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Old 15-11-2010, 16:39   #1
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Wheel-Mount Autopilot - Recommendations ?

I have a Bayfield 40, cutter/ketch, 22,000 lbs, and need to replace the wheel-mounted autopilot. Any recommendations?
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Old 15-11-2010, 16:58   #2
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No wheel pilot can handle that weight
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Old 15-11-2010, 18:26   #3
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I've used this on a lord nelson 41 for a short hop from corpus christi TX to Galveston Tx. Seemed to work just fine in the GOM chop.
CPT Autopilot Inc.
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Old 15-11-2010, 18:43   #4
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I stand corrected, but have not heard of this brand
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Old 16-11-2010, 07:50   #5
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THANK YOU SAILMONKEY! You are my new best friend! I was beginning to think that Jimbo was right -- even though we've had a wheel-pilot for years, there seem to be no replacement options today to handle our boat (and a below-deck pilot would take more cash and time than we had for our current plans).
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Old 16-11-2010, 08:22   #6
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i'll second that on the cpt autopilot. i have a 20000 pound 37 foot cutter.

the previous owner had one for more than ten years and liked it well enough. i sent it back to cpt and they checked it out and rebuilt it for $150.

it's considered 'old fashioned' because it doesn't use a modern fluxgate compass but when properly set up it holds course as well as any autopilot i've seen.

the engineer at cpt told me that the reason they are so powerful is that they use a bosch 24 volt windshield wiper motor but run it at 12 volts which gives it more low speed torque. i don't know dirt about electricity so i'll just take his word for it.

it's also pretty easy to install.
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Old 16-11-2010, 08:41   #7
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Originally Posted by Jimbo2010 View Post
No wheel pilot can handle that weight
While I'll agree with the basic premise that none of the better known brands (the below noted exception) are rated for that weight, remember that it's all about how your steering is set up.

We have a 40,000 boat with one that the PO put on it as a backup (along with an older Raytheon hydraulic unit) that works fine - but I don't really like it (noisy). We have a rather large quadrant.
Bill Streep
San Antonio/Port Aransas, TX
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Old 16-11-2010, 09:44   #8
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CPT Autopilot

We've used a CPT autopilot on our 20,000 lb boat for years. Same reason - trying to avoid the cost and complexity of an underdecks installation. It works pretty well as long as you know it's limitations. It works best offshore with some sea running and under sail. It works worst motoring in calm water. By working worst, I mean it wanders 5 to 10 degrees on either side of the course. Your results may vary. A lot depends on the steering mechanism and inherent course holding ability of the boat. You might get much better results on a boat that naturally holds its course better than ours.
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Old 16-11-2010, 09:46   #9
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It also matters what kind of weather you get into. My underdeck autopilot went out (I crossed some wires and short it out) on a Central American trip and I used an old wimpy Autohelm Wheel pilot for many miles quite successfully for many miles of modest winds and seas. I am reasonably confident that the wheel pilot would have been useless in several days of 30+kt winds and 17 foot seas I had after that on the same trip. My guess is that wheel pilots would work quite successfully for most of what folks sail in--day sails in moderate seas. Problem is whether you feel you need the backup for worse weather and seas. I could not imagine hand steering in the conditions I was in for the length of time it went on.
Ray Durkee
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Tartan 37
Castine, Maine
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Old 16-11-2010, 10:19   #10
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It really depends on the load placed on the steering. An unbalanced barn door rudder on a 12,000# boat may be too much for a wheel rated for that displacement. On the other hand, a semi balanced spade rudder on a boat twice that size may be steered just fine. In my case, the Raymarine X5 wheel pilot steers our Pearson 35 just fine when powering or in moderate sailing conditions. It's faithfully steered the boat on the open ocean under these conditions for 48 straight hours.

When the hull speed goes up under sail and weather helm kicks in, the motor overloads and drops out in a matter of a minute or two. Having had to hand steer for long distances under these conditions, I understand why. The force on the helm to maintain course is pretty damned high. It would take a big motor to produce the force necessary. It would also take a whole bunch of juice to run the pilot under those conditions. Undoubtedly would have to run the engine for long periods to keep up with the electrical consumption. Thank heavens for wind vane self steering.

If you are just looking for an autopilot to steer the boat under power and slow speed sailing, a wheel pilot might work. In any case, don't tell the manufacturer what boat it's being used on should you need warranty work.
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Old 16-11-2010, 15:09   #11
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All I can say is that my Raymarine wheel unit on my 18000 lb displacement boat doesn't like anything that makes the boat heel more than 12 degrees and involves anything more than about a 3 foot wave (even if motoring). Even if I know boat was trimed properly because it was easy to hand steer before I turned it on.

The general rule is to oversize your auto pilot if you are planning to really use it. If you buy a $500 wheel drive instead of a $1500 below deck unit and it doesn't work; well you just paid $2000 for the below deck drive unit!
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Old 16-11-2010, 15:51   #12
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I'm in the process of buying a Tartan 40 with a 2008 smart pilot 1 wheel pilot. It's definitely undersized by Raymarine recommendations. The boat is 18K unloaded. I'm expecting we may be OK in reasonably balanced conditions, but will need to swap to below decks in the long run. Does anyone know if the smart pilot computer is the same for the wheel and direct drive? The pictures look the same :-). I'm hoping when the time comes to switch, I can use the same control head, compass and computer.
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