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Mike most people are coastal in areas with traffic and obstacles. Personally use the AP when coastal cruising, and hand steer going in or out. I love my Hydrovane but it only comes into it’s own on passage or long (>75m) coastal jumps. Of course none of them work when under power by themselves, all interfere with backing up to some degree, all are PIA if you have to make frequent course corrections. It’s not like tapping +10 going around the problem then tapping -10. Also, not often discussed when there’s only me on deck I can do any evolution by myself with the AP easily. It’s much harder to reef using the vane. The remote usually comes into play.
I love having both and would again. But if choosing one it would be an AP.
 

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APs are mission critical for single and short handed sailing. If you are "stuck" at the helm... everything else that needs attention is not going to get it... except perhaps some sail trim.

One can think of a reliable AP as an additional crew member. I use it even getting out of the harbor and it hardly makes sense to program waypoints or a route as there is often a lot of traffic that needs to be considered or dodged. I find the dial course AP intuitive, easy, reliable... and very much like "helming". My steering is informed by local observations (nearby activity/stuff which does not show on a plotter or GPS) and general, long range "data" including depths, shoals, underwater hazards, aids to navigation and land features which ARE displayed on a chart plotter. So I use the chart plotter plus local nearby observation to steer with the AP much as a helmsman might do. To steer to a distant mark I don't need the plotter to compute the bearing I can use the plotter's ship's heading line.... out to "infinity" which shows were the boat would go on a straight course... I turn my AP to get that line to point to the mark or pass over "safe water". If I have a waypoint of many miles I can enter it into the plotter, get the computed bearing and dial that in to the AP. The plotter will give a course which considers current and that can be handy to stay on the rhumb line. But usually this hardly matters at the distances to the marks I set.

Regardless of what type of AP a short/single handed sailor uses..,.if it fails it's like losing a crew over board.
 

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Apparently, my autopilot comment was not taken as I intended. Of course I know many boats don't come with an autopilot. What I intended to say is that, for us, an autopilot is a requirement, so I don't count it as an "upgrade". It would be like buying a sailboat with no/shot sails - getting sails would not be an upgrade, it would be a requirement. Others might be happy to continue on with blown out sails. Our AP is so important to us that we have two completely separate ones including compass, rudder feedback, etc. One is kept off-line and unwired (as are its components) for lightning and electrical protection, but can be put into service in 5 minutes.

I bet everyone who gets an autopilot eventually says "I'm never going to own another boat without an autopilot".

I consider a good mattress in the same category, but we only have one of those because I'm happy to sleep on broken glass rather than lose the AP. :)

I'm not even sure an under-deck AP exists anymore that cannot be connected to a chartplotter (and all other instruments). One could intentionally not connect it by putting it on a completely separate network than the other instruments. Or one could connect it, but just never use it that way - there is no forced or default navigation/wind usage.

Our AP has a dial on it and can be steered around using that instead of the wheel or push buttons.

Mark
 

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Was surprised not having the AP integrated has its advantages. Have had both for long enough times to offer a considered opinion. Don’t feel as strongly as some famous long distance cruisers who say stand alone is the only way to go. Think that’s just wrong. Most below deck units will accept awa, sog, speedo input, and rudder angle directly and outside any existing network to my understanding. So you can run a AP can keep it outside the multi system displays.
With stand alone
you‘re somewhat forced to review the next leg. Especially helpful when near coastal or on vane function (find I use wind angle function less and less the nearer to a shore I am. Much prefer using the vane for that)
stand alone means screw ups in the “system “ won’t leave you without an AP. Easy to switch to navionics on a freestanding device and “stay calm-sail on”
stand alone means when you’re doing line of sight like the BVIs or other well known cruising grounds you don’t need to turn on the whole nav system at all.
Do like both types of set ups and don’t think it ultimately matters much which way you’re set up. But don’t see integrated as a meaningful plus for most people.
you hear of troubles occurring when folks put in a set of waypoints. Then due to traffic, set, or wind shifts go over dangerous spots as they don’t review the now different next leg. I know you can’t blame integration for this but think it makes it a bit easier to occur. Personally, have yet to screw up either way (knock on wood) but people do.
 

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Outbound,
We seem to be going off topic, don’t want to add to that BUT I also want to point out that Your above comments are true for servo-pendulum games. Auxiliary rudder vanes are a very different device and have different Pros/cons. Thinking about it for the first time I would suggest that aux rudder units may be better for smaller boats and servo pendulums for larger.
If we are to pursue this conversation we should probably start a new thread.
 

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Yup, wife says I tend to ramble. My bad. To close it. Have a hydrovane on a 30000lb boat. It works great. One of the best upgrades
 

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We find windvane mode to be useful. Also, our pilot uses wind data to prevent unintentional jibes downwind. It also uses wind data in all of its sailing steering modes to better keep course in rougher conditions.

I can't see how screwups in the system can take out an integrated AP. Things like compass, rudder feedback, drive unit, etc are there whether a "system" or standalone. A faulty network could be an issue, but that is very rare, and a standalone still has a network too.

