Join Date: Nov 2009
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Re: Self steering on wheel steered boats
I switched to a below deck autopilot for my wheel-steered 35' sloop after several years of problems with my wheelpilot. My first below-deck pilot worked virtually flawlessly for 10 years, until lightning scrambled its electronic brain.
Now, lightning is a statistically rare event according the the surveyor for my insurance company, but when your number is up, you need to be prepared. Self-steering is attractive as a hedge against Thor, particularly when you are a long way from repairs. That said, the Bahamas may not be that far from repair/parts options.
And then there is Murphy. My replacement AP suffered a mechanical failure of the linear actuator with less than 10 hours on it. It was the same design as my 10 yr-old actuator that had never failed!
So what to do for an AP spares philosophy? I really don't know, but suspect if I were to go to the Bahamas I would stick with my below deck AP and consider that there were not any long passages that we couldn't handle with a 2 person crew in a pinch. I'd consider that any repairs might take a while, but hopefully I'd be on island time at that point.
My bottom line: an integrated, below deck AP will work over a wide range of conditions, including motoring into the wind, sailing/motor sailing in light winds and can take you to a waypoint while compensating for currents and leeway. For the Bahamas I'd take a chance on not needing a long list of spares.