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Old 12-27-2016, 04:07 PM   #1
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Simple Autopilot ?

I acquired a well-equipped and well-maintained trawler last May and have been very pleased with it in all respects, EXCEPT: it has no autopilot. Seems like a glaring lack in a boat of this sophistication; odd that no one has felt a need to make this upgrade in 40 years. In the several sailboats in my background, I found rudimentary autopilots to be indispensable.

My needs are simple; it just needs to hold a heading while I make coffee or fold a chart...well, fiddle with the plotter, actually. I don't need interface, and that would probably be awkward as my electronics, while satisfactory are of diverse ages and manufacturers.

In equipping airplanes, I have almost always bought used avionics at a huge saving, and my current Piper Arrow is a veritable display case of "last-gen" technology.

So: I see the Garmins and Raytheons at 4amu with countless features, but what else is out there suitable for a 45,000# boat? ...and especially you folks in the PNW: who knows a good radio shop which might have an inventory of upgrade-remnants? ...is there even such a market?
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Old 12-27-2016, 04:34 PM   #2
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Check out the CPT Autopilot......strong, simple, inexpensive. It's a wheel pilot, and very easy to fit. I'm about to order one for my 62 footer.
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Old 12-27-2016, 04:37 PM   #3
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Try these guys....

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Old 12-27-2016, 06:40 PM   #4
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What mule said
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Old 12-27-2016, 09:32 PM   #5
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I just bought a raymarine s2 course computer, an st8002 control head, ruder sensor and fluxgate compass for $500. I found it on craigs list. It only needs a RAM and a couple of pumps. Keep an eye out. I did a nation wide search on cl after striking out on eBay
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Old 12-27-2016, 09:44 PM   #6
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Check out Comnav, per the above. Cheap might not be the case, but a very good pilot nonetheless. Lots of these in commercial boats.
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Old 12-27-2016, 09:57 PM   #7
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I just bought a raymarine... It only needs a RAM and a couple of pumps. Keep an eye out. I did a nation wide search on cl after striking out on eBay
Thanks. I have a lot of time to find a solution, so ill play with this. In buying avionics, there is a very active market in "superseded" gear. A lot of it can be bought from licensed shops which will certify its functionality. Id like to think there is a nautical equivalent.

I also have captive installer. My son is an aircraft mech, specializing in avionics... and he owes me some "pre-compensated" labor.

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Old 12-28-2016, 10:17 PM   #8
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Wagner autopilot

I just bought a 40' Palmer conversion that has a 12 volt powered hydraulic Wagner auto pilot. It gets its heading signal from a big compass under the front bunk. No electronics to get messed up here. I am thinking about moving the hydraulic pump that is now powered by 12V to run off the main to reduce the load on the 12V house system. I am new to boating but am told these Wagner units are reliable and were common in their day. Does anyone know if this unit could operate from new gps plotter equipment? I am looking at a Simrad NSS12 evo3 and it says it has "full autopilot control" but I do not know if they are talking about the middle of the last century!!
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Old 12-28-2016, 11:35 PM   #9
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What model is the Wagner pilot?

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Old 12-28-2016, 11:47 PM   #10
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I acquired a well-equipped and well-maintained trawler last May and have been very pleased with it in all respects, EXCEPT: it has no autopilot. Seems like a glaring lack in a boat of this sophistication; odd that no one has felt a need to make this upgrade in 40 years. In the several sailboats in my background, I found rudimentary autopilots to be indispensable.

My needs are simple; it just needs to hold a heading while I make coffee or fold a chart...well, fiddle with the plotter, actually. I don't need interface, and that would probably be awkward as my electronics, while satisfactory are of diverse ages and manufacturers.

In equipping airplanes, I have almost always bought used avionics at a huge saving, and my current Piper Arrow is a veritable display case of "last-gen" technology.

So: I see the Garmins and Raytheons at 4amu with countless features, but what else is out there suitable for a 45,000# boat? ...and especially you folks in the PNW: who knows a good radio shop which might have an inventory of upgrade-remnants? ...is there even such a market?
What happens when you just let the helm free? Can you lock or hold the wheel in place does it have spokes. I have auto pilot but my hydraulic starring and twin engine boat will hold a straight course for quit a while in settled conditions. On the many sail craft I have used hoveing to for short periods allowed the freedom you seek. How does your boat sit in idle in and out of gear? Certainly a autopilot is a great addition but for little breaks not needed and for the first half of my boating life was not a realistic consideration and I was single handing most of that time.
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Old 12-29-2016, 12:17 AM   #11
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I have an operable CPT set up, left over from a sailboat years ago. There is also a partial set up. Price $400. Consists off: control/drive unit, sensor, belt, wheel pulley with "J""bolts, manuals. The unit was sent back to CPT in 2010 "replace relays, all seals & , gaskets, calibration, tuning, & scaling."
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Old 12-29-2016, 12:43 AM   #12
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I have an operable CPT...
I'm interested. You can contact me at billbashland (at)charter.net
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Old 12-29-2016, 12:59 AM   #13
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Trans,

I had the same one on a boat in the past. Do you have a dial to set the heading and one to set rudder swing? If so it would take a lot of fussing around to maybe get it to work. Problem is no way to interface between the plotter and the rudder control unit. The only useful parts would be the pump and ram.