If one is using an AP doing line of sight, one still needs the compass, rudder feedback and head unit turned on (and possibly GPS). Wiring these to be separate from the rest of the electronics is strange because it removes those data from other instruments. Particularly since one could just leave the plotter and radar turned off if not wanted.

Needing to be "forced" to review a route is also strange, as is the belief that one will not do so if following a route with AP. Particularly since none of the AP's will blindly turn more than 30* (and many not at all) into a new route heading without the operator pushing a button or cancelling an alarm. The belief that an AP can blindly follow a route without human intervention is a wive's tale or misunderstanding.

I guess I don't understand the angst and believe in forced operation that some have to integrated systems. All integrated means is that all of the data are available, as well as some additional functionality. It does not mean that one is forced to operate in any particular way, nor forced into behaviors they do not want to perform or ignore.

An integrated AP looks and acts just like a non-integrated AP until one goes through the menu system and explicitly sets up one of the additional functionalities like steer to waypoint or wind. Otherwise the "Auto" button default is steer to compass.

Again, I don't know of any below-deck AP that is standalone, except for the hobby-level Pelagic, and even that integrates to wind to help it better steer a course in rougher seas. The other hobby-level similar one is PyPilot, but that was designed specifically for integration with OpenCPN.

Mark
 

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This is only my second season with my current boat, so can't say I've really upgraded much: a new battery charger (there wasn't one before) is really the only substantive change I've made so far. But this new boat addresses the major upgrades I wanted from my last boat: I wanted standing headroom, an inboard diesel, a bimini, lazy jacks, sail handling lines lead back to the cockpit, self-tailing winches and a walk through, sugar scoop transom. All pretty standard stuff on boats over 27 feet made since the '90s. But my 1979 O'day 23 had none of them. And as a bonus, the boat also came with an autopilot (what a revelation that was!)
 

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Currently running a RM as stand alone. Have circa 2013 AP and brand new axiom. They don’t talk to each other. That’s reality Mark. Take another $400-500 to get them to talk but after having stand-alone for a few days got to really like it so canceled the final upgrade.
 

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Yeah, Raymarine sucks that way, but it looks like they are starting to go to standardized networking now. At least your Axiom looks to have standard NMEA2000 connections. If you have the SPX model autopilot, then all that is needed to bring it to your Axiom (and the rest of the instruments/transducers) is a $25 adapter cable with a STNG connector on one end and a canbus connector on the other. Or just use any old canbus cable, cut one end off, and connect directly to the AP STNG terminals. If you have an even older SmartPilot AP, without STNG then you would need a $100 adapter device. I'm not sure what the $400-500 would include.

Do you have two compasses and two knotmeters - one for the AP and one for the rest of the system? Or do you just operate the chartplotter only with SOG and COG?

It sounds like your Axiom might be the stand-alone, and the AP has integration to speed and compass (and probably wind)?

Mark
 

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This is only my second season with my current boat, so can't say I've really upgraded much: a new battery charger (there wasn't one before) is really the only substantive change I've made so far. But this new boat addresses the major upgrades I wanted from my last boat: I wanted standing headroom, an inboard diesel, a bimini, lazy jacks, sail handling lines lead back to the cockpit, self-tailing winches and a walk through, sugar scoop transom. All pretty standard stuff on boats over 27 feet made since the '90s. But my 1979 O'day 23 had none of them. And as a bonus, the boat also came with an autopilot (what a revelation that was!)
New boat is for sure an upgrade! The easiest way to do it!

Mark
 

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Apparently, my autopilot comment was not taken as I intended. Of course I know many boats don't come with an autopilot. What I intended to say is that, for us, an autopilot is a requirement, so I don't count it as an "upgrade". It would be like buying a sailboat with no/shot sails - getting sails would not be an upgrade, it would be a requirement. Others might be happy to continue on with blown out sails. Our AP is so important to us that we have two completely separate ones including compass, rudder feedback, etc. One is kept off-line and unwired (as are its components) for lightning and electrical protection, but can be put into service in 5 minutes.

I bet everyone who gets an autopilot eventually says "I'm never going to own another boat without an autopilot".

I consider a good mattress in the same category, but we only have one of those because I'm happy to sleep on broken glass rather than lose the AP. :)

I'm not even sure an under-deck AP exists anymore that cannot be connected to a chartplotter (and all other instruments). One could intentionally not connect it by putting it on a completely separate network than the other instruments. Or one could connect it, but just never use it that way - there is no forced or default navigation/wind usage.

Our AP has a dial on it and can be steered around using that instead of the wheel or push buttons.

Mark
This is correct.... and incorrect.. It IS almost as important as sails... But all boats come with a wheel or a tiller and can be steered. So it's an ADD on which drives the boat's steering system. So it IS an upgrade. I would never own a boat without an AP.
 

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Apparently, my autopilot comment was not taken as I intended. Of course I know many boats don't come with an autopilot. What I intended to say is that, for us, an autopilot is a requirement, so I don't count it as an "upgrade". It would be like buying a sailboat with no/shot sails - getting sails would not be an upgrade, it would be a requirement. Others might be happy to continue on with blown out sails. Our AP is so important to us that we have two completely separate ones including compass, rudder feedback, etc. One is kept off-line and unwired (as are its components) for lightning and electrical protection, but can be put into service in 5 minutes.

