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Go Back   SailNet Community > On Board > Gear & Maintenance > Electronics
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  #1  
Old 02-12-2013
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NMEA 2000 Wheel Drive Autopilot with Wind Feedback

Hi all,

From the title of the post you can probably gather that I'm shooting the moon here, but I'm trying to figure out the best autopilot setup for a NMEA 2000 system that is starting from scratch.

The autopilot upgrade is happening at the same time as an upgrade to all of our instruments, probably to a Garmin GWS 10 bundle (triducer, wind speed/direction, GMI 10 display). This will include wind speed and direction and is all NMEA 2000.

Obviously we'd like to integrate the autopilot into this, so that it can use wind data to steer, share it's own data (heading, and maybe rate gyro), and serve as an alternate display for some system data (probably just wind). We probably would not bother integrating it with GPS at this point but definitely would eventually.

We'd also like to go with a wheel pilot (for price, ease of installation, and the fact that we'd see it as a backup to a windvane in the long term). Our boat is 36' and 15,000 lb so I realize this is on the boundary of wheel pilot effectiveness.

I've been surprised with how weak the wheel pilot market seems to be. From what I've seen, the only major player is Raymarine's SPX-5. CPT has some non-network options that are slightly more expensive, while Garmin doesn't do wheel pilots and Simrad seems to have no updated models.

So it seems like the SPX-5 is the only choice for a modern network-integrated wheel pilot. Even this, though, is not NMEA 2000 certified. It's Seatalk/NMEA 0183, so it would require an adapter. Besides this, it seems to get good reviews.

So my questions for anyone who knows anything about this are:
1. Am I making a mistake going for a wheel pilot?
2. Am I missing something and there is a reasonably priced NMEA 2000 certified wheel pilot out there?
3. Can the SPX-5 really handle a 15,000 lb boat in light to medium conditions?
4. Will there be data issues between the SPX-5 and a NMEA 2000 network (mostly ability to take wind data, but also speed, reliability, and ability to output data such as heading and maybe gyro info)
5. Is wind data and network integration worth all this trouble for an autopilot?
6. Are there any potential cost savings to be had between the autopilot and the new instruments system? (i.e. shared display/network hardware, or further bundling -- although the Garmin bundle seems tough to beat)

And, of course, is someone going to release an upgraded wheel pilot as soon as I spring for the SPX-5?

Thanks!
Jeff
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Old 02-12-2013
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Re: NMEA 2000 Wheel Drive Autopilot with Wind Feedback

Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
Hi all,

From the title of the post you can probably gather that I'm shooting the moon here, but I'm trying to figure out the best autopilot setup for a NMEA 2000 system that is starting from scratch.

The autopilot upgrade is happening at the same time as an upgrade to all of our instruments, probably to a Garmin GWS 10 bundle (triducer, wind speed/direction, GMI 10 display). This will include wind speed and direction and is all NMEA 2000.

Obviously we'd like to integrate the autopilot into this, so that it can use wind data to steer, share it's own data (heading, and maybe rate gyro), and serve as an alternate display for some system data (probably just wind). We probably would not bother integrating it with GPS at this point but definitely would eventually.

We'd also like to go with a wheel pilot (for price, ease of installation, and the fact that we'd see it as a backup to a windvane in the long term). Our boat is 36' and 15,000 lb so I realize this is on the boundary of wheel pilot effectiveness.

I've been surprised with how weak the wheel pilot market seems to be. From what I've seen, the only major player is Raymarine's SPX-5. CPT has some non-network options that are slightly more expensive, while Garmin doesn't do wheel pilots and Simrad seems to have no updated models.

So it seems like the SPX-5 is the only choice for a modern network-integrated wheel pilot. Even this, though, is not NMEA 2000 certified. It's Seatalk/NMEA 0183, so it would require an adapter. Besides this, it seems to get good reviews.

So my questions for anyone who knows anything about this are:
1. Am I making a mistake going for a wheel pilot?
In my opinion it's a mistake, our boat is similar size / displacement,
We have had a SPX-5 drive unit on our boat for the last 3 years, for the two first years it was only used while motoring.
Last spring we integrated wind into the autopilot to steer on wind, mid summer the manual clutch started to auto release.
My theory is that even if the boat is balanced and easy to steer, wind gusts can have been enough to overload the system (My brother used the boat while this happened - so I don't know the details). We are replacing with a linear drive now.
The SPX will give slow response compared to a linear drive sized for the boat

Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
2. Am I missing something and there is a reasonably priced NMEA 2000 certified wheel pilot out there?
Not to my knowledge.

Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
3. Can the SPX-5 really handle a 15,000 lb boat in light to medium conditions?
Answered in 1.


Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
4. Will there be data issues between the SPX-5 and a NMEA 2000 network (mostly ability to take wind data, but also speed, reliability, and ability to output data such as heading and maybe gyro info)
According to Raymarine it has SeatalkNG=NMEA2000
I have SeltalkNG (i70 + iTC-5) integrated with NMEA 2000 (Furuno + em-trak AIS) and NMEA 0183 (Actisense NGW-1 to Coursemaster Autopilot)
Integration has not been difficult.


Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
5. Is wind data and network integration worth all this trouble for an autopilot?
Wind - yes (if you sail shorthanded)
MFD to AP - No (I prefer to set/change course manualy)
Instruments (compass) - Yes, because I get a network independent of the MFD. The MFD is the largets power consumer on the network - like to be able to turn it off.
With my other stuff i get GPS (COG/SOG/POS), compass, AIS, wind, speed on the i70 display.

