Does an autopilot need a windvane? - SailNet Community

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Old 04-01-2010
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Does an autopilot need a windvane?

I have a 30' Grampian Sloop tiller driven boat and am considering getting the Raymarine X-5 autotiller.

The unit will cost about $1100 dollars. If I want to add the optional windvane it will cost another $1000 !

Considering the cost I think that I can do without sailing in wind mode. I probably wouldn't use windmode very much anyway.

I wonder if the computer uses information gathered from the windvane when not in wind mode? I think that it would be possible to program a computer system such that it would consider wind gusts and wind changes so that the autopilot would hold a more stable compass course. I think that it would also be possible to program them such that they could perform a tack automatically in order to reach a given waypoint. Does this technology exist?

They say that these systems learn the characteristics of the boat that they have been fitted to. How far does this learning process go? Does anyone know of any literature that explains the interface between the autopilot, gps, windvane, fluxgate compass, gyro and tiller position sensor?
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Old 04-01-2010
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I installed a Raymarine Wheelpilot on my previous boat, a C&C 33. Only wish I'd done it sooner.

Do you have any wind instrument presently? I had a Standard Horizon wind and speed/depth, which had NMEA-0183 outputs. The Raymarine AP was perfectly happy to follow wind angle from the NMEA input. I did not use it often, but there were times it was quite useful, following wind shifts on middling long passages.

My current boat is all Raymarine ST60, so the 400G AP follows wind from the ST60 Wind instrument on Seatalk. For the first couple of years, I still used the AP NMEA input to follow waypoint/route info from a Garmin chartplotter.

If you don't have any wind instrument, or one without Seatalk or NMEA, then your $1000 figure sounds about right. In which case, I'd say it depends on where and how you sail... would tracking +/- 20 degree windshifts without touching the sails be worth it, and do you generally have the manoeuvering room? (and before any one else says it, you still need to keep an eye out for what's in the way (duh), though the AP will give a WindShift alarm if it has to deviate too far from the original course.

Nothing I've read in Raymarine or other documentation gives any indication that the AP uses wind info in non-wind mode. Vessel speed, yes, but not wind. The AP can do an "autotack" based on a pre-set tack angle in auto mode, while in wind mode it will go to the same apparent wind angle on the new tack.
s/y "Redline"
1998 Jeanneau SO45.2

Last edited by redline; 04-01-2010 at 09:50 AM.
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Old 04-01-2010
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I sailed my boat for 3 years before I installed the Raymarine auto pilot. I am pretty sure that I will never single hand a larger boat without an autopilot and the wind vane link. It's worth the investment just for raising and lowering the main. Under power and on wind function, I set the course at 0 apparent, where it stays while I deal with the sail.The boat motors straight into the wind better than most crew can steer! It is also great to be able to take your hand off the helm to eat lunch or go forward when sailing.
When motoring, my Tartan really wants to go to port, and the auto pilot takes the strain of holding course off my arms. Down the road you can add a remote. Mine has a cord, but the newer models are cordless.I enjoy steering while seated on the cabin roof watching the genoa tell tales.
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Old 04-01-2010
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You don't need the wind instrument for the autopilot to work in compass mode - which sounds as if that is what you want anyway.

Have you tried the Raymarine web to learn a bit more about the autopilot that you are interested in? If not give it a try. You can download the .pdf version of the Users Manuals that are the most likely source of the info you seek. Give this link a try: Raymarine Marine Electronics - Owner's Manuals
s/v Virginia Dare
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Old 04-02-2010
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Answer: depends.

It doesn't "need" a windvane to operate in compass mode as mentioned above, but if the wind direction is too variable, the steady heading of the AP as directed by compass may cause you to fall off the wind or head to close for your liking.

In practical terms though and in my experience, no. I've not yet installed a wind vane and in two seasons of compass driven AP use, I have NEVER halted use of the AP due to the potential issues of wind variability I mention above.
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Old 04-02-2010
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Check out Simrad tiller pilots
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Old 04-03-2010
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Thanks everyone

Thanks everyone. I think that I will do without the windvane for now but gee.. northptsailor has me convinced that it really is worth getting and I plan to work it into my budget. Huzzah for wwilson's idea of looking at the user manual online. I will now. Sure is nice to have Sailnet forum with so much help from folks like ya'll.
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Old 04-03-2010
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You may want to look at the ST2000+ model. I am replacing an ancient Atuohelm 1000 with the 2000+ for my Pearson 30. I have a windvane I can attach to my Autohelm that I have never used. The self contained tiller pilots are around $600 depending on which one you get.
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Last edited by nickmerc; 08-18-2011 at 06:20 AM.
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