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  Topic Review (Newest First)
06-05-2013 04:59 PM
Re: AutoPilots

Crossing the Atlantic single handed you need belt and braces on the self steering.

I would go with a Hydrovane wind vane which gives you an emergency rudder as well CLICKY

Plus an Electric Autopilot one that is often ignored is the CPT wheel pilot which is possibly The only currently available wheel pilot that can handle 40 ft + boats. CLICKY2

Here is a bit on self steering CLICKY 3
06-05-2013 02:56 PM
Re: AutoPilots

I have no real experience sailing with an autopilot, but I do have lots of experience servicing them.
First and foremost, redundancy is the best option (as echoed previously). A Vane and an AP would be my choice (and will be my choice when I finally buy my boat). Also mentioned above, go for robust configuration, not "barely within limits". The autopilot will labor less, perform better and last longer. The two brands mentioned are very well suited for sailboats. Personally I prefer Simrad pilots, but I've installed and worked on both and have no negative comments for either. Most failures I've seen can be grouped into one of two main categories: routine wear and water intrusion.
Routine wear can be minimized by keeping things clean and visually inspecting all the moving parts regularly. Water intrusion, too, can be minimized. UV stabilized plastics and silicone seals have improved over the years, but dirt and debris still find their way into seals and joints. Buttons wear to the point of tearing, and there's the tendancy to overtorque screws and crack the mounts (remember, it's plastic!)
If you plan to install it yourself, read the manual entirely first. Call the manufacturer or check their online FAQs if you are unsure of ANYTHING.

Good luck in your decision and fair winds on your crossing.
06-05-2013 02:51 PM
Re: AutoPilots

Originally Posted by svHyLyte View Post
.................. Our drive is a hydraulic ram type that quite easily handles the ship, even under very adverse wind/sea conditions.
HyLyte points out an important factor. The size of the vessel is secondary to the mechanics of the steering system. A low power auto pilot system can easily operate a hydraulic drive that in turn supplies a great force to the steering of the vessel. I would think that worm gear would come next in line with the need for power from the auto pilot and cable with quadrant comming in with the most need of power supply. I "married" a Nexus control head to my 1973 Benmar hyraulic drive twenty years ago and it continues to work well with the drive now forty years old.
06-05-2013 01:52 PM
Re: AutoPilots

we have a raymarine 6000 series that is connected to the quadrant. after breaking old steering cables once or twice, I wouldn't go with a wheel mounted AP. Trimming your sails well really take the stress off the AP, plus having a windvane AP is the best for passages, but you will only use it a minor fraction of the time you are on your boat, and having a clear transom can be a bit nicer.
06-05-2013 10:45 AM
Re: AutoPilots

Talking to people doing circumnavigations with autopilots, the great majority (70%?) have had significant problems. Redundancy is your friend, either two autopilots or autopilot and vane.
06-05-2013 12:21 AM
The Admirable Cretin
Re: AutoPilots

Thanks to all for that... It's been 30 years since my last trans Atlantic and I have to remind myself that I don't bounce as easily as I once did..(My last solo trip around the Med a couple of years back, I broke three ribs the first night out and learned to appreciate what people suffer who live with constant pain.. very fatiguing) The AP is going to have be a reliable shipmate and an internal set-up is probably worth the extra expense..

svZephyr44..Out of interest... at what time of the year did you choose to make the Florida / Portugal crossing that proved so miserable ?

Again.. many thanks to all T A C
06-04-2013 12:26 PM
Re: AutoPilots

My advice is to get serious about crossing the Atlantic solo. Do you have any concept of what hand steering after an autopilot failure for 1500 NM (maybe 15 days) would be like? Do you have any sense of what it would be like to heave to in 8 to 10 foot mixed up waves to try and get some sleep? My personal advice - you better have at least two systems for auto steering.

My personal story:
1) Solo crossing, Florida to Portugal - Monitor wind vane 95% of time. I have 560 watts of solar panels - after five days of overcast and storms my batteries were near flat - not using the electric autopilot saved many amps. (Elapsed trip time including stops in Bermuda and Azores - 44 days)
2) Crewed crossing, Canary Islands to Sint Maarten. Wheel steering failed disabling Monitor wind vane. Used Autohelm electric autopilot last 1500 NM. (Repaired wheel steering with quick fix but did not want to stress it if possible.) (Elapsed trip time 27 days)
3) Crewed crossing, BVI to Bahamas - Autohelm autopilot failed. Used Monitor wind vane - becalmed - hand steered 250 NM (Elapsed trip time 11 days)

One last piece of advice - no one else can comment on their experience. My Raymarine autopilot is 17 years old. For the first 13 it was never used in heavy seas and high winds. In the last 4 years 7 to 10 foot seas and 20 to 25 knot winds have been the rule, not the exception. The particular failure mode that I just experienced (on the trip from the BVI) was diagnosed by Raymarine as probable clutch failure. Given how hard the system has had to work for the last 5,000 NM I am not really surprised.

Good luck on your crossing
06-04-2013 10:41 AM
Re: AutoPilots

An AP installed in the cockpit is subject to all kinds of unintended consequences. One below deck can be installed to guard against such events. More robust is better than marginal. Power consumption is important, but can be provided from non-engine sources. You will use the most power in the worst conditions, where you might be using the engine anyway. Reliability and backup is very important. Look at the "spares package" if the mfgr recommends one, which they should. And most importantly, install it early enough that you can fully train yourself in all of its operations and capabilities and sea test the installation.
My experience comes mostly from military electronics and some from sailing, none from crossing the Atlantic.
06-04-2013 10:16 AM
Re: AutoPilots

My Raymarine 6002 was on my boat when I bought it as an excharter so I guess it had done 5 years non stop. Then I have done 35,000 to 40,000 nms with it.


I dont know about Raymarine service because I have NEVER had to get any of it serviced, looked at or nuffin.

I would never go to sea without my Raymarine 6002.
06-04-2013 09:56 AM
Re: AutoPilots

We have a Robertson/Simrad AP driving a 42' yacht displacing about 23,000 lbs in cruising mode and have found the system very robust (now 16 years old without failure), under some very trying conditions. Our drive is a hydraulic ram type that quite easily handles the ship, even under very adverse wind/sea conditions.

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