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Old 10-29-2014, 04:49 PM   #161
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Originally Posted by rwidman View Post
It appears you didn't read the statement that I was replying to.
Yes, I read it. An autopilot can steer better than any human. But steering isn't observing what is going on around the vessel, so Baker's statement was not that an autopilot keeps a better look out than any human, nor that an autopilot has better collision avoidance skills than any human.

He merely made the unequivocally true and uncontroversial statement that an autopilot can steer better than you or I, since unlike you or I, it carries a fluxgate compass around in its little brainless head.
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Old 10-29-2014, 04:54 PM   #162
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Originally Posted by Delfin View Post
Yes, I read it. An autopilot can steer better than any human. But steering isn't observing what is going on around the vessel, so Baker's statement was not that an autopilot keeps a better look out than any human, nor that an autopilot has better collision avoidance skills than any human.

He merely made the unequivocally true and uncontroversial statement that an autopilot can steer better than you or I, since unlike you or I, it carries a fluxgate compass around in its little brainless head.
Thank you for clarifying that!! Very well stated.
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Old 10-29-2014, 05:05 PM   #163
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwidman
It appears you didn't read the statement that I was replying to.
Yes, I read it. An autopilot can steer better than any human. But steering isn't observing what is going on around the vessel, so Baker's statement was not that an autopilot keeps a better look out than any human, nor that an autopilot has better collision avoidance skills than any human.

He merely made the unequivocally true and uncontroversial statement that an autopilot can steer better than you or I, since unlike you or I, it carries a fluxgate compass around in its little brainless head.
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Old 10-29-2014, 05:09 PM   #164
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Originally Posted by rwidman View Post
Until the day it steers you into another boat, a log, a piling, crab pot float, etc.

The human who can recognize danger and steer away from it is steering better than a dumb and blind machine.
Ron,

Recognizing danger and steering away from it is considered proper use of the autopilot, which is why we find they all include dodge and standby functions.

The proper use of an autopilot, or any other form of automation, whether it is marine, aviation, automotive etc., includes the monitoring and supervision by the individual responsible for that boat, plane, car etc. when it is in use. Further, that individual should be proficient in the use of that system, and fully understand its characteristics and limitations before attempting its use. If not, they should themselves be trained or supervised by someone who is.

Now, back to John's original post ".............. THE AUTOPILOT CAN STEER BETTER THAN ANY HUMAN!!!!"

Properly used, I agree that it generally can, and I say generally, because sometimes in following seas, or even just heavy conditions, the AP does not do as good a job at anticipating the seas as a seasoned helmsman can.
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Old 10-29-2014, 05:41 PM   #165
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This statement:

"THE AUTOPILOT CAN STEER BETTER THAN ANY HUMAN!!!!"

is what I was replying to. Don't imply that I posted anything different.
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Old 10-29-2014, 05:56 PM   #166
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Wow! Just wow.
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Old 10-29-2014, 06:46 PM   #167
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Originally Posted by Baker View Post
Here is one thing I guarantee you:

THE AUTOPILOT CAN STEER BETTER THAN ANY HUMAN!!!!
Not true. An autopilot can only react. It cannot anticipate. And anyone who knows how to control a flat-transomed cruiser going down-sea in three to five foot, steep, closely-spaced wind waves knows that anticipatiion is the key to maintaining control. If you wait until the next wave slams into the transom and starts slewing the boat around, you've waited too long. But that's all an autopilot can do: wait until something happens that it can react to.

There have been two broaches in Bellingham Bay that I know of in which the skippers lost control of their boats (or they tried to come in on autopilot) that resulted in the loss of the boats and the loss of all lives on board. The waves in both cases were four to five feet.

I've had to run our boat in these conditions twice that I can recall, and trust me, there is no way an autopilot could have dealt with the situation. It would have lost it on the second wave.



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PS...Marin, that dude driving with his feet is rocked back in his chair. He could hit a wake, fall back, hit his head, and the boat is suddenly without a watch. I am not arguing with you or saying what he is doing is unsafe. I am just making an obscure point that is probably less obscure than an AP causing an accident
Your plane could also fall on his boat and kill him. This guy has probably forgotten more about operating a boat than most of the combined people on this forum (including me) will ever know. He knows what safety is as he's survived decades of operating boats in very nasty situations. If there was a chance of his being incapacited by doing something unsafe, he wouldn't do it. This particular boat requires hand steering. He's also run boats with autopilots and used them where he felt the conditions warranted it. However, he feels hand-steering AND PAYING ATTENTION is better and safer in the waters he boats than using an autopilot.

His rocked-back-steer-with-his-feet thing is something he does when conditions warrant it. This particular boat tracks like it's on rails with no hand on the helm, other than the influences of wind and waves. I've been out with him on this boat and there is nothing that escapes his attention because he is so familiar with this section of coast and he's been doing it forever. If he saw a boat wake coming, he would do whatever was necessary to deal with it, although it would have to be a pretty big boat wake to concern him with this particular boat. Cruise ship wakes are another story, however.

As I said, these are the kind of guys I seek out when I have a chance and try to learn something from, even if it's just in a dock conversation. I have found there is a huge difference in the way these guys approach operating a boat than in the way most recreational boaters, even long-time ones, approach the same thing.

I suspect psneeld knows something of what I'm talking about as of the current forum participants, I feel he's probably the closest in experience to what I see in the guys like the fellow in my picture.
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Old 10-29-2014, 07:12 PM   #168
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Actually, a good modern autopilot will learn those things or react to them faster than a human can. And regardless, no one is saying "use it all the time". My old Robertson couldn't handle my boat in a bad following sea so I TURNED IT OFF and manual helmed.

$eem$ like $ome people are merely trying to ju$tify their lack of u$e of a very powerful $afety and efficiency tool. Jeez I am surprised some of you guys are not advocating direct tiller steering, eliminating all those dangerous and prone-to-failure mechanical and hydraulic complications.
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Old 10-29-2014, 07:33 PM   #169
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His rocked-back-steer-with-his-feet thing is something he does when conditions warrant it. This particular boat tracks like it's on rails with no hand on the helm, other than the influences of wind and waves. I've been out with him on this boat and there is nothing that escapes his attention because he is so familiar with this section of coast and he's been doing it forever. If he saw a boat wake coming, he would do whatever was necessary to deal with it, although it would have to be a pretty big boat wake to concern him with this particular boat. Cruise ship wakes are another story, however.

As I said, these are the kind of guys I seek out when I have a chance and try to learn something from, even if it's just in a dock conversation. I have found there is a huge difference in the way these guys approach operating a boat than in the way most recreational boaters, even long-time ones, approach the same thing.

I suspect psneeld knows something of what I'm talking about as of the current forum participants, I feel he's probably the closest in experience to what I see in the guys like the fellow in my picture.
If he thinks he's as good as you do...then he ain't that good!!!
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Old 10-29-2014, 07:33 PM   #170
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When waters are rough, and particularly with a following sea, my AP can't handle it: so I switch to manual control. By the "seat of the pants," I sense the boat's movement in reaction to waves and react with rudder changes much quicker. Still, Otto is the helmsman the majority of time and so I'm able to relax -- or figure the next course change or decide to take direct control -- while observing the world (its beauty and its hazards) around me.
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Old 10-29-2014, 07:39 PM   #171
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Not true. An autopilot can only react. It cannot anticipate.
That is quite true, which is why no one, and I mean no one has suggested that an autopilot replaces a watch hand. All it does is steer the boat better in virtually all conditions than a human can. Nothing more, nothing less.
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And anyone who knows how to control a flat-transomed cruiser going down-sea in three to five foot, steep, closely-spaced wind waves knows that anticipatiion is the key to maintaining control. If you wait until the next wave slams into the transom and starts slewing the boat around, you've waited too long. But that's all an autopilot can do: wait until something happens that it can react to.
As Larry pointed out, the edge case of a following sea pushing the boat around is hard for an autopilot to handle. So based on a condition one encounters 2% of the time, it makes sense to hand steer the other 98% of the time? Really?

