Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
 
Old 04-20-2017, 08:19 AM   #1
Veteran Member
 
City: Boston
Country: USA
Join Date: Apr 2017
Posts: 30
How is auto-pilot used?

How is auto-pilot used? Is it kind of like cruise control in a car, you sit at the helm and do not need to do anything but look out? Sort of like the auto-pilot in Tesla cars?

Are captains allowed to leave the helm with a ship on auto-pilot? That would seem kind of dangerous to me.
__________________
Advertisement

jsc7 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 08:39 AM   #2
Senior Member
 
City: Rapid City, SD heading back to the PNW
Country: USA
Join Date: Oct 2014
Posts: 119
An A/P is a little different than a cruise-control, in that an A/P holds speed and compass heading. You can move around, but you still need to keep watch. Things can happen when you don't keep watch, like the boater in Puget Sound a while back. He set his A/P then went below to take a nap and had a meeting with a ferry boat. oops
__________________

mramoo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 09:01 AM   #3
Guru
 
djmarchand's Avatar
 
City: East Greenwich Yacht Club, RI
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Bella
Vessel Model: Mainship Pilot 34
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 2,537
Well, an autopilot can do several things. At its basic function, it follows any course (compass direction) that you set. Coupled with a chartplotter, it can follow a route or towards a waypoint that you have set on your chartplotter. Most waypoint following has the ability to dodge obstacles and then return to the course.

I use mine mostly to just follow a course. In open water, I can duck below to get a snack, but I first look around, note any traffic that might be a problem and if nothing is threatening for a few minutes, I will go down below for a minute or so.

I also use it to follow a tight ICW channel. This takes constant attention, adjusting course a few degrees port or starboard to stay in the proper position. But this is still easier than hand steering. I have a remote control head so I can sit back and make these course changes.

But when conditions get tight, like entering a crowded harbor, I always hand steer.

David
djmarchand is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 09:02 AM   #4
Enigma
 
RT Firefly's Avatar
 
City: Slicker?
Country: Bumpkin?
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 9,522
Greetings,
Mr. j. As Mr. mr posted, you are required, by law, to keep a constant watch while the AP does the steering (speed is set by throttle) on a programmed or set course. Our AP (Wood-Freeman 500) holds one set course only and cannot be programmed or interfaced with other electronic devices like more modern units can.
The more modern units can be programmed to change course at pre-set waypoints and take you from point A to point B without touching the helm but I have no experience with these. Wish I did.
__________________
RTF
RT Firefly is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 09:23 AM   #5
Guru
 
menzies's Avatar
 
City: Jacksonville
Country: USA
Vessel Name: SONAS
Vessel Model: Grand Alaskan 53
Join Date: May 2014
Posts: 1,755
Just an update on the above. AP will take a route (multiple waypoints) from a GPS and follow the route - however I believe that no AP will make the next turn for you. It will notify you when it is time to accept the next waypoint but, in case there are reasons the turn should not be made, it will not do it for you. That is certainly the case with my dual set up.
menzies is online now   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 09:28 AM   #6
Guru
 
City: Carefree, Arizona
Country: usa
Vessel Name: sunchaser V
Vessel Model: DeFever 48
Join Date: Apr 2008
Posts: 6,010
If so inclined, pull up the AP manuals on the Furuno or Garmin sites for some simple instructions and guidance. An AP will indeed make turns for you if so programmed and integrated with a plotter.
sunchaser is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 09:36 AM   #7
Guru
 
koliver's Avatar
 
City: Saltspring Island
Country: BC, canada
Vessel Name: Retreat
Vessel Model: C&L 44
Join Date: Nov 2007
Posts: 1,979
RTF
The law requires an "Adequate Lookout", not constant, so there will be time, at trawler speeds, for a quickvisit to the head or to grab a snack. Before doing so, a thorough (adequate, remember) look around, to at least the distance that will be covered in the coming absence from the lookout, and, if safe to do so, away you go.
Course following on my Raymarine AP is better than just setting a compass direction, as it will compensate for cross track errors induce by currents, however it is sometimes a PITA as it will allow an accumulation of XTE to its own limit, then without warning, it will correct that XTE. If this were to occur when you are in a narrow channel or in a busy area that correction could easily cause trouble. For that reason, I usually just follow a compass course.
__________________
Keith
koliver is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 09:50 AM   #8
Guru
 
