I have an Autohelm
ST5002 in my 31' ACM Elite motor
cruiser, fitted in 2000. Its manual override saved my bacon several years ago.
we were cruising at 20 knots in good weather
on the Costa Brava, Catalunya. I suddenly noticed a fishing
buoy straight ahead so I hit the 10° Stbd button. I had noticed a classic
style sailing boat
relatively far ahead to starboard, but a group of fast sports boats to port seemed more of a risk. Then I saw another half-submerged float dead ahead and closer so I hit Stbd again but realised I was now going straight for the sailboat. I panicked. I know I should have stayed calm and cut the throttle, but my immediate reaction was to grab the wheel
and spin it to port. The autopilot sensed the wheel's motion and "obeyed", pulling us sharply to port. We were now heading parallel to the sailing boat
and I relaxed. Immediately the autopilot started to return to its initial heading, so I again spun the wheel to port and kept at it until I finally had the good sense to hit the StandBy button and reduce speed.
I got the fright of my life, realising I could have rammed that sailing boat, seemingly carrying members of the public out with a skipper
, thrown my own family
members off the foredeck into the sea, etc.etc.
I now wish to replace the autopilot with a new one capable of handling a following sea in the force 6/7 winds we get fairly often around here, but very few seem to have this really useful feature!