around the corner, I've already booked my room in Vancouver for two nights.
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Old 17-01-2019, 06:15   #11
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Quote:
Originally Posted by chris95040 View Post
Simply standing watch for 8-10 hours is still a lot easier than hand-steering for 8-10 hours.

Plus, being similarly distractible, i feel the autopilot keeps a tighter course than my snakewake.

And it frees me up to noodle around with the sails.

And tinkle.
I concur. All valid.
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Old 17-01-2019, 06:24   #12
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

According to my kids there were two upgrades that I did to the boat that were most important.
1. Autopilot
2. Countertop ice maker

I can remember years ago steering our Sportfisherman all night long with no moon and a quartering following sea, in other words just the compass to steer by. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t hold a course nearly as well as the autopilot did.

Biggest reason I dislike the ICW is that you have to helm so much of it.
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Old 17-01-2019, 07:16   #13
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

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Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
I can remember years ago steering our Sportfisherman all night long with no moon and a quartering following sea, in other words just the compass to steer by. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t hold a course nearly as well as the autopilot did.
Same here, 14 hours hand steering back from France through a filthy black night into the teeth of a gale. We fitted a tiller pilot on the next trip when faced with another long trip home. Now upgraded to the latest Raymarine wheel pilot, pure luxury.

I can now make tea, go to the loo and plot the position etc.

Pete
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Old 17-01-2019, 10:10   #14
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

We twice went from Anacortes, WA, up to Glacier Bay, AK, and used the Autopilot a lot but also hand steered a lot, too. But you do have to keep a close watch for clumps of kelp, logs, lots of current, etc. and taking the helm from the Autopilot quickly for evasion manuevers. An autopilot makes life easier, but in those PNW waters a good lookout is essential.
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Old 17-01-2019, 11:19   #15
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Re: Forgetful old fart and autopilot

Biggest reason I dislike the ICW is that you have to helm so much of it.

An autopilot makes life easier, but in those PNW waters a good lookout is essential.

In closer quarters you do need to keep a tighter watch, in so many ways crossing the ocean is much easier than navigating and cruising in tighter quarters like Jarvis Inlet, Desolation Sound and the Broughtons. I ditto the comment about crap in the water, much more floating around in the Inside Passage. For example, not dead heads (which I've hit a couple of times with a sailboat) but smaller trees blown down by heavy winds which are routine at this time of the year in the Inside passage. The larger logs can escape from towed log booms and over time get water logged and float much lower in the water, but fortunately the smaller trees are easier to spot as their small branches are sticking up.

And then there is the crap brought in by heavy currents in various areas of the Inside Passage.

Where the autopilot would be handy is the - for me - two hour passage over to Powell River before heading off either to Jarvis Inlet or Desolation Sound. But then again, its only two hours, which means my guests would be at the helm for one of those hours.
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