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  #1  
Old 08-20-2013
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Self steering dilemma

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.
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Last edited by chall03; 08-20-2013 at 02:17 AM.
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Old 08-20-2013
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Re: Self steering dilemma

Buy a couple of cheap spares for your st 4000 on ebay etc. Down wind you might think of a little less mainsail...easier on the autopilot. If you were going to be out longer and for greater distances then the windvane is the way to go.

sailing up the Qld coast behind the barrier reef has got to be one of the worlds greatest sails, flat waters, winds aft the beam and a decent anchorage every 50 to 60 miles...
On the way back the reach from Vanuatu to Bundy is another dreamy passage...don't forget to call into Chesterfield reef on the way home...
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Old 08-20-2013
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Re: Self steering dilemma

Quote:
Originally Posted by aeventyr60 View Post
Buy a couple of cheap spares for your st 4000 on ebay etc. Down wind you might think of a little less mainsail...easier on the autopilot. If you were going to be out longer and for greater distances then the windvane is the way to go.

sailing up the Qld coast behind the barrier reef has got to be one of the worlds greatest sails, flat waters, winds aft the beam and a decent anchorage every 50 to 60 miles...
On the way back the reach from Vanuatu to Bundy is another dreamy passage...don't forget to call into Chesterfield reef on the way home...
I guess the million dollar( or 6K) question we have to answer is whether we will be out longer or not......if I had an unlimited budget or even just a slightly less modest one I would buy a vane without thinking twice.
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Old 08-20-2013
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Re: Self steering dilemma

Don't forget to add one of my remote controls to your list :-)
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Re: Self steering dilemma

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tymadman View Post
Don't forget to add one of my remote controls to your list :-)
How well does your remote work with a vane ?
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Re: Self steering dilemma

Ha ha, not sure - would you like to be the first to test it with a wind vane? The remote can select "wind vane mode" at least...
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Old 08-20-2013
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Re: Self steering dilemma

Quote:
Originally Posted by chall03 View Post

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 realize this is another autopilot vs Windvane thread.
Also there is the Hydrovane and a new tiller AP option (The Hydrovane is designed for this). Some more expense but maybe the most reliable combination?

Is it feasible to remove the Hydrovane when selling the boat? Seems like that could be a consideration.
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Re: Self steering dilemma

You could always add the windvane later...6K buys a lot of island time. Also you can pick up a used vane for a lot less then 6K.
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Old 08-20-2013
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Re: Self steering dilemma

Chall,
Our girl has an Hydravane with the Tiller Pilot option. While we have only used it infrequently and never the tiller pilot, previous owner swore by the thing. You need to be generating a fair amount of juice to keep a powered auto pilot running 24 hours a day. We had a Raymarine wheel pilot on our old boat and while it functioned perfectly well it was damnably noisy compared to below deck and/or wind vane.

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Old 08-20-2013
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Re: Self steering dilemma

Quote:
Originally Posted by aeventyr60 View Post
..6K buys a lot of island time. Also you can pick up a used vane for a lot less then 6K.
Yeah. It is a trap, one can very easily end up with the perfect cruising boat, and no money with which to go cruising. We are looking out for used units trust me Issue is that a servo type, ie Monitor or Aries etc would be a little more of a PITA install wise on our boat.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tdw View Post
Chall,
Our girl has an Hydravane with the Tiller Pilot option. While we have only used it infrequently and never the tiller pilot, previous owner swore by the thing. You need to be generating a fair amount of juice to keep a powered auto pilot running 24 hours a day. We had a Raymarine wheel pilot on our old boat and while it functioned perfectly well it was damnably noisy compared to below deck and/or wind vane.
The juice is the worry.We also have done alright with the wheel pilot along the coast, but do tend to motor for a few hours a day to top up on multi-day passages. If we are going to the Louisiades then I would prefer to not be burning through the diesel on passage.
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