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There have been two broaches in Bellingham Bay that I know of in which the skippers lost control of their boats (or they tried to come in on autopilot) that resulted in the loss of the boats and the loss of all lives on board. The waves in both cases were four to five feet.
Are you saying that the boats broached because they were on autopilot? Do you know, or pretending to? Or are you suggesting that in edge cases where a boat can be pushed around straight line of travel isn't advised? If so, you bet, but this is an argument against an autopilot? That is like arguing against radar because 95% of the time you can see what's coming at you. Weird.

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I've had to run our boat in these conditions twice that I can recall, and trust me, there is no way an autopilot could have dealt with the situation. It would have lost it on the second wave.
Yes, 2% of the time we all have those conditions to deal with. I prefer to hand steer then as well, for example, going through Deception Pass backwards with the current, or entering or exiting the marina, or.....hmmm, I'm having trouble coming up with another example but I am sure they exist.....


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Your plane could also fall on his boat and kill him. This guy has probably forgotten more about operating a boat than most of the combined people on this forum (including me) will ever know. He knows what safety is as he's survived decades of operating boats in very nasty situations. If there was a chance of his being incapacited by doing something unsafe, he wouldn't do it. This particular boat requires hand steering. He's also run boats with autopilots and used them where he felt the conditions warranted it. However, he feels hand-steering AND PAYING ATTENTION is better and safer in the waters he boats than using an autopilot.

His rocked-back-steer-with-his-feet thing is something he does when conditions warrant it. This particular boat tracks like it's on rails with no hand on the helm, other than the influences of wind and waves. I've been out with him on this boat and there is nothing that escapes his attention because he is so familiar with this section of coast and he's been doing it forever. If he saw a boat wake coming, he would do whatever was necessary to deal with it,
No doubt your friend makes Joshua Slocum look like a dirt farmer, but the point is that sometimes things happen that you don't see coming, especially after a few hours pointlessly steering your boat when an autopilot would do the job for you. In that case, your friend goes ass over tea kettle endangering himself and his vessel. If you are going to point to someone who drives his boat with his feet while sitting in a lawn chair as the pinnacle of professionalism, I really don't know what to say, other than wow.

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As I said, these are the kind of guys I seek out when I have a chance and try to learn something from, even if it's just in a dock conversation. I have found there is a huge difference in the way these guys approach operating a boat than in the way most recreational boaters, even long-time ones, approach the same thing.

I suspect psneeld knows something of what I'm talking about as of the current forum participants, I feel he's probably the closest in experience to what I see in the guys like the fellow in my picture.
I'll let psneeld speak for himself, but because he is experienced I don't find it unusual that he seems to be scratching his head over some of the comments here on how using an autopilot shortcircuits consciousness and causes the skipper to immediately fall asleep. From what he has said he supports training and the use of tools that make boating safert, and an autopilot is nothing if not a safety convenience.

I honestly cannot believe that the opposite is being argued. Perhaps Caltex is right on the motivation.
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:10 PM   #172
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Humans have to anticipate because they cannot react as fast in real time. The modern auto pilots, like modern hydraulic stabilizers, can "react" in real time. There are a lot of similarities between stabilizers and APs because they do the same thing, moving a rudder on a shaft in response to immediate input from the boat's movement. But at some point, there is only so much they can do (20 foot steep beam seas, say).
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:14 PM   #173
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My AP must be a weak sister.
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:20 PM   #174
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If he thinks he's as good as you do...then he ain't that good!!!
So you've met him then, right? So you know all about his experience and what he's done with vessels ranging from logging camp crew boats to raft tugs to fishing boats to his current boat, right?

