What a coincidence. My ST4000Plus gave up the ghost about a week before that (while single-handing offshore in 10 foot waves and 20-25 kts). I did a lot of research on the things and found lots of bad press--and, yes, the noise really reduces the joy of turning off the engine and sailing. I think a new belt will fix mine, but I have decided to install a Cape Horn windvane and integrate it with the smallest push-rod type tiller autopilot for compass steering. The servo-pendulum does all the work so a strong autopilot is not needed. I really think this is the way to go. I have sent in my deposit on the CapeHorn (Yves has been extremely helpful) and will be installing it in the Spring (10% discount for waiting). I will let the forum know how it goes. I'm pretty excited about it.
PSC31 #9 "Wayfarer"
The secret to sailing is good judgment. Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment.