Interfacing Autopilot With GPS - SailNet Community
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post #1 of 33 Old 02-19-2008 Thread Starter
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Interfacing Autopilot With GPS

I've read pros and cons about interfacing my autopilot with my GPS but was wondering what everyone here thinks of the idea. Thanks.
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post #2 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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While I have the capability to do so, it's not something I have done, nor see a need to do. Once I have reached and maintained a heading, I then set the AP.

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post #3 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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IMHO, for many people this is a BAD idea. It can make for sloppy navigation and watchkeeping, easily setting you onto a reef or the beach if you don't pay attention.

Like pbzeer, I have the capability to interface my autopilot with the chartplotter/GPS, but have not done it because I believe it's both unnecessary and potentially a problem.

Bill
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post #4 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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I use it all the time with my Chartplotter/GPS and I use it safely. I think it has an advantage that btrayfors disputes.

When on a cruise, I set the GOTO to the Curser which I place at my next mark, the GOTO curser than marks my bearing to that mark with a solid black line, I than follow that line back to the vessel making sure that it does not cross any objects I don't want to hit such as breakwalls, shoals, rocks, pier heads, etc.. If I need to I adjust.

And it is very accurate, we have set a GOTO and had the pilot steer to that mark for long periods. The pilot will in fact bring us right to that mark.

I like using it with the plotter/gps. Don't know if this is different from just a GPS unit, but with a chartplotter I find it very valuable.

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post #5 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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Add one more to the list of "don't do it."

I had an AP on the last boat that I chartered, and liked that it could hold a heading for a couple of hours, enabling me to better trim sails, converse with the admiral, and hit the head. I would NOT, however, have interfaced it with the GPS. That would be asking for trouble. (enabling / encouraging poor watch keeping, and sloppy navigation)

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post #6 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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I agree with sailortjk1 that a GPS controlled autopilot can make you more safe. Here in the Pacific Northwest we have strong currents that are difficult to predict with any precision. So a course maintained by an autopilot compass alone can get you in trouble. I set my waypoints carefully to stay out of shallows so I like my track to follow my planned course as closely as possible. The GPS is an independent source of navigation info and serves to double-check my own navigation.

Having said that, I'll add a few points:

It is illegal and unsafe to not have a constant watch while underway. If you think any electronic aid changes this, you are a danger to yourself and others.

My GPS will not initiate a turn on its own. It beeps and I have to hit a button to confirm it. So no big surprises if I am distracted.

I have taken two classes in navigating with paper charts. I keep the paper charts at hand and regularly confirm through visual observations that the boat is where it ought to be. I wouldn't have it any other way.

If the GPS loses communication (this has happened to me) my autopilot maintains the last known heading. I'm glad it works this way.
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post #7 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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All I can say is - be careful.


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post #8 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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Well said, labatt.
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post #9 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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time and place for everything

I use my chartplotter with my autopilot when in open water and low traffic situations. It works great. I can relax and enjoy the views. No need for it in tight situations.
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post #10 of 33 Old 02-19-2008
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Sandwiching human cognition between electronic wizardry makes very good sense.
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