Cool. So you know what an outstanding skipper he is. And you also know that he's not one to go around telling everyone how great he is. You've learned that you practially have to winch information out of him regarding his own experience and accomplishements and that he tends to give credit for what he's done to the people who were there with him, llike his crews and whatnot.

You should be feel very priveliged, then, as I do, to have gotten to know him and have had a chance to learn even a few things about boating these waters.
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:30 PM   #175
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So you've met him then, right? So you know all about his experience and what he's done with vessels ranging from logging camp crew boats to raft tugs to fishing boats to his current boat, right?

Cool. So you know what an outstanding skipper he is. And you also know that he's not one to go around telling everyone how great he is. You've learned that you practially have to winch information out of him regarding his own experience and accomplishements and that he tends to give credit for what he's done to the people who were there with him, llike his crews and whatnot.

You should be feel very priveliged, then, as I do, to have gotten to know him and have had a chance to learn even a few things about boating these waters.
I just want to learn from him where he got that lawn chair. Look good in my man cave.
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:41 PM   #176
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Humans have to anticipate because they cannot react as fast in real time.
.
Sorry, dude, but that's wrong. If you don't react until the moment somehting happens, you can be too late. Anticipation is not somehting an autopilot can do, and anticipation is a requirement for handling in some situations. It doesn't matter how fast an autopilot reacts. If the rudder is not starting to move and thus overcome the inertia of the boat BEFORE the wave hits the transom, the fastest reaction time in the world is still too late. Because the process of overcoming the inertia of the boat has to start before the wave's impact.

I was taught a long time ago how to drive a fully-loaded log truck in Forks, Washington. That's a 70,000 pound gross weight vehicle. Not that I was looking to make a career of this, I was just fascinated by the logging industry. (This was before I moved here). I won't go into how this came to be, but I met and rode for three or four days with who I was later told was the best log truck driver in Forks at that time.

For fun after a couple of days, he said, "You want to try drive this?" I said sure, so he coached me through a run with the loaded truck. And one of the first things he told me was that when coming to a bend in the road, you had to start the steering process before reaching the bend. Because if you didn't and started to turn the wheels at the normal time one would in a car, the truck would overshoot the turn. He had me do it both ways, and he was absolutely correct. The truck had to be "led" into the turn a bit in advance to overcome the effect of the inertia that wanted to keep the 70,000 pound vehicle going straight.

Steering a slow boat in following seas, particularly one with a wide, flat transom, is sort of the same thing. Once one gets the rhythm of the waves and how they are acting on the boat, it's possible to anticpate each wave and start the boat "into the turn" just before the wave hits. And then as the wave passes under the boat, one has to steer in anticipation of the boat's coming off the back of the wave and yawing in the opposite direction. Doing this allows one to follow an almost exact heading despite the efforts of the waves to knock you off it. But the only reason this works is that the boat is being steered in advance of the next wave striking the transom and then passing under the boat. And there is no way in hell that an autopilot can anticipate anything that is random and so cannot be written into the control code.

We have to do this to at least some degree every time we come back from a cruise and cross Bellingham Bay, a distance of about five miles, in a southerly wind. It's actually kind of fun once you get the rhythm, to "outfox" the waves and keep the boat on a constant heading. It can certainly get tiring if the waves are high, but a five mile run isn't too bad. I wouldn't want to do it much farther than that, but fortunately my wife does equally well in these conditions so we could trade off periodically if necessary.

I've crossed the same bay under the same conditions in a boat with an autopilot. And the autopilot did a hideous job of steering because, even though it reacted almost instantly to the yawing of the boat, reacting instantly was still too late. The skipper showed me this as a way of demonstraing why an autopilot is pretty much useless in this condition with this kind of boat. Once he'd made his point, he disengagd the autopilot and hand-steered the boat the rest of the five miles. And he did a great job of holding the required heading, something the autopilot was totally incapable of doing.

