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Old 11-08-2020, 10:42   #1
JRM
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Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

Howdy all,

It's time for a new electronic autopilot. One that can actually steer the boat when sailing. I've decided to go with a Simrad NAC-3 based system and a hydraulic ram. I have all Garmin electronics to date, and that investment won't be changing any time soon, but their autopilot seems overpriced and underwhelming for sailing.

So my question is about the Zeus3 MFD. There are a couple of versions of control heads for the NAC-3, including the AP44, a keypad and Trinton2, and the MFD (Zeus3 or Vulcan.) Does anyone have any experience with using the Zeus3 as a primary control display for a Simrad AP. I've been through the manuals, and it is possible. But is it practical?

I do like the idea of hard buttons, and the keypad that's a part of the Triton2 based control head is available separately. I'm thinking that mounting them next to each other on the bulkhead would be ideal. The boat is tiller steered, so there's no pedestal or cluster. I'll be removing an old TwinScope sonar display, so the hole is already there for a 7" Zeus.

The larger "sailsteer" screen available on the Zeus gets raves from the racing crowd. I'm not much of a racer, but it seems downright handy for the shorter sailing trips we do out to the islands. Anyone here use it?

Thanks,

JRM
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Old 11-08-2020, 23:06   #2
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

why would you buy a zeus when you already have garmins that you plan to keep?. I'm confused.

I would never have an autopilot that did not have a separate controller.
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Old 12-08-2020, 02:41   #3
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

I have triton and buttons at the helm.
Works fine.

Zeus at the nav station also works fine and is more intuitive switching between wind compass and waypoint functions.
The AP44 is intuitive as well.

The sail steer function on the Zeus displays lay lines as a chart overlay.
Very handy.

Also handy is the Bluetooth remote.

The idea of the AP is to get me out from behind the wheel and sailing the boat.
The remote delivers on this promise.

Any of the available onboard Triton displays can be configured to display AP data so having a set of buttons on a lanyard is really effective.


P.S. The NAC 3 is a great controller delivering excellent compass or wind course keeping. (Waypoint in power boat mode only)

The H5000 AP offers sail to waypoint right out of the box and an upgrade path including some very nice AI tunable via a browser interface
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Old 12-08-2020, 03:27   #4
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

I have the simrad autopilot ram, and I use the Zeus3 to control it. I still have a dedicated autopilot controller, but when I'm under the dodger or on the chart table, I drive the autopilot through the Zeus3 and it works great.
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Old 12-08-2020, 12:14   #5
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

I have a Zeus2 and Nav-2, no controller. Works fine. The controller is necessary for the initial set up if you don't have Navico MFD that can control the AP. I believe the Triton instruments have an AP screen but they can not be used to set up the AP.

Short story, you need a compatible MFD or the Controller. You'll also need a Precision 9 compass and access to NMEA 2000 Wind and speed data to get the most out of the AP.
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Old 12-08-2020, 13:12   #6
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

I have Triton displays and keypads As well as a Vulcan 9” and wouldn’t want to do without any of those (think Zeus3 adds little over Vulcan) but as you have Garmin plotters already, I would keep it to the Triton sets.

I would not buy the dedicated controller. Did have one in the past before Triton.
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Old 12-08-2020, 13:21   #7
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

NAC 3, AP44 at helm, Vulcan 9 under dodger and Vulcan 7 at nav station so I can control autopilot from 3 places, best autopilot I’ve ever had
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Old 12-08-2020, 22:19   #8
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

We have a Simrad autopilot with hydraulic ram and it's controlled by a Zeus 12" MFD. The autopilot control function is very good.

With that size display it works well to have a Sailsteer window on one side and the chart window on the other. At the top of the display you can have up to two lines of about 5 items per line, of other data, like depth, windspeed, COG, etc.

I assume you already have wind speed and direction sensors of some type, otherwise you wouldn't be asking about the Sailsteer. So this means you probably have wind data displayed in dedicated gauges? In that case Sailsteer doesn't add much value, if any, for the cruising skipper. Sailsteer shows graphically what headings you could make if you tack, or want to sail low without gybing, I think, but I don't use that much if ever.

Since we didn't have dedicated wind gauges, the Sailsteer window is necessary for us to show our true and relative wind directions. Never had this for many years, just used my own senses to get wind info, but it was nice to view the wind information once I plunked down the money for the wind instruments and made several trips up the mast to install it.

Bottom line, if you have a 7" display on your MFD then you'll probably have to switch to Sailsteer and back to chart a lot, if you use it that way. So if you can already display windspeed and direction on separate gauges or digitally, the I don't think Sailsteer adds much value.

