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I am looking for an autohelm which can handle a 30,000 displacement vessel. I have been using a wind vane (no luck downwind) and a brand new autohelm 4000 which won''t initialize and Raytheon won''t respond to emails.
 

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The 4000 series autopilots were never intended for a boat that heavy. The RayMarine site suggests that the 4000 series is only intended for use up to 16000 lb vessels and that over 20,000 lbs displacement you should be using a ST6000 series modular unit. (Raytheon sold off its marine equipment division and the new company is called RayMarine. Some old phone numbers seem to be out of commission)

As to initializing, the unit should boot up if you follow the manual and have everything hooked up right. That said, I have heard of units that would never initialize because the sensing unit was installed too close to engine, keel, or batteries or too low in the boat.

Raytheon Marine actually has a pretty good reputation for supporting warentee problems and trouble shooting their equipment. (Have you tried RayMarine Support on line: <http://www.autohelm.com/recreational/support/index.html>)

That said, you really have the wrong peice of gear on board for your boat. It will be problematic over time because it is too light for the duty you are asking of it.
Good luck
Jeff
 

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I was able to have a conversation with one of the top guys at Raytheon - Steve Tenney @ (800) 539-5539 ext. 4929. He is available from 4a - 2:30P EST. He helped me a great deal with what autohelm to buy for my 36 ft. Beneteau and answered all of my questions. Give him a call.
Derek Sample
 

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I think you have already gotten some great advice reading the other responses, but being a Marine Electronics tech I had to of course through in my two cents worth... First off, Jeff is very correct, and autohelm 4000 is not rated anywhere near 30,000 pound displacements. For that size of vessel you are into Autohelm 5000 or 6000 series. With these systems you have several options of drive actuators (the part that actually moves the steering quadrant) depending on your vessel. There are a couple hydraulic pumps set ups, as well as linear push pull "ram" arms and a rotary system as well. The second issue that was brought up was initialization. Jeff mentioned a sensing unit, this is actually an electro/magnetic compass unit called a fluxgate. IF its too close to items such as engines or large masses of metal it will cause a massive magnetic deviation which will make the unit not steer correctly, however it should still "initialize" and power up, but when you do the sea trial and swing the compass the controler will tell you it has too much deviation. Before installing fluxgate compasses it is usually good to test the area you plan to use with a hand held magnetic compass first. Avoid lockers in which tools may be stored, within 3 ft of the engine, and within 3 ft of areas of large elctrical fields such as distribution panels. Another reason that autohelms will not function is due to voltage drop, if the continous voltage reaching an autohelm drops below 10VDC it will reset itself and not operate. This could be due to underperforming batteries or even undersized cables. Be sure to size all power cables large enough for the wiring distance, the autohelm manuals themselves give you a chart to use in sizing cable runs. Finally, give Raytheon a call, I will if you are interested get you more numbers but I believe a few have already been provided in other replies. Raymarine is very helpful and will give you good advice on sizing and installing the systems. One last consideration as to size, IF the boat is going offshore rather than coastal it is usual to size one step larger than normal to meet the added stress on the system, redundant systems are recommended (or windvane plus an autopilot) and certainly a below decks unit to protect it from rough seas is advisable.
 

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Lew, to broaden the replies to your query, I''d encourage you to look at the CPT autopilot now marketed by Scanmar. Given a boat that is well trimmed and with generally good sailing qualities, it is capable of handling the displacement you mention. We''ve been cruising with it in the Caribbean on our 23,000# boat and it does very well. It was recently voted the #1 piece of gear aboard (well, after the Force 10 stove...).

Reading the thoughtful description of the below-decks a/p you received reminds me of why ''better is not always better''. You''ll get steering redundancy from a below-decks pilot, which is a wonderful safety feature. But you''ll get added complexity and less reliability, as a result. Cruisers we''ve met love their (below-decks) a/p''s - until they fail, of course. Consider that you could purchase 2 CPT a/p''s for half the price of a fully-installed below-decks pilot (done by a vendor). That''s a form of redundancy, too.

Jack
 
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