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Old 01-01-2014, 02:49 AM   #1
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Autopilot for PNW usage, really needed or not

Here is me again. I am moving from a sailboat to a power boat of 36-38 ft length. My main cruising ground is Pacific North West mainly between islands and practically always in sight of land. I am looking at trips from 10-100 miles so 1.25 to 12.5 hours at average 8 knots of speed. On my 38ft sailboat I was usually on autopilot sailing, motor sailing or motoring especially when single handing it. It is very nice piece of gear especially when single handling the boat as without it, it gets tiring to steer he boat constantly. In fact I could not imagine not having an autopilot on a sailboat On a twin powered boat with smaller rudders and lesser underwater volume/depth (compared to the sailboat) do you need to constantly steer/correct the boat's course to get her going straight? Do most PNW trawler boats have and use autopilots? At least when having to go to the loo while single handling or when admiral is bronzing on the bow?
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Old 01-01-2014, 04:28 AM   #2
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I need an autopilot, but I never leave the helm unattended while under way.
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Old 01-01-2014, 04:40 AM   #3
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Last boat had an autopilot, new boat doesn't. I will be getting another one. Makes island hopping the San Juans more fun. (In my opinion).
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Old 01-01-2014, 06:16 AM   #4
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Seems to be 2 schools of thought....

Can't live without one because occasionally leaving the helm is invariably going to happen and they ultimately reduce fatigue and for many are almost a safety necessity...

The other camp is no one leaves the helm and staring into space is the ultimate safety tool....and they must be able to always rotate someone to the helm or hold it forever (or have a portable handy).

I will admit that I might change my tune if I were boating the Pacific Northwest all the time and experienced what some TFers have noted about deadheads. My experience is while deadheads are a constant issue and in some areas certainly too thick to leave the helm much....I still think an autopilot is invaluable for a lot of reasons especially if cruising with only one or two experienced helmspersons.
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Old 01-01-2014, 08:39 AM   #5
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I will admit that I might change my tune if I were boating the Pacific Northwest all the time and experienced what some TFers have noted about deadheads. .
No deadheads here in Florida (so far as I know), but what we do have are zillions of crab traps. So it is usually necessary to keep a sharp eye out when using the autopilot (unless far off shore, of course).
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Old 01-01-2014, 09:04 AM   #6
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Do most PNW trawler boats have and use autopilots?
Quite simply, yes. Once into the 36' range I would say 95 %.
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Old 01-01-2014, 09:44 AM   #7
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"Otto" drives the boat all the time, it steers better than we do but we are always at the helm enjoying the scenery.
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Old 01-01-2014, 11:33 AM   #8
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This is our first boat with an auto pilot. We really appreciate it, it helps reduce fatigue while cruising is what I have found to be true. No more constant helm adjustments. We still stay by the helm but mostly keep watch for debris and traffic. For us it makes a 6 hour cruise feel more like 3 hours.
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Old 01-01-2014, 11:49 AM   #9
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Would you want to drive for 8 hours on the freeway without cruise control? a auto pilot in my opinion is 500% more valuable in keeping the skipper fresh and able to scan for traffic, boat systems than needing to steer a accurate course ( especially at night, rough weather, fog, rain etc.).. and yes I do actually cruise in the dark in the PNW.

I would never own a boat without one.. if it didn't have one it would be at the top of the lift of upgrades. I rarely travel more than a couple miles without using the pilot.

Happy New Year,

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Old 01-01-2014, 01:18 PM   #10
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My boat (as well as all of yours', no doubt) is always under cruise control except for the moments for adjusting throttle or transmission. I'm usually using the autopilot so to make like a lookout and move away from the wheel to get varying views.
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Old 01-01-2014, 01:27 PM   #11
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being in the PACNW and all its hazards (like our hazards are really different, geez)

I've had boats both with and without an autopilot.

that said, i will never have a boat without an autopilot again.

As far as leaving the helm...

I see no issue when cruising at displacement speeds with occasionally going to the head (quickly), or grabbing a drink from the fridge.

At 8 knots things generally do not happen so quickly as to make this a real hazard, of course depending on conditions, traffic, etc...
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Old 01-01-2014, 01:33 PM   #12
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Don't leave home without it.

I'm like Hollywood. I rarely travel without using the AP.
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Old 01-01-2014, 01:41 PM   #13
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We always use the autopilot. It's a necessity, so we also have a backup.
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Old 01-01-2014, 01:42 PM   #14
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Ditto the above sentiments.
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Old 01-01-2014, 01:54 PM   #15
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Quote:
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At 8 knots things generally do not happen so quickly as to make this a real hazard, of course depending on conditions, traffic, etc...
I've had multiple occasions going at cruise (six-knot) speed when kayaks suddenly appear about 10 seconds away. (Kayakers often cross the Carquinez Strait between Benicia and Port Costa.) So, I usually throttle to idle and even into neutral if going to the head and no one else is in the pilothouse.

Kayakers at East Brother Island at the southwest end of San Pablo Bay:

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Old 01-01-2014, 03:35 PM   #16
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Otto von Pilot is a welcome friend on our boat!
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Old 01-01-2014, 05:05 PM   #17
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Did someone mention Otto?
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Old 01-01-2014, 05:31 PM   #18
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We have F.R.E.D. who drives the boat, Cooper.

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Old 01-01-2014, 07:53 PM   #19
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Kayakers are like crab pots... they pop up as soon as nobody is watching. I use our AP until I have to negotiate tight channels. But we always keep a watch on the bridge.

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Old 01-01-2014, 08:10 PM   #20
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Kayakers are like crab pots... they pop up as soon as nobody is watching. I use our AP until I have to negotiate tight channels. But we always keep a watch on the bridge.

Dave
not exactly... the kayakers make a deeper thunk than the pot buoys..

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