What they need is to show on the chart display, vectors from your current position of the courses you could follow if you tacked to close-hauled or steered dead-downwind. With GPS giving course-made-good, they could calculate leeway and include that to calculate and show a close-hauled vector of the opposite tack (the "layline").
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Old 13-08-2020, 09:50   #9
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

Quote:
Originally Posted by waterman46 View Post
We have a Simrad autopilot with hydraulic ram and it's controlled by a Zeus 12" MFD. The autopilot control function is very good.

With that size display it works well to have a Sailsteer window on one side and the chart window on the other. At the top of the display you can have up to two lines of about 5 items per line, of other data, like depth, windspeed, COG, etc.

I assume you already have wind speed and direction sensors of some type, otherwise you wouldn't be asking about the Sailsteer. So this means you probably have wind data displayed in dedicated gauges? In that case Sailsteer doesn't add much value, if any, for the cruising skipper. Sailsteer shows graphically what headings you could make if you tack, or want to sail low without gybing, I think, but I don't use that much if ever.

Since we didn't have dedicated wind gauges, the Sailsteer window is necessary for us to show our true and relative wind directions. Never had this for many years, just used my own senses to get wind info, but it was nice to view the wind information once I plunked down the money for the wind instruments and made several trips up the mast to install it.

Bottom line, if you have a 7" display on your MFD then you'll probably have to switch to Sailsteer and back to chart a lot, if you use it that way. So if you can already display windspeed and direction on separate gauges or digitally, the I don't think Sailsteer adds much value.

What they need is to show on the chart display, vectors from your current position of the courses you could follow if you tacked to close-hauled or steered dead-downwind. With GPS giving course-made-good, they could calculate leeway and include that to calculate and show a close-hauled vector of the opposite tack (the "layline").
I do have a wind indicator, but no dedicated gauges. I was displaying everything on the Garmin plotter on the bulkhead. The idea of Sailsteer really appeals to me, and the MFD would really only do that and control the AP. I have the Garmin for depth and radar and AIS, and for charts in my home waters. I found that the Garmin charts are decent for the US, but the are terrible for Mexico. We ended up using the Navionics on an Ipad, which was way cheaper than the $250 I wasted on a Garmin chip.

It would be handy to have the ability to function as a chart plotter when I've got the radar on. I'm not a big fan of the chart overlay, and prefer to run the radar kind of "old school" in heading up. I had two plotters at the helm of the trawler, and I got very used to having the radar and the charts up at the same time.

Several people have mentioned the Vulcan. The 9" Vulcan in about $200 less than the 7" Zeus. They're about the same physical size. The Zeus has a better screen, and I really like the idea of hard buttons. I have a touchscreen down at the chart table which works well, but I'm just not a huge fan out in the elements. If we're actually sailing we're wearing gloves, and during the winter the gloves are full finger. All things considered, the hard controls are worth $200 to me. But I'll go down to my local chandlery and play with both and see before I make a final decision.

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Old 13-08-2020, 12:55   #10
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Re: Simrad AP, Zeus3 instead of dedicated controller

Quote:
Originally Posted by JRM View Post
I do have a wind indicator, but no dedicated gauges. I was displaying everything on the Garmin plotter on the bulkhead. The idea of Sailsteer really appeals to me, and the MFD would really only do that and control the AP. I have the Garmin for depth and radar and AIS, and for charts in my home waters. I found that the Garmin charts are decent for the US, but the are terrible for Mexico. We ended up using the Navionics on an Ipad, which was way cheaper than the $250 I wasted on a Garmin chip.

It would be handy to have the ability to function as a chart plotter when I've got the radar on. I'm not a big fan of the chart overlay, and prefer to run the radar kind of "old school" in heading up. I had two plotters at the helm of the trawler, and I got very used to having the radar and the charts up at the same time.

Several people have mentioned the Vulcan. The 9" Vulcan in about $200 less than the 7" Zeus. They're about the same physical size. The Zeus has a better screen, and I really like the idea of hard buttons. I have a touchscreen down at the chart table which works well, but I'm just not a huge fan out in the elements. If we're actually sailing we're wearing gloves, and during the winter the gloves are full finger. All things considered, the hard controls are worth $200 to me. But I'll go down to my local chandlery and play with both and see before I make a final decision.

JRM
We’re always in the (sub)tropics so no gloves here I was worried that the Vulcan screen wouldn’t be good enough but it’s great under our hard dodger... out in the full sun... never tried that so can’t tell.

The physical buttons on the Zeus turned me off... cheap plastic and not very durable I think. Also, the 2” extra screen and a very good deal from Defender sealed the deal in favor of the Vulcan 9”.
We did not buy an autopilot controller but we do have two sets of Triton display + controller. The Triton combi is the only electronics we have at the wheel position... well plus the VHF remote.
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