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Old 01-19-2017, 07:01 PM   #1
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autopilots

All,

I'd like to learn more about marine autopilots and what they'd do and what they can't do.

Coming from an aviation background, I've seen autopilot that will hold heading, track a course, hold altitude or climb and descend at programable rate, and land the plane.

Don't really need to "land" a boat unless it's a submarine, but seems like the best benefit would be to track a course you've programed into the GPS map.

What are the capabilities of marine autopilots, limitations, and costs?

Seems like the most valuable capability would be to track a course, with a second one of holding a heading.

What else is there?

And what autopilots come to mind to handle boats in the 30 to 45 ft range?
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Old 01-19-2017, 07:48 PM   #2
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There are two basic modes.

"Auto" which tracks to a heading. With dials or buttons you can adjust the heading while tracking.

"Nav" which follows a route coming from your chart plotter. But it's actually very simple what the AP does in Nav mode. The chart plotter just continuously tells the AP the bearing and distance to the next waypoint, and tell it how far off the the left or right the boat is from the track line. The AP knows nothing about past waypoints, or future waypoint. Only the one it's currently tracking. And the chart plotter defines the track line, usually based on a straight line from the last waypoint. As the plotter tells the AP that the boat is off the line by x feet to the left or right, the pilot steers to the right or left to bring the boat back to the track line. It's a very simple interface and is standardized across all pilots and plotters. It's one area where interoperability between vendors actually works very well.
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Old 01-19-2017, 10:21 PM   #3
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Twistedtree,

I agree with you with one exception. I have a Garmin chartplotter, a Raymarine chartplotter, Coastal Explorer and a Raymarine EVO autopilot all tied to a NMEA2000 network. I can't get the autopilot to follow a course because the Raymarine and Garmin chartplotters are always transmitting autopilot NMEA 2000 PGNs with no data in them confusing the EVO autopilot when you tell it to follow a route from Coastal Explorer. If I turn off both chartplotters it works fine. If I turn off one or the other chartplotter I can send a route to the autopilot from the other. Kind of pain but I don't tell the AP to follow routes very often.

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Old 01-20-2017, 01:34 AM   #4
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I've got the whole system Raymarine, big swell the next quarter or full is good if it is accompanied by the gyro compass. it is able to make repairs faster and more specifically, the lateral and helical oscillations into account.


In addition to can be a good buy bigger-powered pump to command rudder
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Old 01-20-2017, 04:10 AM   #5
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Twistedtree,

I agree with you with one exception. I have a Garmin chartplotter, a Raymarine chartplotter, Coastal Explorer and a Raymarine EVO autopilot all tied to a NMEA2000 network. I can't get the autopilot to follow a course because the Raymarine and Garmin chartplotters are always transmitting autopilot NMEA 2000 PGNs with no data in them confusing the EVO autopilot when you tell it to follow a route from Coastal Explorer. If I turn off both chartplotters it works fine. If I turn off one or the other chartplotter I can send a route to the autopilot from the other. Kind of pain but I don't tell the AP to follow routes very often.

Tom
Tom, yes vexing when things don't work as hyped. Interbreeding electronics can create odd offspring.

I have two APs. The new Furuno AP 711 C when in Nav setting will follow either the Nobeltec Trident course when in active mode or the Furuno NN3 plotter when in active mode.

The Simrad AP 20/22 does a lousy job following inputs from either charting system when in Nav mode. Suspect the 13 year old AP 20's course computer is tired.
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Old 01-20-2017, 05:17 AM   #6
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Use my auto-pilot more than 80% of the time underway. Provides more opportunity to observe what's happening.

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Old 01-20-2017, 05:37 AM   #7
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Seevee...so far so good.....

Most of us really only use the 2 basic modes.....there are a few other design features that can DE nice to have.

My older Raymarine allows you to oversteer the pilot...meaning, if a crab pot is seen at the last minute, a turn a the wheel will get me around it. Some pilots you have to disengage which for the unpracticed, can be too late.

They often have a dodge feature, puch a button and it will steer around an object. Depending on the pilot, the correction can be pretty big and the resumption back on course may be manual. Newer pilots may have all that to a nicer degree, but I am not sure.

Some pilots will steer search patterns...not used all that often....but isometimes t's a feature.

