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Old 07-09-2013, 10:42 PM   #1
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Bonehead Move...Today!

While coming back today from a 2 hour run with two friends, one of them was at the helm for the last hour and was ready to hand off to me for the final birthing. (I don't let anyone but me put the boat in the slip!)

The hand off was made at "A" and the boat continued toward "B", the turning point that leads to the fairway to my slip. At "B" I turned the helm to port and nothing happened, the boat continued toward the rocks as I tried again with full port rudder. No response. I shifted to reverse & applied a lot of power to stay off the rocks and that worked. While backing away, the Auto Pilot started screaming that the boat was off course. At the hand off (at "A") the previous helmsman had the AP on and I didn't notice it so when I attempted a hard turn to port, the AP wouldn't allow it. Switching the AP to Standby returned the rudder to input from the helm.

Lesson learned....(And no one was drinking!)
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:06 PM   #2
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Thanks for sharing Walt, close encounters like that have something for us all to learn from. I learned that an AP removes(or can remove) input control of the rudder from the helm wheel.

Having never used auto pilot that is something I would not have known.
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:20 PM   #3
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Walt, you have just proved Moonstruck's theory of most screw ups happening near the end of a cruise when we think the trip is in the can. Especially when we are in home waters what can go wrong? Plenty that's what. The trip is not in the bag until tied up, shut down, and everything checked. That's easy to slip up on.
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:24 PM   #4
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CPseudonym, I suspect this has happened to many folks. I did a similar thing at the Isleton Public Dock a little over a year ago coming back from Walnut Grove. One gets distracted and forgets the AP. I thought for about a minute that I had lost my hydraulic steering as there was some history of that during sea-trial. I drifted a bit downstream and toward the shore before I figured out what was really going on. It is a very old AP and has no visual indicator.(which I should add) You turn the wheel and it starts to respond, and then goes limp like a noodle - very eerie feeling. No one at the dock fishing said anything, but must have wondered what the heck I was trying to do for 6 minutes getting to the dock.
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:43 PM   #5
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Mildly related is to also turn off the engine synchronizers (if you have twins) before needing independent engine throttles in close quarters...ask me how I know!
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Old 07-09-2013, 11:50 PM   #6
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Been there before although not in front of rocks luckily, it makes the heart flutter until you realize and with an upper helm it is even easier to have happen.
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Old 07-10-2013, 12:23 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SeaHorse II View Post
While coming back today from a 2 hour run with two friends,
That wasn't me Walt, I handed off to you after I tried to run over that sailboat!!
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Old 07-10-2013, 12:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunchaser View Post
That wasn't me Walt, I handed off to you after I tried to run over that sailboat!!
No, Tom, it was a sailor friend who loves my AP. We ran down to Coronado Cays. Absolutely a very beautiful afternoon.

I'm definitely getting my enthusiasm back and have put more hours on the boat in the last week than I have in a very long time. (Thanks to Tom & Jan White for providing the spark that I needed.) I am getting tired, however, of washing my blue hull so much.

Edit: Tom & Jan White make 5 TFers that have visited SeaHorse so far and my wife and I really enjoyed their company. As it turns out, we have a lot in common with Arizona!
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Old 07-10-2013, 12:59 AM   #9
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Great post, Walt. We've probably all been there in one way or another. Something similar happened to me.

I was out fishing with my brother a few years ago and we moved from the lower helm to the FB. We cruised along the serpentine rivers of the delta, but I noticed that every few seconds, boat wanted to keep turning to stbd. I'd steer back to port on the FB helm and all was well, then it would drift back to stbd. I thought I was losing hydraulic steering.

When I got to the lower helm, I found my wheel pilot was still engaged and desperately attempting to steer to stbd. As it turns out, my FB helm will easily overpower my lower helm. Each correction took effect, but the AP inputs continued when the FB helm was idle, causing the AP to reinitiate the stbd turn.

No rocks, and if you know my brother, surprisingly no alcohol involved. (It was early morning.)