I've been on a fast boat--- 16 knots--- going across the bay under the same conditions. And the autopilot did just fine because the boat was outrunning the waves, so their effect on the boat's heading was considerably less than it is on a slow boat and the autopilot's reaction time was plenty sufficient to keep up with the effect of the waves.
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:45 PM   #177
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I just want to learn from him where he got that lawn chair. Look good in my man cave.
I asked him about the chair. It's not a "lawn chair." It's a purpose-built helm seat, made beautifully of teak. He found it in a marine store in La Conner many years ago. It was not cheap, he said, but he really liked the height and its sturdy construction (I sat in it, and it's amazingly rigid.)

My wife and I thought it would be perfect for our boat because it folds up. The stool we use now for a helm seat doesn't, and it can be a pain in the butt to get out of the way when we have guests on the boat.

So we went to La Conner and looked though the antique stores and whatnot. I don't recall if we found an actual marine store in the town. In any event, no luck. We've looked on line and while there are high folding helm chairs available, none of them are as well-designed as this one.
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Old 10-29-2014, 09:51 PM   #178
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[1] Are you saying that the boats broached because they were on autopilot?



[2] If you are going to point to someone who drives his boat with his feet while sitting in a lawn chair as the pinnacle of professionalism, I really don't know what to say, other than wow.

1. I have no idea if the boats broached because they were on autopilot. I included this simply to show that Bellingham Bay can be a very nasty place and being able to control a boat in following seas is important. And these conditions can often overcome an autopilot pretty easily.

2. What typifies internet forums like this one is that discussions rapidly break down into talking about solutions that are in search of a problem. I think it was psneeld who said it best (I'm paraphrasing) that a lot of people spend a lot of time worrying and talking about potential effects with little time spent on thinking about avoiding these effects in the first place.

My skipper acquaintance may very well make Slocum look like a dirt farmer. I don't know much about Slocum so I have no way of judging that myself. What I do know, more from his acquaintences and crew members telling my than from hearing it from him, is that his record of achievement on the BC coast is very impressive.

However, that doesn't count for much on the internet where there is no way to gauge credibility on forums like this. Your assumptions about how this fellow approaches operating a boat, what he's thinking about as he's operating it and how he interprets his situation and surroundings are no more valid than my assumption that, despite your having an impressive boat in the pictures, you're just another toy boat operator like all the rest of us on this forum and so deserve no more or less credibility than anyone else here.

It's interesting to see how, based on a single photo I put up showing how this fellow sometimes likes to steer his boat when conditions warrant it, all sorts of assumptions are being made about this fellow's capabilities as a professional skipper by people who have never met him, and I suspect, have but a tiny fraction of this fellow's expertise and knowledge (another assumption on my part, I agree).

It's also been interesting to see how what started out as commentary about why an autopilot is not always the best tool for the job has turned into accusations that some of us are trying to make the case that an autopilot is not worth having and shouldn't be used, period.

I don't recall any of us who have pointed out the limitations of an autopilot--- me, Ron, Mark,and others--- saying that an autopilot is not worth having or should never be used, or that it's not a valuable tool on a boat when used intelligently.

So I'm going to leave it at this.... if one has an autopilot, it can be a great tool for enhancing safety and accuracy in driving the boat. BUT.... it's important to learn that, one, an autopilot is not a substitute for common sense and responsibility, and two, there are times and conditions under which an autopilot is not the right tool to use. So a boater should learn how to operate his or her boat correctly and safely under those conditions.

But most important, people who have boats that don't have an autopilot should not be made to feel that they are the scum of the earth and they should never leave the protection of their marina because if they do, they'll die. A boat without an autopilot can be operated just as safely and effectively and enjoyably as a boat that has an autopilot.

So... nice tool to have, and if you have one, take advantage of its benefits. If you don't have one, boating is just as safe and fun. It's not about the tool, it's about the operator.

And now I have to go and direct a film about how we can turn the earth into a giant glass factory with the push of a button. Far more entertaining and fun than bickering about autopilots.
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Old 10-29-2014, 10:05 PM   #179
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1. I have no idea if the boats broached because they were on autopilot. I included this simply to show that Bellingham Bay can be a very nasty place and being able to control a boat in following seas is important. And these conditions can often overcome an autopilot pretty easily.