The beauty of a "Pure" N2K network is the independence of the components.


Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
6. Are there any potential cost savings to be had between the autopilot and the new instruments system? (i.e. shared display/network hardware, or further bundling --
Yes I have;
Three elctronic compasses now;
-Furuno NMEA 0183 for the MFD (shared on N2K)
-One for the Autopilot that can be shared via NMEA 0183 to N2K,
-The old Raymarine (currently not connected to the iTC-5.

Two GPS receivers;
-Furuno NMEA 0183 shared on N2K
-one for the AIS (require its own but can share), GPS data shared on all three interfaces (N2K, NMEA 0183 High speed & NMEA 0183 low speed)

Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
although the Garmin bundle seems tough to beat)
You could use a SPX-5 drive unit with the Autopilot from Garmin.
Then you could easily upgrade the drive unit at a later stage

Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
And, of course, is someone going to release an upgraded wheel pilot as soon as I spring for the SPX-5?
When I get my crystal ball (old fishbowl) working I will let you know
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Old 02-13-2013
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Re: NMEA 2000 Wheel Drive Autopilot with Wind Feedback

Thanks for the detailed response.

Interesting that you've found it to be so underpowered. Not surprising at all, but I was starting to believe in a few reviews that were claiming good performance up to medium winds. I guess since I'd like to add a wind vane eventually anyway that I'm alright with it being a motor/light wind option.


So SeaTalk NG is the same as NMEA 2000? It still requires an adapter though? I've seen mixed stuff in different places but I guess that the SPX-5 has SeaTalk, SeaTalk NG, and NMEA 0183 output.

When you say you don't like using the MFD but like adjusting course manually, you mean it's best to just use the dedicated control head?
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Old 02-13-2013
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Re: NMEA 2000 Wheel Drive Autopilot with Wind Feedback

Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
Thanks for the detailed response.

Interesting that you've found it to be so underpowered. Not surprising at all, but I was starting to believe in a few reviews that were claiming good performance up to medium winds. I guess since I'd like to add a wind vane eventually anyway that I'm alright with it being a motor/light wind option.
We don't plan on installing a wind vane, but would like to be able to use the AP while sailing (most important when doing sail changes)

Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
So SeaTalk NG is the same as NMEA 2000? It still requires an adapter though? I've seen mixed stuff in different places but I guess that the SPX-5 has SeaTalk, SeaTalk NG, and NMEA 0183 output.
The adapter is only a short cable with SeatalkNG plug in one end and a N2K plug in the other.
So if you select mostly Raymarine stuff it make sense to use Ramarine cabling.
And just use "DeviceNet Adaptor Cables" to interface other N2K devices, we have three of these (Furuno MFD, AIS and N2K to NMEA 0183 converter).

If starting all over now I would not use equipment using old or proprietory protocols, so only N2K or variations of that (SeatalkNG, DeviceNet and other compatible implementations)

N2K = NMEA 2000

You need to know that selecting a multi vendor approach there are some obstacles.
The N2K standard defines standards for physical network (not the plugs) and the protocol for exchanging data.
But there is no standard for updating software or configuring devices.
For example I need a Raymarine display to configure my wind/speed/depth sensor (I can use the i70 for this).
When I need to update SW on my Raymarine stuff I have a problem since there are no Raymarine MFD with SD card reader in my network..

Garmin has solved this by making a N2K software updater box that can be used for this (but only for Garmin equipment).

The AIS from em-trak can be updated from a PC(USB) or SD card.

To update/configure the Actisense NGW-1 I have two options
-disconnect the NMEA 0183 cable and connect it to my laptop (using rs323/usb converter) or buy a N2k to USB converter and plug it into the backbone and PC.

Quote:
Originally Posted by quesera View Post
When you say you don't like using the MFD but like adjusting course manually, you mean it's best to just use the dedicated control head?
I will not set a route on the MFD and and let the MFD do course changes for me. (And yes I know that I will get amn alarm before the course change and can take over control when I want/need)
So it means that integrating the MFD / AP is not that important.

This is something I wrote on another forum regarding planning install.
Spend some time to plan your installation (this is SeatalkNG components)
Make a "map" so you know
The length of your backbone cables and where to lay them


Length and count of spur (drop cables)


T-piece or 5 Way Connector for Spur (drop cables), Make sure you have room for all the cables going into the backbone.


If you plan to add more equipment later, select 5 Way Connector with Blanking Plugs


Where is the power supply going into the network?


Don't forget Backbone Terminator *2

If you have NMEA 2000 standard components you may need DeviceNet Adaptor Cables


This is the smallest network you can buld -SeaTalkNG Starter Kit.

Last edited by knuterikt; 02-13-2013 at 07:01 PM.
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Old 02-14-2013
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Re: NMEA 2000 Wheel Drive Autopilot with Wind Feedback

Interesting stuff.

I think that if SeaTalk NG integrates smoothly into NMEA 2000 that we'll just go with the SPX 5 even though it will probably be pretty underpowered and still seems fairly expensive (1.5k) for a cockpit pilot.

We'll be running the power into the N2K network from the cockpit. The only components not in the cockpit will be the wind sensors (mast head) and Garmin triducer (mast base).
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