Great question from the OP… have not read all the comments, so this has probably already been said:
(to me) … this is a good example of ways in which equipment progress has actually robbed the new sailor of skills that would have naturally evolved without them.
For the record
, most of the trans ocean deliveries I did in the early 70’s was hand steered.
Obviously a following or quartering sea was the most tiring and 2 hours of that was about maximum tolerance for my delivery
But the key point I am making, is that we taught ourselves how to balance the boat in varying conditions so she would track longer and with a lighter touch on the helm
The sailor felt the boat, steered to the conditions and did not follow a fine line GPS
track but the broader spectrum of Astro-Nav. (Assumed Ignorance was indeed bliss)
My advice is to install a robust auto-pilot, but also spend hours under hand steering conditioning yourself and the boat to a basic fall-back that should never intimidate you.
The best part of that advice, is that your boat will sail easier, the autopilot will last longer and you will know instantly when you take the helm, if something is wrong.