dhays's Avatar
 
City: Gig Harbor
Country: United States
Vessel Name: Kinship
Vessel Model: North Pacific 43
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 4,221
Keith makes a good point. It is "adequate" not constant. What is "adequate" is determined by conditions and location.

I generally don't use a compass course on my AP except for short periods (i.e. to hold a course while I set a fender or attach a line). If I am on a long leg, I will almost always set a waypoint and allow the AP to get me there. I also have a RayMarine system and the XTE settings are adjustable.

My AP behaves badly when it is first following a course set, but once it is on course it is almost flawless. I think part of its poor initial behavior (it wanders a bit before settling in on course) is that I don't have a boat speed instrument. I know my SOG (GPS) but not my speed through the water. This means the that the AP has less information to work with as it starts following a course.
__________________
Regards,

Dave
SPOT page
dhays is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 10:22 AM   #9
Guru
 
LarryM's Avatar
 
City: League City, TX
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Pelago
Vessel Model: Wellcraft 3300 Coastal
Join Date: Aug 2011
Posts: 755
Quote:
Originally Posted by menzies View Post
Just an update on the above. AP will take a route (multiple waypoints) from a GPS and follow the route - however I believe that no AP will make the next turn for you. It will notify you when it is time to accept the next waypoint but, in case there are reasons the turn should not be made, it will not do it for you. That is certainly the case with my dual set up.
menzies,

Actually, Simrad autopilots will execute the turn to subsequent waypoints up to a certain user-defined limit (I've seen 10-30), beyond which the user must confirm the course change. Garmin autopilots will make the turns automatically without any operator intervention at all. It seems each manufacturer/model might behave differently as it relates to these course changes. As always, RTFM
__________________
Larry
M/V Pelago
LarryM is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 10:29 AM   #10
Guru
 
BandB's Avatar
 
City: Fort Lauderdale
Country: USA
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 10,954
95% + of all our boating is done with an Autopilot. However, we never leave one unattended or with no one on watch. That includes stepping below for a snack or to use the restroom or any other reason. If we need to take a break we have someone else take over and if there isn't someone else available, then we stop or idle long enough to do whatever we need to do. We don't continue at speed while not on watch. I know that's probably very much a minority view here of zero tolerance but when you create a grey area it seems to just keep expanding.
BandB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 10:43 AM   #11
Senior Member
 
AKDoug's Avatar
 
City: Kenai, Alaska
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Melanie Rose
Vessel Model: 1999 Willard PH
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 494
It also steers a straighter line of travel (compensating for currents and wind) than you are capable of steering by hand. It makes the most efficient use of your fuel by driving the boat in the most direct route.
AKDoug is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 10:47 AM   #12
Guru
 
City: Fort Myers
Country: USA
Join Date: Jul 2013
Posts: 898
We use it when trolling or open water cruising, really reduces the fatigue factor not always adjusting the wheel in a good sea. Must have a lookout all the time, my wife jumps in if I need to use the head or get a snack, good thing is the course is set so looking out for debris is the key.
Marlinmike is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 10:49 AM   #13
Guru
 
dhays's Avatar
 
City: Gig Harbor
Country: United States
Vessel Name: Kinship
Vessel Model: North Pacific 43
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 4,221
Quote:
Originally Posted by BandB View Post
95% + of all our boating is done with an Autopilot. However, we never leave one unattended or with no one on watch. That includes stepping below for a snack or to use the restroom or any other reason. If we need to take a break we have someone else take over and if there isn't someone else available, then we stop or idle long enough to do whatever we need to do. We don't continue at speed while not on watch. I know that's probably very much a minority view here of zero tolerance but when you create a grey area it seems to just keep expanding.

