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Old 01-29-2016, 12:10 PM   #1
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Auto Pilot Question

Hi folks,

I recently took my new-to-me trawler out for a multi-day trip. On the way home I engaged the auto pilot for the first time, and the boat did a U-turn to the right at 8 knots. When I grabbed the helm, nothing happened, as it is a hydraulic steering system. After reducing speed, I disengaged the AP and hand-steered the rest of the way.

Is it normal to have NO steering control from the helm when the AP is engaged in a hydraulic system? My last few boats were sailboats with mechanical steering that could be overridden while the AP was engaged. I think that I probably could have adjusted the heading on the AP, and all would have been fine, but I wanted to ask. BTW, the AP worked fine on the sea-trial.

Thanks for any input and tips.

Cheers, Bill
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Old 01-29-2016, 12:23 PM   #2
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It is normal for the AP to disengage the manual steering.

Also, you may want to give the AP a 2nd chance. I find that our AP takes a while to initialize and also sense the course (it is old enough to have a magnetic compass down in the bilge). When first engaged it often sends us off on its own course. After a reset to standby, 2nd try is usually stable. Also, we get a warning alarm when the AP looses course.
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Old 01-29-2016, 12:26 PM   #3
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Absolutely normal, the wheel should just freely turn while AP is engaged. Sounds to me some time with the AP manuals and then some time in open waters playing is all you need.
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Old 01-29-2016, 12:30 PM   #4
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Some (and most newer models) AP's have the capability to be over ridden by the helm of a hydraulic system, some don't. Always best to see what the AP is set to before engaging, for instance if set to go to a waypoint as some are integrated with the GPS/Plotter.
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Old 01-29-2016, 12:31 PM   #5
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We have an ancient Wagner auto-pilot and I can manual steer with the A/P engaged.
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Old 01-29-2016, 12:40 PM   #6
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As usual...it all depends....


My older Raymarine can be steered through...most of the Robertsons/Simrads I have used I can not. Then again...without checking...it could be the steering system type/combination more so than the AP.


I would be worried about the U-turn....on the pilots I am used to, you have to hit something twice to get the AP to go to a waypoint...so just hitting autopilot shouldn't result in much of a turn (small normal).


Sharp reactions that eventually are correct are usually a sign of too much rudder gain or response rate.
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Old 01-29-2016, 01:01 PM   #7
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A U turn meaning it turned 180 degrees and straightened out?
Or did it go in circles?

A friend had an Autohelm (now Raymarine) that had a bug and would do circles if the dodge buttons were pressed in a certain sequence. (There was a fix that could be programmed into it that he did later that day)

An autopilot would turn 180 degrees if you commanded it to follow a "track" in the wrong direction. (easy to make that mistake)
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Old 01-29-2016, 01:49 PM   #8
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Our wheel at the helm is free-spinning (aka useless) when the AP is engaged.


Our "rudder reference" went south once, and the symptom was similar. Our electronics guys replaced the "rudder reference", all good.


-Chris
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Old 01-29-2016, 02:18 PM   #9
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Have had three hydraulic APs, manual steering for dodging
depended on gpm flow from the pump. If set too high it was not possible
to hand pump enough flow to over ride the AP pump, lower flow allowed
the helm pump to exceed the AP pump flow.
Had to turn helm continuously, like holding a dodge button, to over ride
the set course.

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Old 01-29-2016, 02:25 PM   #10
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My SImrad will not allow me to hand steer when engaged. Check to see what your source of input is for the AP. You may have several choices on the display and if it was not set to "Compass" but instead got input from something else (like a GPS) it may have been only doing what it was told.
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Old 01-29-2016, 04:02 PM   #11
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Thanks folks for all the great replies. As I mentioned, I am new to the whole hydraulic steering thing. I'm sure that it was pilot error, and will check things when I return to the boat.

Thanks again, Bill
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Old 01-29-2016, 04:32 PM   #12
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Ok, I'll ask:
What brand and model AP?
What was the AP compass reading before engaging? Did that jive with your heading.
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Old 01-29-2016, 04:34 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ranger42c View Post
Our wheel at the helm is free-spinning (aka useless) when the AP is engaged.


Our "rudder reference" went south once, and the symptom was similar. Our electronics guys replaced the "rudder reference", all good.


-Chris
bingo...check the rudder response sensor...I have found dozens that just fell off and caused similar random AP responses.
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Old 01-29-2016, 04:53 PM   #14
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Have to say one of things I love is an AP remote on a nice long cord, and fortunately the PO of my old Robertson 300 equipped Hatt was of the same mind. Made it very easy to disengage the the AP instantly because I always had it in my lap or immediately at hand. Between the "auto" and power steering functions I used the helm wheel no more than 10% of the time, usually slouched back in the helm seat. Ann preferred using the helm wheel, so different strokes.

BTW, I could override that 300 with the helm; which I tested a few times but didn't really need. The best system for that I've seen is Garmin's Shadow Drive.
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Old 01-29-2016, 05:04 PM   #15
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Does your a/p steer using a heading input from a compass/electronic compass? If so, it is a good idea to check the heading shown on the a/p screen and the heading on your compass to make sure they are the same. If they are not, you may have to do the turn-slowly-in-circles exercise to re-calibrate the electronic compass. A severe turn when 1st switched on happens to me when I forget to check that my a/p's heading input is correct.
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Old 01-29-2016, 05:08 PM   #16
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An autopilot compass can be anywhere on heading....not even close to the ship's magnetic compass and will work fine. It may confuse you...but the AP just senses a change in magnetic lines to steer a straight course...it doesn't care which lines.


At least all the older style ones...maybe not the newest like the Garmin Shadow Drive which I have no experience with. But any that just use the old cheapo magnetic flux compasses. (like below)
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Old 01-29-2016, 05:12 PM   #17
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Rudder feedback linkage or sender failure was my first guess.

APs that I've used stay on the compass heading sensed when Auto is pushed. You usually need to do something further to get the AP to chase a waypoint.

On my current Capilano hydraulic/Raymarine ST6001, I can temporarily overpower the hydraulic pump by spinning the wheel quickly. Not enough to dodge a boat but will dodge a crab pot float.
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Old 01-29-2016, 05:32 PM   #18
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Had the same thing happen after I bought my boat and the first time I engaged the AP. Had to re-calibrate the flux gate compass.

I attribute it to metal added or removed in the vicinity of the compass during the change of ownership.

Has been fine now for years...
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Old 01-29-2016, 07:23 PM   #19
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I had a very similar experience years ago with a Simrad AP. It turned out that it was a "serious short between the AP control panel and the helm seat." As was previously stated, the fix was to study the manual and spend time on the water practicing with the pilot.
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Old 01-29-2016, 08:14 PM   #20
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Hi folks,

To answer the question about the brand, the AP pump is an Accu-steer, not sure about the about the AP unit itself. I did not look at the heading on the AP before engaging it, so I'm not sure about that either. Yes, I have a lot to learn. I'll be reading manuals and trying different things next time I take her out.

Thanks for all the input.

Cheers, Bill
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