2. What typifies internet forums like this one is that discussions rapidly break down into talking about solutions that are in search of a problem. I think it was psneeld who said it best (I'm paraphrasing) that a lot of people spend a lot of time worrying and talking about potential effects with little time spent on thinking about avoiding these effects in the first place.

My skipper acquaintance may very well make Slocum look like a dirt farmer. I don't know much about Slocum so I have no way of judging that myself. What I do know, more from his acquaintences and crew members telling my than from hearing it from him, that his record of achievement on the BC coast is pretty impressive.

However, that doesn't count for much on the internet where there is no way to gauge credibility on forums like this. Your assumptions about how this fellow approaches operating a boat, what he's thinking about as he's operating it and how he interprets his situation and surroundings is no more valid than my assumption that, despite your having an impressive boat in pictures, you're just a toy boat operator like all the rest of us on this forum.

It's interesting to see how, based on a single photo I put up showing how this fellow sometimes likes to steer his boat when conditions warrant it, all sorts of assumptions are being made about this fellow's capabilities as a professional skipper by people who have never met him, and I suspect, have but a fraction of this fellow's expertise and knowledge (another assumption on my part, I agree).

It's also been interesting to see how what started out as commentary about why an autopilot is not always the best tool for the job has turned into accusations that some people are trying to make the case that an autopilot is not worth having and shouldn't be used.

I don't recall any of us who have pointed out the limitations of an autopilot--- me, Ron, Mark,and others--- saying that an autopilot is not worth having or should never be used, or that it's not a valuable tool on a boat when used intelligently.

So I'm going to leave it at this.... if one has an autopilot, it can be a great tool for enhancing safety and accuracy in driving the boat. BUT.... it's important to learn that there are times and conditions under which an autopilot is not the right tool to use, so the owner should learn how to operate his or her boat correctly and safely under those conditions.

But most important, people who have boats that don't have an autopilot should not be made to feel that they are the scum of the earth and they should never leave the protection of their marina. A boat without an autopilot can be operated just as safely and effectively and enjoyably as a boat that has an autopilot.

So... nice tool to have, and if you have one, take advantage of its benefits. If you don't have one, boating is just as safe and fun.

And now I have to go and direct a film about how we can turn the earth into a glass factory with the push of a button. Far more entertaining and fun than bickering about autopilots.
Actually, I don't think anyone has suggested that those who don't use an AP are "scum of the earth". Kind of wonder where that came from, but be that as it may, I think the only objections to your and the inimitable Ron's comments is that it is patently absurd to suggest that experienced vessel operators don't understand the value of autopilots, that autopilots are a detriment rather than an adjunct to safety and that the best mariners can be judged by their ability to steer using their feet while sitting in a chair that would put me on my keister in conditions routinely experienced during winter cruising. As I said before, if your cup of tea is standing at the helm for hours on end so you can feel salty, please do so. Just don't tediously suggest that it somehow represents a mark of competence rather than an odd defense of not having a basic piece of safety equipment enjoyed and used by 99% of everyone who operates a boat - toy boat operators and commercial mariners included.

Incidentally, Slocum was a toy boat operator. Wrote a pretty good book that you might enjoy, although his economical writing style will seem alien to you.
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Old 10-29-2014, 10:24 PM   #180
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City: Florida USA and Ontario Canada
Country: The 3rd Rock from the Sun
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Vessel Model: 2007 Chaparral 270 Signature LOA 29'
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rwidman View Post
Until the day it steers you into another boat, a log, a piling, crab pot float, etc.

The human who can recognize danger and steer away from it is steering better than a dumb and blind machine.

Don't want to pile on ... this is a classic label without definition problem. Let's expand a bit ... steer a rudder vs navigate or pilot a boat. Hope this helps.
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