Hey folks, trying to make some decisions about our self steering before we head off again next year and would appreciate all and any advice.
Our boat currently has a Autohelm st4000+ wheel pilot.
Before our last big cruise up to the Great Barrier Reef I was going to replace it with a below deck autopilot but I didn't. Time and economics got away from me and it was one thing that didn't get replaced. In fact I have to confess it was the one thing that got no attention whatsoever before we left. I pretty much downloaded a manual for it and crossed my fingers.
As it turned out it never missed a beat, we used it 80-90% of the time on passage, upwind/downwind, lightwinds and 30+ knots it held us true.
Next year we are planning to again go north, but then to also head out into the near Pacific. So we are are talking a couple of 500-600 nm passages and time off the beaten track. We will be doublehanded most of the time.
I am looking at a couple of choices,
1) Replace with below deck autopilot( probably Raymarine, although Coursemaster a local product looks reasonable). My issue with this is power consumption on a long passage given our pretty modest systems( we have 300ah in the house bank, 200w solar and an oversized alternator). I am also still struggling to trust something electronic offshore and away from a Raymarine dealer. This would be about a 3k project, but might escalate if we need to beef up our power generation.
3)Purchase a new Raymarine Wheel pilot. I get why below deck models are better, but our current st4000+ seems to do every thing I need it too. We have no plans to circumnavigate or enter the southern ocean. 1.5K project.
2) Purchase a Hydrovane. (I prefer this auxiliary rudder style of vane for our centre cockpit yacht.) and use our existing long suffering st4000+ for light winds and motoring. I like the idea of a vane. This however would be a 6k project and in reality I am wondering if the couple of long passages we will do justify this cost, also it would mean our st4000+ is still being relied upon some of the time, so I would be concerned about then trying to get hold of spares etc for it, and doing some preventative maintenance.
3)Keep existing St4000. Do preventative maintenance, take alot of spares. Hope for the best. Be ready to hand steer and know that's the price to save 6k.
Yes I realise this is another autopilot vs Windvane thread.