experience with Navman autopilots
We're fixing up a somewhat neglected Roberts 434 and looking at autopilot systems. Wondering about opinions on the newer below-deck autopilots out there. SV Funkadelic is 43' LOD, around 16 T displacement, modified fin keel with skeg-hung rudder; hydraulic steering with dual helms. Cost is a big issue for us; at this point the Navman system is looking the most promising, coming in at well under $2000 at the discount stores with the larger hydraulic pump and smaller display.
Any experience with this autopilot or thoughts on others?
Lorca, Stephanie and Sage
Roberts 434 (Steel, Epoxy, Fe2O3)
I have had a lot of grief I'm afraid. First of all I went through three pilots because the transistors kept on blowing - Navman swapped them out no problem but it took a whole season to get one with transistors which wouldn't blow. Then when the drive transistor blew the software was not smart enough to know about it itself so the clutch stayed in and the steering locked up - had to kill power to get control back. Finally on my moderate displacement (40 ft, 11 tons) sailing boat I simply could not damp the pilot enough to steer well - kept on moving the wheel by very small amounts and when the boat rolls it steers to amplify the roll. All in all bad choice for me, maybe it will work for you but I think they have geared this towards motor boats and light displacement sailing boats. When I asked 'how do I stop it moving the wheel every second' they said 'why would you want to do that?'
For what its worth, we've had similar experiences as Rain Again, but have failed 7 computers (power transistor and fuse issues). According to Navman, these were the only ones to have ever failed.
Currently experiencing display head problems (3380) where the unit will shut down recording a loss of power error after its manually turned back on. Other instruments are fine (i.e. no loss of power). We've completely rewired the high and low power supplies to the units with no change to the situation (carried out by a Navman dealer who is out of ideas apart from replacing it with another brand).
Navman's/ Navico's solution is to play spare parts surgery with us picking up the parts at RRP. We're about to have our last roll of the dice to resolve it but as we haven't resolved systemic AP problems over 3 years since installation, expectations are low. The fall back solution is replace instruments with those from outside the Navico stable.
While others people's mileage may vary, its difficult for us to see the product or product support in a favourable light. Over the time and approx 18,000 Nm, it's cost many times the cost of the unit in terms of replacements parts, air freight, additional crew and missed schedules.
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