I definitely understand your viewpoint and generally think it makes sense.

However consider this... Most of us are cruising with just two people on board. Most of us are cruising at 6-8 knots. Many of us are cruising in relatively open waters without the traffic density of say the ICW. Most of us are in boats that are 40' or less.

It takes me 15 seconds to leave the PH, go to the galley, grab a water from the fridge, and be back in the PH. And that is for a middle-age guy with two bad knees. That means that at my typical 7 knot cruise speed I have traveled much less than 1 boat length. I can make a cup of coffee in my Keurig in about 3 boat lengths (although I don't. I start the cup of coffee, go back to the PH and then go retrieve the coffee after it is finished so I am away from the helm for 2 boat lengths at one time and 1 boat length to retrieve the cup later.)
__________________
Regards,

Dave
SPOT page
dhays is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 10:59 AM   #14
Guru
 
Codger2's Avatar
 
City: San Diego
Country: US
Vessel Name: "Sandpiper"
Vessel Model: 2006 42' Ocean Alexander Sedan
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 5,338
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunchaser View Post
An AP will indeed make turns for you if so programmed and integrated with a plotter.
__________________
Codger2

My passion for improving my boat(s) exceeds my desire to constantly cruise them.
Codger2 is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 11:00 AM   #15
Guru
 
BandB's Avatar
 
City: Fort Lauderdale
Country: USA
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 10,954
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhays View Post
I definitely understand your viewpoint and generally think it makes sense.

However consider this... Most of us are cruising with just two people on board. Most of us are cruising at 6-8 knots. Many of us are cruising in relatively open waters without the traffic density of say the ICW. Most of us are in boats that are 40' or less.

It takes me 15 seconds to leave the PH, go to the galley, grab a water from the fridge, and be back in the PH. And that is for a middle-age guy with two bad knees. That means that at my typical 7 knot cruise speed I have traveled much less than 1 boat length. I can make a cup of coffee in my Keurig in about 3 boat lengths (although I don't. I start the cup of coffee, go back to the PH and then go retrieve the coffee after it is finished so I am away from the helm for 2 boat lengths at one time and 1 boat length to retrieve the cup later.)
I do consider that. I also consider that while the likelihood is low, many things can happen on some of those trips away from the helm. Someone slips, someone gets burned by hot coffee. Now, your 15 second situation or three boat lengths isn't one that bothers me. You're never really out of view. The trip down steps to a head is one that I do consider a definitely "no". While not much can happen in 5 minutes at 6 to 8 knots, I would also contend not much time is lost by just pulling the boat back to neutral or idle. I would also contend waiting for the other person aboard to just walk up and watch in those circumstances is easy.
BandB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 11:08 AM   #16
Guru
 
Ski in NC's Avatar
 
City: Wilmington, NC
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Louisa
Vessel Model: Custom Built 38
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 3,388
To the OP- On a boat if you set the throttle to a certain setting, the boat will maintain a very near constant speed. This is unlike a car, where hills and such would change speed if you held the throttle constant. So cars need cruise to adjust throttle to maintain constant speed. No such need on a boat.

The autopilot on the boat keeps you headed in a constant direction. If you left a boat rudder in a fixed position, the boat would wander one way or the other. This requires the helmsman to make constant small corrections to keep the boat going in the desired direction. The autopilot does that for you. It means you can do other stuff while moving and the boat keeps going the way you want.

The AP is one of the best inventions in the boating world. The slower the boat is, or the longer the trip, the more valuable it is.
Ski in NC is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 11:13 AM   #17
Guru
 
BandB's Avatar
 
City: Fort Lauderdale
Country: USA
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 10,954
I've heard the arguments against cruise control, that it takes your mind off your driving. It shouldn't. It should allow you to watch the roads instead of keeping your eye on the speedometer.

