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Old 06-10-2010
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I can chime in on a few of your general questions:
  • The Simrad pilots are known to be more reliable and robust.
  • Raymarine are going through an ownership switch so parts and service may be spotty until they get acclimated in there new digs.
  • Raymarine have very strong dealer loyalty, particularly with dealers who work on sailboats. Plus they are simple to spec and install. Hence the disproportionate number of dealer endorsements over Simrad.
  • A mechanical drive is a little more efficient, and has less resistance when disengaged and being backdriven by the wheel. It also has lots of moving parts. Where as a hydraulic linear drive takes a little more power, is more reliable, and last; much better suited to a high torque installation (I think you Valiant qualifies in this department) that will really wear down a mechanical drive.
  • Raymarine steering algorithms are excellent and makes them very efficient (less corrections). But I think they also use cheaper sensors (gps/compass) to save cost. I would not consider the Simrad to be too far off of that as long as the drive lock to lock time is considered in terms of which drive to put on and on how long a tiller arm. Your installer would understand the requirements best. But a quick call and chat with a factory autopilot expert never hurts when making the final decisions....it's good free advice.
  • The Maretron GPS, as well as many other brands are good. Remember a better GPS requires less dampening and is therefore more responsive to course and speed adjustments. They are all pretty accurate. Maretron does not speak Seatalk.
  • It's hard to find parts on the Simrad site. Since there merger with Navico many part numbers have been changed and duplicate parts discontinued. Again call them directly and if you don't mind waiting you will come out of it with good info.
  • Connection to your Raymarine plotter can be via SeaTalk, NMEA2000, or NMEA0183. The interface works fine with any one of these and just depends on the pilot chosen.
Hope this is helpful.
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