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Old 02-25-2015, 09:33 AM   #1
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Autopilots 101

I know nothing about autopilots other than I used them a few times on some sailboats I've chartered. Although an autopilot is on my list of "must-haves" on my next boat, the boat I'm probably going to buy doesn't have one. The boat is a Mainship Pilot 30 with hydraulic Seastar steering. Intended use is for offshore fishing/trolling at 3 to 6 knots, and for some general ICW cruising.

Can anyone give me an idea of what it would take (cost, ease of installation) to install one? Are they relatively easy to install for someone with average amateur boat maintenance abilities, or should I have a pro do the installation (preferred)? Any recommendations on brand/model? Nothing extravagant please, I just want a good basic system that will hold a steady course while I bait a hook or mix a cocktail (keeping my eyes on the road ahead, of course!). Although, the ability to enter waypoints would be a nice extra.

Thanks!
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Old 02-25-2015, 10:19 AM   #2
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Sitex SP 80 Autopilot for Inboards
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Old 02-25-2015, 11:44 AM   #3
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Basic auto pilot. Bullet proof and reliable.
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Old 02-25-2015, 11:55 AM   #4
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There are two types of autopilots that could work with your boat. The cheapest by far is a helm mounted autopilot like this one- Raymarine SPX-5R Helm Mount Fixed Pilot. Pricing is given here- http://www.amazon.com/Raymarine-SPX-.../dp/B005QXMMZC

In mounts to the wheel hub on your Pilot and moves the wheel which in turn steers the boat- well duh! They don't have a great deal of power so are recommended for boats up to 30 and less than 7,700 lbs. The Pilot 30 is heavier than this but if all you are using it is trawling at low speed it should work.

Installation is straightforward and a decent DIY should be able to do it.

The other type is a more conventional "below deck" unit as shown here- Raymarine Evolution EV-200 Power Vessel Hydraulic Autopilot - Special Package . It consists of several parts: a display indicator on the dash, a course computer mounted in some dry place below, a fluxgate compass that provides course data, a hydraulic pump that is plumbed in parallel with the Pilot's helm hydraulic pump and a rudder indicator.

Installation is more complicated, mostly in locating the hydraulic pump and plumbing it into the existing system. The other components are pretty straight forward. One way to do it is to have a boat mechanic install the hydraulic pump and you do all of the other installation work.

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Old 02-25-2015, 12:35 PM   #5
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I have not followed the brands over the years, but here's a few items I would use for shopping:

Get one that has the remote mounted pump. Avoid things that turn the wheel.
Get one that has rudder angle shown on display. I find that very handy on single screws.
Get one that has a rudder angle detector that actually mounts near the rudder and measures the angle directly. Some units use "virtual" angle measurement to make it easier to mount to outboards, that is not that good and unnecessary on an inboard.
I think all have capability to link to a chartplotter for "NAV" function, but I find I don't use it. Just being able to hold heading is good enough. Tweaking heading periodically to stay on course is not a big deal, someone has to be on watch anyway.

Don't go cheap!!! A good AP will make the boat a pleasure to run. A crappy AP will annoy you more than you can imagine.

I run a relatively high end but dated Simrad AP 35, it works great but would not recommend it now as it is obsolete. Coupled to a low end Furuno 1650 plotter, could not be happier. Laptop serves as primary plotter, but not connected to AP.

Also not sure who owns simrad now and when corporate ownership shuffles, support is often lost. Still a very popular brand, but others such as raymarine may be a better supported brand- but don't take my word on it, do some more research on brands.
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Old 02-25-2015, 01:36 PM   #6
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on the Sitex 80 Costs about 2 boat dollars and one or two days to install. Good unit and you can buy a second station. Uses octopus pump good for teleflex seastar steering and connects NMEA 0183 to a GPS chartplotter. The compass can be used as a heading sensor for GPS and radar.
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Old 02-25-2015, 01:51 PM   #7
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Oooh... 2 boat dollars sounds expensive!
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Old 02-25-2015, 01:56 PM   #8
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2 boat dollars is expensive.....but this is cheap among autopilots with hydraulic pump.

SI Tex SP 80 3 Includes Pump and Rotary Feedback | eBay
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Old 02-25-2015, 04:40 PM   #9
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I had a 1999 Pilot 30 that had a NavCom 1001 AP. Never had one second of trouble with that auto pilot.
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Old 02-25-2015, 04:49 PM   #10
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I had a 1999 Pilot 30 that had a NavCom 1001 AP. Never had one second of trouble with that auto pilot.
Walt, is that you in the cockpit?
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Old 02-25-2015, 06:22 PM   #11
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I just priced a Garmin and it was 4 boat dollars installed
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Old 02-25-2015, 06:30 PM   #12
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I actually thought 2 Bucks was pretty cheap for a COMPLETE system. Couldn't touch a Simrad for that.
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Old 02-25-2015, 07:53 PM   #13
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Quote:
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Oooh... 2 boat dollars sounds expensive!

That's about as cheap as they get.
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Old 02-25-2015, 08:12 PM   #14
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I actually thought 2 Bucks was pretty cheap for a COMPLETE system. Couldn't touch a Simrad for that.
Actually, the current Simrad AP24, which is a fully featured system with an MSRP of $3,385 can be had at a discount for around $2,550. I was amazed that it is so affordable.

Simrad Ap2403 Autopilot System

This is a good unit with a rudder angle sensor, true rate-compass and full steering features including no-drift steering, etc., etc.

It pays to shop around, regardless of the brand.
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Old 02-25-2015, 08:30 PM   #15
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Actually, the current Simrad AP24, which is a fully featured system with an MSRP of $3,385 can be had at a discount for around $2,550. I was amazed that it is so affordable.

Simrad Ap2403 Autopilot System

This is a good unit with a rudder angle sensor, true rate-compass and full steering features including no-drift steering, etc., etc.

It pays to shop around, regardless of the brand.

Well I stand corrected, HOP ON THAT DEAL!!!
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Old 02-25-2015, 10:07 PM   #16
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Walt, is that you in the cockpit?
The guy is a friend...the other person is me. (snicker)

That's the guy and his wife that bought the boat from me.
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Old 02-25-2015, 10:09 PM   #17
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Well I stand corrected, HOP ON THAT DEAL!!!
Amen to that!!

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Old 02-25-2015, 10:44 PM   #18
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If two boat bucks is too expensive try five feet of 3/8" braided line. $10.00. Enough time to bait your hooks.
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Old 02-26-2015, 07:31 AM   #19
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On sailboats and others with mechanical steering , driving the wheel works just fine.

With hyd steering the unit will "loose it" after a while as the wheel pump is not precise Left/Right and the center will shift.

On some boats its over an hour , so no big deal, on others its only minuets , a big PIA.
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Old 02-26-2015, 08:33 AM   #20
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About 6 months ago I had the new Garmin autopilot installed on my 24 ft Mako. I use it a lot for both cruising and offshore trolling. It has been flawless, and its perfomance improves as it "learns" the boat.

My invoice says its a GHC 20 with a GHP 10ECU and a GHP10 CCU. Whatever that means. I also needed the 2.1L autopilot pump.

It was about $4,000 installed here in the Keys.
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