When I was in ATC, each relief briefing was standardized to be thorough and accurate. In flying, each transfer of flight controls was positive and acknowledged with a briefing of all heading/altitude/speed conditions and restrictions. The Admiral and I have tried to adapt the same control transfer practices to our boat to address heading, route variations ahead, hazards and AP ON/OFF. It seems a bit anal at times, but it now works for us.
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Old 07-10-2013, 10:59 AM   #10
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One good feature the Garmin AP's have is called "Shadow Drive". It allows the skipper to add input any time and if they turn the wheel it puts the autopilot into standby and alerts on the chart plotters.

I never have to fight the autopilot.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:08 AM   #11
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In flying, each transfer of flight controls was positive and acknowledged with a briefing of all heading/altitude/speed conditions and restrictions. The Admiral and I have tried to adapt the same control transfer practices to our boat to address heading, route variations ahead, hazards and AP ON/OFF.
That was my "lesson learned" part of my post. I just never entertained the thought that the boat would be on AP at the 5mph entrance to the marina. What's funny (to me) was that when I first encountered that I had no steering and was approaching the rocks, my first reaction was "Oh shit, the steering is broken!" I then realized that shifting to reverse with power added might be a good idea. It was only after going in reverse, that caused the heading to change, that the AP started yelling at me (loud buzzer) that "the boat is off course." (label on the AP) Until I went in reverse, the AP was doing exactly what it had been instructed to do.

My buddy, the sailor, came up to the helm and calmly said, "you didn't notice that I had the AP engaged, huh? "

In my own defense (which is indefensible) why would a seasoned blow boater have the AP engaged in a busy harbor and when entering a marina?
Answer: Because it is entirely possible...hence, the need for a standardized briefing when changing a helmsman.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:11 AM   #12
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I once drove mine all the way in to the fairway on AP just to see if it could make the turns at such low speed. It wasn't pretty and I sure wouldn't recommend it. I will usually use the AP while setting fenders before we enter the channel. Mostly just to hold a straight course though.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:13 AM   #13
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I have an ancient Wagner autopilot that has a bypass valve that allows the wheel to overcome the A/P.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:19 AM   #14
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Quote:
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One good feature the Garmin AP's have is called "Shadow Drive". It allows the skipper to add input any time and if they turn the wheel it puts the autopilot into standby and alerts on the chart plotters.
Interesting and funny! I had that very thought after the AP yelled at me. One of my hobbies, which I've mentioned before, is going to WM and playing with all the new electronic stuff. I knew about the Shadow Drive on the Garmin AP and have lusted for one ever since.

Since I've had a few hours to think about what might have happened, I've concluded that my AP did work extremely well and it did tell me when there was a short between the helmsman's seat and the helm.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:20 AM   #15
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More than once I've turned the Coot's wheel with no effect when Otto was still acting helmsman.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:36 AM   #16
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I've kind of "been there, done that" with the A/P. I was on the river one day, drifting and getting a bit close to shore for my comfort. I started the engines and went to back out and turn but it wouldn't turn. I figured I was low on hydraulic fluid so added some but that didn't fix the problem. It took me a couple of minutes before I figured out what happened.

Now, whenever I approach a dock, slip, or anywhere that's going to require some slow speed maneuvering I make sure three things are set....
1. A/P off
2. Helm centered
3. Synchronizer off

That's now become my 'checklist' for approaching just about anything.
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Old 07-10-2013, 11:58 AM   #17
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It never happened with the auto-ex on my trawler. It was fail safe.
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Old 07-10-2013, 01:42 PM   #18
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Major manufacturers such as Simrad & Furuno have recently announced that a new feature of their AP's is the ability to take control of the helm without disengaging the AP, much like Garmin's "Shadow" feature. Never understood why this wasn't included all along.
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Old 07-10-2013, 02:10 PM   #19
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I guess that's one advantage (besides price) of a wheel pilot on a chain drive steering system! There is no question whatsoever on who has control at any given time. Just grab the wheel and turn it, the AP brain will know you're off course and try to correct but the drive belt will slip and you'll have control of the rudder. And you'll realize instantly that you've left the AP engaged.

KISS, in practice.
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Old 07-10-2013, 04:01 PM   #20
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I can steer through my Raymarine ST5000+......great safety feature.
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