I bet everyone who gets an autopilot eventually says "I'm never going to own another boat without an autopilot".

I consider a good mattress in the same category, but we only have one of those because I'm happy to sleep on broken glass rather than lose the AP. :)

I'm not even sure an under-deck AP exists anymore that cannot be connected to a chartplotter (and all other instruments). One could intentionally not connect it by putting it on a completely separate network than the other instruments. Or one could connect it, but just never use it that way - there is no forced or default navigation/wind usage.

Our AP has a dial on it and can be steered around using that instead of the wheel or push buttons.

Mark
My AP is below decks and is not integrated. It has its own compass. Alpha 3000. I can't assert that it is superior to an integrated one... but I can state that it does the steering I "tell it to" and that's all I need.
 

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My AP is below decks and is not integrated. It has its own compass. Alpha 3000. I can't assert that it is superior to an integrated one... but I can state that it does the steering I "tell it to" and that's all I need.
I understand, but your AP is no longer made. My point was that if buying a new AP, I don't know of any that are not able to be connected to the boat instrument data bus and chartplotter. The closest I know is the Pelagic, but that integrates to wind data.

My other point was that all current AP steering algorithms benefit greatly by having access to wind and speed data. One would hobble their performance by not providing those. I can't understand why anyone would do that, since it can be considered a safety issue in rougher conditions where broaching or jibing is a risk.

Old standalone AP's were known for giving up the ghost in large following seas. New AP's using all instrument data steer better than most humans in these conditions.

Mark
 

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I understand, but your AP is no longer made. My point was that if buying a new AP, I don't know of any that are not able to be connected to the boat instrument data bus and chartplotter. The closest I know is the Pelagic, but that integrates to wind data.

My other point was that all current AP steering algorithms benefit greatly by having access to wind and speed data. One would hobble their performance by not providing those. I can't understand why anyone would do that, since it can be considered a safety issue in rougher conditions where broaching or jibing is a risk.

Old standalone AP's were known for giving up the ghost in large following seas. New AP's using all instrument data steer better than most humans in these conditions.

Mark
I just checked and see the company is closing. Next AP will be.... who knows.... any suggestions? This one is still working.
 

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I understand, but your AP is no longer made. My point was that if buying a new AP, I don't know of any that are not able to be connected to the boat instrument data bus and chartplotter. The closest I know is the Pelagic, but that integrates to wind data.

My other point was that all current AP steering algorithms benefit greatly by having access to wind and speed data. One would hobble their performance by not providing those. I can't understand why anyone would do that, since it can be considered a safety issue in rougher conditions where broaching or jibing is a risk.

Old standalone AP's were known for giving up the ghost in large following seas. New AP's using all instrument data steer better than most humans in these conditions.

Mark
All this discussion of autopilots is going to get me to read the manual for my autopilot. As of now, I know it is not connected to the chartplotter; or if it is, the PO had no idea how to use it. All he did was show me how to turn it on, engage it with the wheel, and set a course. It's a Raymarine, but I don't know what model or how old it is. I'll make a note to check on this stuff next time I'm at the boat.
 

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Both work fine. Both get all the data they need to allow all functions. Only thing is I can’t tap on the display to change course on the AP. AP does get speed, true and magnetic course, awa and gps. It does all its suppose to do. Vector lines show up on the display so there’s no issue.
 

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I just checked and see the company is closing. Next AP will be.... who knows.... any suggestions? This one is still working.
My suggestion is to keep using the one you have since it fits your needs. Worry about replacing if it goes South. No need to spend $$$ for no real reason. One good thing about yours is that a lot of the electronics are discreet, analog, and repairable, so much of it can be fixed by a general electronics person even if the company is out of business. New ones are just toss and replace - not much on them to fix besides the drive circuit because much of the electronics are highly integrated circuits and bonded displays.

Mark
 

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Both work fine. Both get all the data they need to allow all functions. Only thing is I can’t tap on the display to change course on the AP. AP does get speed, true and magnetic course, awa and gps. It does all its suppose to do. Vector lines show up on the display so there’s no issue.
Ah, I think we are talking about different things. I was discussing integration as the AP having access to all of the instrument data including the chartplotter route/waypoint information, and I think you were discussing it as the chartplotter being able to control the AP functions themselves.

So I think your AP is fully integrated into your nav system, and is like ours in the sense that we cannot control its functions from the plotter either. In our case, the AP is a different brand than the plotter, and all AP control commands are proprietary to each AP manufacturer.

Like you, this doesn't bother me in the least, and I'm so trained to think of, and use, the AP as a separate instrument that going to the chartplotter and choosing a special AP menu to make a 10* course change or turn the AP to standby or the like seems foreign and intrusive to me. But I guess it could save a couple hundred on a separate AP control head.

However, the AP still has access to all the instrument data, and all the functions are available to it, you just need to tell it to follow a route, or go to a waypoint, or steer to a wind angle instead of telling the plotter to tell it that. The only difference is the specific device through which you interact with it.

Mark
 
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