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Old 03-08-2017, 07:46 PM   #1
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Autopilots

Looking for some info on autopilots, which I know little about.

Can someone give me the skinny about a GOOD autopilot for a 40 ft trawler.

Do they typically have the capability to hold heading, and will they track a course from a GPS, and what else will they do?

Are they difficult to install, and would it make a difference if dual helm stations and twin engines vs. single?

What manufacturers do you feel produce the best, and if you have one, how well does it work?

Thx for the input.....
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:03 PM   #2
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I e had great luck with Robertson (now Simrad). Great pilot, held a course, can be hooked into the auto pilot to track a course and factor in a current drift line the Gulf Stream, the new ones will take from waypoint to waypoint and avoid those ares to avoid (I will always check) and can steer a route. Unless your really good I would have a professional install the brand you pick. Once you decide on a brand buy the best you can afford.

That being said my new boat has Zeus pods and I HAVE to use their proprietary auto pilot and that sucks, I have no other choice but their system.
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:17 PM   #3
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We have about 150 hours on a Raymarine EV-100. This was a single-helm install. It is not interfaced with our plotter. I believe it can be interfaced to track on a waypoint, and I think there are some patterns loaded in the unit for use while fishing.

It has performed very well at loafing speeds and fast cruise (27kts), and done all we have expected it to do. The price was reasonable and installation was only complicated (unnecessarily) by one of the installers. Raymarine tech support answered the phone and was helpful both before purchase and during installation. The display is intuitive, easy to read, and pleasant to use. We have the rotary knob version. I would purchase again.

We also seriously considered Si-Tex.

Good Luck.
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Old 03-08-2017, 08:33 PM   #4
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The Simrad AP70 seems to get good reviews, but it's a pretty high end pilot and $$. The AP24/28 was a long time workhorse, but is now end of life and replaced by their NAC line. The NAC line is unproven, so I personally wouldn't want to use one until many had shaken it out. Other than the AP70, the Simrad pilots interface with other equipment via N2K only, so if you have 0183 on your boat it's probably not the best choice.

Furuno makes an excellent pilot in the NavPilot 700 series. It's my current favorite. It has very flexible interfacing to other nav systems, so no vendor lock in.

Garmin makes a pilot, but I think it has some number of proprietary interfaces between components - more so than other pilots. So I'd check that carefully before attempting to use it with a non Garmin system.

I haven't used a Raymarine pilot in years, but the one I had was good. I think ray is N2K only as well, but not 100% sure. Maybe someone else knows?

Comnav makes pilots that many people swear by. I haven't had the greatest support experience with Comnav, so they wouldn't be my first choice, but like I said, many people are very happy with them. Comnav is 0183 interfacing only.

I think those are the major players.

The major components of an AP are:

- AP Computer. This box is the brains of the system

- Control panels. Most systems support multiple control panels so you can place them at multiple helps (pilot house plus flybridge). If your AP and Pilot are current model and the same brand, you can usually use the chart plotter as an additional control panel. But these MFD control panels are often not full function, so a dedicated panel is still needed.

- Rudder sensor. I think all inboard APs prefer to have a rudder indicator. Some support "virtual feedback", but performance will be much better with a rudder indicator.

- Heading sensor. This is a critical part of any AP, so don't try to cut corners and cheap out on the heading sensor.

- Steering pump. This assumes you have hydraulic steering. You need a steering pump, and it needs to be sized to match the displacement of the steering rams in the boat. That's so it can move the rudder fast enough to effectively steer the boat. The pump gets teed into the existing steering hydraulic lines; left, right, and the return/makeup line. When the AP is active, it steers by controlling the pump. You helm wheels don't move, and it doesn't matter how many helms or rudders you have.

If you have cable or chain steering, there are other drive mechanisms available, but I'm not familiar with them.

All APs can operate independent of your chart plotter, but they can also be interconnected. If interconnected, there is an AP operating mode where it will follow the waypoints that your plotter dishes out as you follow a route.

I think those are the major points, but I probably missed something.
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Old 03-08-2017, 09:47 PM   #5
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Just to add to Twisted's comments, most autopilots require the software be upgraded using one of the same manufacturer's MFDs. Check that before you buy and plan how you would update the course computer.

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Old 03-09-2017, 05:30 AM   #6
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A boat with Hyd steering must use a complex unit that includes a hyd pump.

Boats with mechanical steering can select the far less expensive option of a unit that drives the wheel. This can usually be owner installed.

