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Old 06-04-2013
svzephyr44 svzephyr44 is offline
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Re: AutoPilots

My advice is to get serious about crossing the Atlantic solo. Do you have any concept of what hand steering after an autopilot failure for 1500 NM (maybe 15 days) would be like? Do you have any sense of what it would be like to heave to in 8 to 10 foot mixed up waves to try and get some sleep? My personal advice - you better have at least two systems for auto steering.

My personal story:
1) Solo crossing, Florida to Portugal - Monitor wind vane 95% of time. I have 560 watts of solar panels - after five days of overcast and storms my batteries were near flat - not using the electric autopilot saved many amps. (Elapsed trip time including stops in Bermuda and Azores - 44 days)
2) Crewed crossing, Canary Islands to Sint Maarten. Wheel steering failed disabling Monitor wind vane. Used Autohelm electric autopilot last 1500 NM. (Repaired wheel steering with quick fix but did not want to stress it if possible.) (Elapsed trip time 27 days)
3) Crewed crossing, BVI to Bahamas - Autohelm autopilot failed. Used Monitor wind vane - becalmed - hand steered 250 NM (Elapsed trip time 11 days)

One last piece of advice - no one else can comment on their experience. My Raymarine autopilot is 17 years old. For the first 13 it was never used in heavy seas and high winds. In the last 4 years 7 to 10 foot seas and 20 to 25 knot winds have been the rule, not the exception. The particular failure mode that I just experienced (on the trip from the BVI) was diagnosed by Raymarine as probable clutch failure. Given how hard the system has had to work for the last 5,000 NM I am not really surprised.

Good luck on your crossing
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