I am trying to figure out how to install a below deck autopilot on a Gulfstar 41. I go to the different manufactures and they each have an array of parts that need to be put together to install one. Rarely do I find a 'kit' to install. It seems one could spend a couple thousand dollars for a unit and then find you need to spend a couple more for the parts that didn't come with it. Buying a used one from ebay or such is absolutely ridiculous.
I realize that each boat is different and that a generic 'kit' might not be so easy. But, it sure seems that it is unnecessarily difficult to put together a package that one could compare to other manufactures to see if that is the price/configuration that one would want.
Am I seeing something wrong?
With all the pieces scattered out everywhere I can't figure out which brands are best, which ones will last longer, which ones have parts available, or won't be obsolete in 6 months as most electrical components are now days.
Installing a new unit on an old boat seems to be difficult. I guess those who buy a boat with an autopilot already installed are the lucky ones.
First you must decide on the type of drive unit you can/will use
-Electric/Hydraulic (this depends on the steering system you have)
-Does your steering system have an attachment for a drive unit or do you need one that can be attached to the rudder shaft
There are AFAIK
only a few companies who make electric drive units, for sailboats I think that electric drives is the best option (only exception is boats that have hydraulic steering already installed)
Jefa has wide variety of electric drive units Jefa Steering Systems
(Garmin use drive units from Jefa)
Raymarine has some types Drive Unit Selection
Most (if not all) drive units can be combined with autopilots of other makes.
The companies listed below supply complete packages with electric drive units
(some or all the cables may be extra)
Jefa Jefa Steering Systems
Raymarine Autopilots Main Menu
There might be more suppliers unknown to me
Another option is to combine product from different suppliers
I have a Coursemaster CM85i with CM841 Junction Box CM85i
and will be installing a drive unit from Jefa.
The one piece that have to be custom made or adapted is the attachment of the drive unit to the rudder shaft (if that is what you need).
From a safety perspective it is preferred to have a separate tiller arm for the AP.
There are two options make a tiller arm from scratch or find a manufacturer that stock blanks that can be adapted.
This is what I have ordered for my project.
Here is another variant
Block to bolt on to the rudder shaft
Tiller arm that bolts on to the block
Here is a link to a post I made at another forum about my project Upgrading the autopilot with a new linear drive