The hyd units might require pro help to install.
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Old 03-09-2017, 05:58 AM   #7
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I am having a complete Garmin autopilot installed in my Bluuewater 2 station steering with shadow drive.
$2900.00
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Old 03-09-2017, 06:02 AM   #8
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Quote:
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A boat with Hyd steering must use a complex unit that includes a hyd pump.

Boats with mechanical steering can select the far less expensive option of a unit that drives the wheel. This can usually be owner installed.

The hyd units might require pro help to install.
This may have been true in the past, but looking at currently available drive units, the hydraulic pumps are order $500-$700, and other drive units $1200-$2500. But it's really moot since the boat's current steering mechanism will dictate what's needed.

Take a look at Octopus Drives for a cross section of drive types.
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Old 03-09-2017, 06:38 AM   #9
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As stated most auto pilot and other electronics need system updating and I'm computer Oller are and that's why I pay my dealer.
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Old 03-09-2017, 08:56 AM   #10
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I just replaced my very old Autohelm with a new Ray Marine Evo200. I did not replace the pump/ram, just the electronics. Control heads at both helms. My experience:
It tracked a down wind course with 6 to 8 footers within 15 feet of course for 6 hours.
It tracked directly into 4 to six footers within 10 feet of course for 8 hours.
It is interfaced to my Garmin 5212 via NMEA 2000. And will track to a waypoint or follow a route, all to within 10 to 15 feet of course line. If the chartplotter can do it, the Ray Marine can follow it.

To say I'm happy with this autopilot would be an understatement.

I installed it myself. It was plug and play and worked first time, right out of the box. Note that the pump/ram was already in place, just hooked up the wires. And the NMEA network was already in place.

Hope this helps,
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Old 03-09-2017, 12:14 PM   #11
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One thing I noticed over the years is autopilots seem to swap who is the best every few years, cameras do also. Is this collusion to sell merchandise?
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Old 03-09-2017, 05:09 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kartracer View Post
I am having a complete Garmin autopilot installed in my Bluuewater 2 station steering with shadow drive.
$2900.00
yes, whatever unit you choose make sure it allows you to overtake it and steer the boat manually without having to disengage the AP. A whole lot of bad can happen during the time you take to scramble down from the flybridge. Plus its fun to occasionally tweak the wheel and watch how the AP reacts to it.
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Old 03-09-2017, 05:18 PM   #13
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yes, whatever unit you choose make sure it allows you to overtake it and steer the boat manually without having to disengage the AP. A whole lot of bad can happen during the time you take to scramble down from the flybridge. Plus its fun to occasionally tweak the wheel and watch how the AP reacts to it.
All the pilots I've used require you to push a standby button to disengage them. If you turn the wheel the pilot just moves the rudder back to where it wants it.

Are there pilots that detect manual steering and disengage?

Whether there are or not, you make a good point that you need a control panel at each helm.
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Old 03-09-2017, 05:21 PM   #14
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Yes. The POS I have allows you to take the wheel at any time and disconnects the AP. I can then hit a button and engage it again in either Xtrack or waypoint mode.
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Old 03-09-2017, 06:09 PM   #15
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Yes. The POS I have allows you to take the wheel at any time and disconnects the AP. I can then hit a button and engage it again in either Xtrack or waypoint mode.
What make/model? Is it hydraulic steering, or something else?
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Old 03-09-2017, 06:56 PM   #16
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It's fly by wire, a Zeus product. It is terrible. But I'm stuck with it.
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Old 03-09-2017, 07:32 PM   #17
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yes, whatever unit you choose make sure it allows you to overtake it and steer the boat manually without having to disengage the AP. A whole lot of bad can happen during the time you take to scramble down from the flybridge. Plus its fun to occasionally tweak the wheel and watch how the AP reacts to it.
That is what the shadow drive is,,, Thanks
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Old 03-09-2017, 08:03 PM   #18
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We are on our 2nd boat with a ComNav autopilot. The first was our sailboat and it worked wonderfully. Heading, nav and wind all worked well. We now have a power boat with a ComNav Commander P2. I am impressed by this unit. Going slow or fast it has shown very good manners. It is not currently interfaced but I hope to have that remedied for this summer. Oh, both are hydraulic.
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Old 03-09-2017, 08:26 PM   #19
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ComNav and forget it
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Old 03-09-2017, 09:33 PM   #20
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What make/model? Is it hydraulic steering, or something else?
The Garmin autopilot we chose for our new build uses a slave sensor installed in the hydraulic system to allow you to simply move the wheel to change course any time without first disengaging the autopilot. After the boat is settled back on a new course for a few seconds the pilot regains control.
They call it Shadow drive...
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