Replacing WoodFreeman Autopilot, keeping drive motor
The title basically has it all, but here are the details:
I have a 1958 Ackerman Newporter ketch. Displacement is about 35,000 lbs. The original Wood Freeman Metal Marine autopilot needs work, and I'm thinking it's time to get something modern and networkable.
The drive unit is still operational. It is a rotary drive that steers the boat by a chain over the steering shaft. Boat steering is rack and pinion.
I want to retain the drive unit and connect it to a modern, networkable control head and brain. All of my current navigation equipment is standalone - iPad and laptop software - or antique, non-electronic, so I have no current compatibility issues but want to keep my options open for the future. NMEA2000 is desirable because of what it allows.
I'd appreciate any thoughts on the matter - from comments about interfacing modern hardware to the old drive unit, to brand recommendations. My other boat has a mixture of Humminbird and Raymarine tech and while I've been satisfied with them both I'm blown away by neither. I'm not going to say "money is no object" - since with boats there is also no upper limit to how much one can spend - but I haven't seen anything appropriate for the boat that I'd consider out of my price range, so while cheaper but just as good would win out, I'm willing to pay more for dependability and performance.