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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Installing a SPX-5 autopilot in my Catalina 27. The big debate is where to put the control head. Two options:

1. Mount it on the steering pedestal. Requires an enclosure and attachment on the pedestal ($200+ dollars). Also look like routing the wire(s) will be difficult and the large connector will require drilling a large hole in the stainless pedestal.

2. Mount it next to the engine control panel on the port side. Requires one to reach over to engage/adjust. May get in the way of a popular seating spot. Have to cut a hole in the boat (ugh).


Any advice/thoughts?

Josh
 

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I just installed an old ST4000, I ended up putting the headunit on an access plate in the transom. Easy to reach and didn't involve putting any new holes in the boat. I can always move it later and all I have to do to make it all neat is pop a new cover in. I did the same thing with the RAM for the VHF. I don't like drilling holes.
 

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This sounds like a Spx5 wheel drive installation in which case you are going to need to run a cable to your pedestal anyway to power the drive unit from the control head. The convenience of having everything together and the fact that you need to run a cable anyway make this option far more attractive in my opinion and probably accounts for this being almost the only way it's done.
 

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I really like PaulinVictoria's access plate installation.....that is brilliant!

On my boat I made a box out of some scrap teak and a small piece of lexan to mount the control head in and the chartplotter on. I cut the fittings off one end of the cables and ran all the wires through the pedestal tubes, then reconnected the fittings using a micro terminal block in the pedestal box.



Good luck whichever way you go!
 

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Bigdogandy's installation also reminded me that interfacing with a chart plotter mounted at the helm is much easier and a very nice option if you are doing any cruising.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Weine

How do the wires reach the control head housing? Are the threaded through the grab handle or through the steering column?

Thanks for the advice everyone. All very useful.

Josh
 

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I would go for ease of access and maximum visibility like at the pedestal. Leaning down to see and adjust the autopilot will be no fun.

What about the wireless remote as a nice accessory? Then you could even mount the control head on the bulkhead or over the companionway....
 

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Weine

How do the wires reach the control head housing? Are the threaded through the grab handle or through the steering column?

Thanks for the advice everyone. All very useful.

Josh
Josh,

The wires run under the cockpit and up the chrome pedestal guard(grab handle?). You may find that you have to loosen the pedestal guard mounts to feed the wires. It's a ***** to work in the lazarette upside down, but it can be done. I also had my compass, knotmeter and depth gauge wires in there too which made it tight. A small hole drilled in back of the pedestal guard will let the wires exit the pedestal guard into the edson nav pod. Put a rubber grommet around the hole so that it won't chafe the wire.


The pod is mounted with an overpriced edson mount to match the overpriced nav pod. I used rigging tape on the pedestal guard where it is under the mount to keep it from slipping in the mount.

You definitely want to mount the AP near the wheel if you single hand a lot. It would be a real pain in the ass if you were sitting on the high side of a tack and needed to press a button on the AP while it was on the low side of the boat,. Also, when you are jibing, you will be forward of the wheel when you are bringing the boom to center. Then you can reach behind you, feel for the buttons, and have the AP turn to jibe the boat while you proceed to let out the mainsheet.

I have the computer unit located just forward of the engine access in the quarter berth and the compass on compression post in the head.
 

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One more reason not to put the AP on the side...

The 27 is a light boat. As you move from one side of the boat to the other to tweak the AP's heading, you will affect the balance of the boat and hence you might have to RE-tweak the heading once you move back to the other side!
 

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Pedestal-mount "pods" are common items at swap meets and used boat part stores. I bought a 3-unit one for $5 at a swap meet last year, and have seen the singles for not much more at Second Wave (a used boat store in Seattle). You don't need to pay hundreds for a new one.

My motor-control wire runs through the pedestal itself (there was a small hole added near the top to fish it out). The control wire to the P70 control head runs through the pedestal guard, along with the wires for the chartplotter. All three wires necessary for the plotter can fit in the 1" pedestal guard, but it's a really tight fit and I needed to install them in a specific order.
 

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If left to my own devices I think that I would have mounted the control head at the helm. But my boat came with it mounted on the bulkhead. It seemed odd to me at first, but now I wouldn't have it any other way.

I find that aside from engage/disengage time, all adjustments are made away from the helm.

  • Get the boat on course.
  • Engage the drive at the helm. this looks the wheel
  • Walk over to the control head, and hit "Auto" to activate the AP.

After that I do all of the tweaking underway from the cockpit, away from the helm.
 

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I completely agree with this concept. When I have the autopilot engaged, the last place that I am is at the helm. I have a nexus autopilot with a remote on cord. I just have that thing near me usually on the high side of the cockpit.

I like the idea of using the control head as a display. Get the wireless remote, it will be one of the best purchases you ever made....


If left to my own devices I think that I would have mounted the control head at the helm. But my boat came with it mounted on the bulkhead. It seemed odd to me at first, but now I wouldn't have it any other way.

I find that aside from engage/disengage time, all adjustments are made away from the helm.

  • Get the boat on course.
  • Engage the drive at the helm. this looks the wheel
  • Walk over to the control head, and hit "Auto" to activate the AP.

After that I do all of the tweaking underway from the cockpit, away from the helm.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
All of the advice has been great. Another thought:

I typically singlehand as my wife is busy wrangling the two kids. Other than dodging crab pots or avoiding traffic, I do a lot of steering from *in front* of the wheel. This is especially true when I need to adjust the headsail or trim the jib sheets while tacking/jibing by myself.

I hadn't thought about the companionway mount which would be easy to reach when maneuvering. There are two existing holes already there from older instruments.

Weine's description of reaching around to find the buttons sounds like what I would have to do if I mount on the pedestal guard.

A remote sounds nice. Probably outside of the budget for the year but something I might splurge on.

Josh
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Just follow up:

I finally finished the install. In the end I found a deal on an enclosure and mounted the control head on the pedestal guard. Routing the wires was probably the worst part of the install.

Will let everyone know how well it works once I turn everything on in the spring.

Josh
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Nice work.

Wow. Now I am super not happy. I just wired my control head to receive 12V from the control unit. Looks like I will be rewiring that... Thanks for the heads up. I can't imagine how many hours of troubleshooting time and frustration you just saved me.

Josh
 

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Probably too late to help, but I mounted mine at the helm in a pod. I tapped into the power for my radio, but still had to run a line to the main unit which is in the back of one of the aft berths.



The Control unit is on the left, ran the power line thru the pedestal from the pod on the rights side which houses a radio. The line from the control unit to the main computer runs down the pedestal thru a rubber hose. I ran all the electrical lines thru a small rubber hose inside the pedestal so they would not get tangled with the chain steering. It may seem difficult at first for tacking but you only need to hit two buttons to bring the rudder over and after awhile you know which two to hit and you can do it from in front of the pedestal. There is really not much else to play with once you get the unit tuned into your boat. I don't sail by the AP, only use it to help me in maneuvers when I single hand.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Christian

I am rewiring based on the revised diagram you highlighted in your blog. Powering both the unit/SeatalkNG and the control head separately is a pain. Did you install inline fuses on each with a single switch? The different current ratings make this annoying. Seems illogical to have a switch for each. My switches have the built in fuse. Considering a 15A fuse on the switch and an inline fuse of 10A and 5A for unit and control head/SeatalkNG, respectively.
 

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I used an inline 5A fuse for my Seatalk NG network on my 10A electronics circuit (protected with a circuit breaker). This isn't what Raymarine recommends, but it has worked well for me. The autopilot (X5) and plotter (e7d) are on the same circuit. VHF is critical, so it gets it's own circuit.
 
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