All usually have adjustments for sea state, type of boat, etc that allow you to get the best performance out of it.
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Old 01-20-2017, 06:52 AM   #8
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Within the Nav mode there are 2 formats. In the chart plotter, the message can either be correction of bearing to destination or cross track error correction. The correction of error means that as the boat is pushed off course (by current as an example), the chart plotter adjusts the bearing to the target. This yields a curve versus a straight line over the course of the navigation. In cross track error correction, the plotter steers the boat back to the original heading line. The course resembles a straight line.

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Old 01-20-2017, 07:07 AM   #9
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Would some one care to add a few comments about using wireless remote controls with the AP?
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Old 01-20-2017, 07:59 AM   #10
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Great info, thanks!

Seems like a good AP is a must for any trip with some distance. The "over ride" feature sounds like a good idea for making small turns as necessary for crab traps, etc.

If you were buying today, what would you buy. I'm a Garmin guy, but Simrad is ok... not much of a Ray Marine fan (seems like too many issues). But know little about whose AP is the best.
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Old 01-20-2017, 08:13 AM   #11
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Would some one care to add a few comments about using wireless remote controls with the AP?
Use mine all the time for convenience.

Also way cheaper than a second control head for the flybridge.

Works the same but fewer buttons and maybe harder or impossible to do some obscure functions of the AP.

Mine is an older Raymarine.not a tbit of trouble over 5 years and 12,000 miles.....the newer ones are supposed to be lightyear better.

Drove hundreds of boats with Raymarine when working for a Sea Ray dealership...no more issues than others....and I was an autopilot tech troubleshooter for a marine electronics firm.

Most issues are install problems or user error...not the gear itself.
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Old 01-20-2017, 08:29 AM   #12
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Would some one care to add a few comments about using wireless remote controls with the AP?
My only comment when I saw the price was OMG. I looked at the schematic and determined that a $20 wireless controller from eBay or Amazon would do the same thing. I haven't gotten around to hooking it up yet, but would share what I know so far if interested.

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Seems like a good AP is a must for any trip with some distance. The "over ride" feature sounds like a good idea for making small turns as necessary for crab traps, etc.

If you were buying today, what would you buy. I'm a Garmin guy, but Simrad is ok... not much of a Ray Marine fan (seems like too many issues). But know little about whose AP is the best.
Second question first: I have a Garmin MFD and a Simrad autopilot, and they work flawlessly together over N2K. Presumably NMEA 0183 would work, too.

One comment on an AP being a "must": I got by for years without it, all along the New England coast. When it gets to the point where "dodging" one lobster buoy puts you in line to hit another, the AP becomes less helpful. Otherwise, yes, it's great to have.

A lot of people from "away" come to Maine and curse the buoys. Many get snagged on them. I suspect those are the people who are accustomed to using the AP all the time, and never really got into the habit of watching the water in front of them. My theory is that it's good to develop that habit, first, before using an AP.
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Old 01-20-2017, 08:54 AM   #13
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Our Wagner ap is 37 years old and has a 25 ft wire remote. The ap and electronic charts are separate not connected. The ap holds a compass heading and since the eagle is full displacement with a deep keep traca and holds a couse for hours at time, so when the electronic charts was up graded I did not connect the two. Ap have been around long be fore electronic charts. Also with the remote I am have to be stuck in the at the helm. I would definitely have auto pilot and electronic charts but not necssary to have connected.

In the profile picture you can see we are sitting on the front deck with the remote. We can also steer with the remote.
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Old 01-20-2017, 09:32 AM   #14
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Lobster pots, crab pots, stone crab pots...all the same hazard to a degree.

The thickest I ever saw was at creek mouths on the Chesapeake for a period of a crab season.

So thick, Fish and Game places buoys to make a narrow channel to get through them....otherwise you couldt.

Even in pot areas an AP is usable...but not really in thick areas.

It's the ones you don't see for a variety of reasons that get you, whether on AP or hand steering.

My remote I got on ebay for abut $200. 2/3 price new and 1/2 or less than a second head unit. While a $20 switch may do the trick...at some point I wasn't going to spend the time figuring out all the possibilities with other projects to do.

When I get the chance...maybe I will investigate and make a second hard station if it is that easy.
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Old 01-20-2017, 09:38 AM   #15
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My only comment when I saw the price was OMG. I looked at the schematic and determined that a $20 wireless controller from eBay or Amazon would do the same thing. I haven't gotten around to hooking it up yet, but would share what I know so far if interested.