So, same with autopilot. It frees you to do all those other things you need to do at the helm. Makes it possible for you to keep better watch and keep an eye on all your surroundings.
BandB is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 11:34 AM   #18
Senior Member
 
Nightsky's Avatar
 
City: Comox
Country: Canada
Vessel Model: 1994 Carver 390
Join Date: Nov 2016
Posts: 109
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhays View Post
I definitely understand your viewpoint and generally think it makes sense.



It takes me 15 seconds to leave the PH, go to the galley, grab a water from the fridge, and be back in the PH. And that is for a middle-age guy with two bad knees. That means that at my typical 7 knot cruise speed I have traveled much less than 1 boat length.
1 knot = 6076 ft/60 mins = 101'/min
7 knots=707'/min in 15 sec travel is ~ 175', just saying.

Having said this, I have often left the wheel, while on AP, when there was no opposing (or even near) traffic. It was a fact of my previous (work) life. Done judiciously, I believe it is OK to leave the helm unattended for short periods, but you MUST know how far you are going to travel in the amount of time you intend to leave the helm.
Nightsky is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 11:54 AM   #19
Guru
 
dhays's Avatar
 
City: Gig Harbor
Country: United States
Vessel Name: Kinship
Vessel Model: North Pacific 43
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 4,221
Quote:
Originally Posted by BandB View Post
I do consider that. I also consider that while the likelihood is low, many things can happen on some of those trips away from the helm. Someone slips, someone gets burned by hot coffee. Now, your 15 second situation or three boat lengths isn't one that bothers me. You're never really out of view. The trip down steps to a head is one that I do consider a definitely "no". While not much can happen in 5 minutes at 6 to 8 knots, I would also contend not much time is lost by just pulling the boat back to neutral or idle. I would also contend waiting for the other person aboard to just walk up and watch in those circumstances is easy.
I agree with you on both points. It is always possible that I could take a header as I go down the three steps from the PH to the galley and become injured. However, that is a risk that I'm comfortable taking.

With prostate cancer, I no longer have "quick" trips to the head. The couple minutes it takes is longer than my personal comfort level away from the helm at my cruise speed. So if my wife isn't available to take the helm (the boat is an amazing soporific for her), I will cut back to idle while I use the head. At idle under the AP the boat will maintain a couple knots of speed, just enough to maintain course. So I am still talking about only a few boat lengths. I have no problem cutting to idle for a couple minutes as it will lengthen my trip by even less than that.
__________________
Regards,

Dave
SPOT page
dhays is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 04-20-2017, 01:21 PM   #20
Guru
 
ulysses's Avatar
 
City: Gulf Shores, Ala.
Country: USA
Vessel Name: Ulysses
Vessel Model: Romsdal 1963
Join Date: May 2013
Posts: 868
Quote:
Originally Posted by dhays View Post
I definitely understand your viewpoint and generally think it makes sense.

However consider this... Most of us are cruising with just two people on board. Most of us are cruising at 6-8 knots. Many of us are cruising in relatively open waters without the traffic density of say the ICW. Most of us are in boats that are 40' or less.

It takes me 15 seconds to leave the PH, go to the galley, grab a water from the fridge, and be back in the PH. And that is for a middle-age guy with two bad knees. That means that at my typical 7 knot cruise speed I have traveled much less than 1 boat length. I can make a cup of coffee in my Keurig in about 3 boat lengths (although I don't. I start the cup of coffee, go back to the PH and then go retrieve the coffee after it is finished so I am away from the helm for 2 boat lengths at one time and 1 boat length to retrieve the cup later.)

Wow how long is your boat ? I did the math and it must be over 170 feet.
__________________

ulysses is offline   Reply With Quote
Reply

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are Off





All times are GMT -5. The time now is 06:50 AM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.8 Beta 4
Copyright ©2000 - 2017, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.
Search Engine Optimization by vBSEO 3.6.0
Copyright 2006 - 2012