Second question first: I have a Garmin MFD and a Simrad autopilot, and they work flawlessly together over N2K. Presumably NMEA 0183 would work, too.

One comment on an AP being a "must": I got by for years without it, all along the New England coast. When it gets to the point where "dodging" one lobster buoy puts you in line to hit another, the AP becomes less helpful. Otherwise, yes, it's great to have.

A lot of people from "away" come to Maine and curse the buoys. Many get snagged on them. I suspect those are the people who are accustomed to using the AP all the time, and never really got into the habit of watching the water in front of them. My theory is that it's good to develop that habit, first, before using an AP.
Question is... do you trust your thousand of dollars boat at a $20 component? Because that's the question.. I build a couple decent autopilot with better prestation than raymarine or garmin.. Would I trust my system more than professional one? nope.. at least me...
But you can buy smart, getting the core (simple hydraulic pump) used and brain (the part who is gonna be mostly replaced every few years) new.
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Old 01-20-2017, 09:53 AM   #16
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I'm new to autopilots, having cruised 25 years without one. I use mine only to steer a straight line for me. Really don't want it to make turns following a route on the chartplotter.

For me, taking away the requirement for me to have my hands on the wheel all the time is by far the biggest benefit - and it's BIG. In our smaller non-auto boats, sightseeing would quickly cause me to steer off to one side or another. Now, when we're in clear and safe water with no challenges in or near our course, the autopilot allows me to spend more time gawking (with frequent glances back to the water ahead).

We have a remote too, and can sit back in the pilothouse and make turns with the remote without leaning forward enough to reach the wheel, but often it's not worth the trouble.
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Old 01-20-2017, 10:16 AM   #17
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Would some one care to add a few comments about using wireless remote controls with the AP?
I Raymarine remote control. works 100% fine. I recommend purchase, I use it almost every time. comfortable to sit on the bench in a good position and drive. also works behind a moving boat or the bow. Download cigarette lighter plug. the battery will last more than a man to drive.

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Old 01-20-2017, 10:23 AM   #18
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Would some one care to add a few comments about using wireless remote controls with the AP?


I added a wireless remote to my RM AP on my sailboat. It was fantastic for single handing. I could take it to the foredeck to set the spinnaker and use it to adjust heading to keep the wind where I wanted it. It was also nice in really foul weather when I would tuck myself up behind the dodger and use it to steer less exposed to the weather.

My current boat came with it and it works great. I don't use it quite as much as the sailboat. It still use it a fair amount. It works really well.
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Old 01-20-2017, 10:27 AM   #19
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I'm new to autopilots, having cruised 25 years without one. I use mine only to steer a straight line for me. Really don't want it to make turns following a route on the chartplotter.

For me, taking away the requirement for me to have my hands on the wheel all the time is by far the biggest benefit - and it's BIG. In our smaller non-auto boats, sightseeing would quickly cause me to steer off to one side or another. Now, when we're in clear and safe water with no challenges in or near our course, the autopilot allows me to spend more time gawking (with frequent glances back to the water ahead).

We have a remote too, and can sit back in the pilothouse and make turns with the remote without leaning forward enough to reach the wheel, but often it's not worth the trouble.
Can't say for all...but no boat autopilot I have used turns the boat automatically at a waypoint until you tell it to. I can't remember if they do turn in patterns automatically, but not just following a chartplotter route

They start beeping at the waypoint proximity alarm distance (I think), and when you press the proper button, it will turn off the last heading to the new required to obtain the desired track to the next waypoint.
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Old 01-20-2017, 10:41 AM   #20
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Can't say for all...but no boat autopilot I have used turns the boat automatically at a waypoint until you tell it to.

They start beeping at the waypoint proximity alarm distance (I think), and when you press the proper button, it will turn off the last heading to the new required to obtain the desired track to the next waypoint.
Actually, the Simrad AP20/21 and AP26/27 families of autopilots will do just that. On the AP20/21, when following a route, if the course change is greater than 10 degrees, it will beep and require the operator to confirm with a button push. On the AP26/27, the alarm/confirm threshhold is selectable up to 30 degrees. Otherwise, the change is made automatically. I have found at a noisy helm you can sometimes miss the warning, and steam right past the turn if you are not careful. Of course, you must constantly monitor the situation, no matter what.
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