That said, this is just about a bulletproof system, dial in a heading and at the next turn point manually twist the knob to the new heading.

If you ever want to get rid of it I am interested.

Bob
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Old 12-29-2016, 07:38 AM   #14
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I just bought a 40' Palmer conversion that has a 12 volt powered hydraulic Wagner auto pilot. It gets its heading signal from a big compass under the front bunk. No electronics to get messed up here. I am thinking about moving the hydraulic pump that is now powered by 12V to run off the main to reduce the load on the 12V house system. I am new to boating but am told these Wagner units are reliable and were common in their day. Does anyone know if this unit could operate from new gps plotter equipment? I am looking at a Simrad NSS12 evo3 and it says it has "full autopilot control" but I do not know if they are talking about the middle of the last century!!
I had a Wagner S50 autopilot in Retreat when I bought, in 1994. After a few upgrades to my gps and laptop I looked into getting the AP interfaced to the laptop, running CAPN software, or just to the Garmin GPS that could feed it a route. I was able to track down the old Wagner techs, at that time at a different Co, but still doing maint on the S50, and was quoted about the price of the Raymarine unit that I bought a few years later, just for an interface.
The Wagner stuff was invented a long time ago. No thought of driving it from a laptop, as the computer development was not far enough along at the time, or from a GPS, as that thought hadn't yet occurred.

The Wagner was a very good AP, the same as the AP I had on a previous sailboat, and very popular in the Commercial fishing fleet of the day. When I replaced it, a friend still using his, kept me in Guiness for a couple of years after I dropped off the old unit for him to keep as spares.
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Old 12-29-2016, 08:08 AM   #15
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I suspect the world of marine electronics is very different from avionics, especially recreational marine equipment. Most of these older companies are likely long gone, so any form of support or spares is unlikely. And even where the company still exists, it's very common to hear that older products are no longer supported and parts are not available. I really think it would be a false economy to get anything other than a current model pilot.

Comnav has been mentioned as a lower cost solution, and I know a lot of people are happy with their products. Personally I have not had the greatest experience with them. I have found large discrepancies between their printed literature, company representative's descriptions of products, and the actual products. In purchasing a Sat compass, I couldn't figure out what I would be getting if I bought from them, so I didn't. I also had a pretty poor support experience with their Class-A AIS. I had to hound them for quite a long time to get a firmware update. I no longer consider them a viable supplier.

I had a Raymarine pilot maybe 8 years ago and it worked fine. No complaints.

I have had Simrad pilots (two of them) and the steer the boat great, but interfacing is hit or miss. If it works, it's great (my first experience). If it doesn't, well, you are pretty much SOL (my second experience).

I've never tried a Garmin pilot.

My current favorite is Furuno's NavPilot. It steers well, and interfaces very well.
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Old 12-29-2016, 10:30 AM   #16
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The time spent to piecemeal together a used unit of questionable dependability is better spent in just purchasing a new unit. It's been my experience that I'll spend quite a bit more cash in additional or missing parts when trying to install a used piece of electronics gear- not to mention the time to research missing manuals etc.

This is not always the case, but it does happen. I do love a good deal, though!
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Old 12-29-2016, 12:37 PM   #17
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Check out Comnav, per the above. Cheap might not be the case, but a very good pilot nonetheless. Lots of these in commercial boats.
Wagner used to be the predominant autopilot among commercial fishing boats on the BC coast (can't speak to other places) until ComNav came along and pretty much took over that market. They make an excellent product.
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Old 12-29-2016, 01:00 PM   #18
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I had a Wagner S50 autopilot in Retreat when I bought, in 1994. After a few upgrades to my gps and laptop I looked into getting the AP interfaced to the laptop, running CAPN software, or just to the Garmin GPS that could feed it a route. I was able to track down the old Wagner techs, at that time at a different Co, but still doing maint on the S50, and was quoted about the price of the Raymarine unit that I bought a few years later, just for an interface.
The Wagner stuff was invented a long time ago. No thought of driving it from a laptop, as the computer development was not far enough along at the time, or from a GPS, as that thought hadn't yet occurred.

The Wagner was a very good AP, the same as the AP I had on a previous sailboat, and very popular in the Commercial fishing fleet of the day. When I replaced it, a friend still using his, kept me in Guiness for a couple of years after I dropped off the old unit for him to keep as spares.
In 2011 I gutted and refinished my wheelhouse and had no desire to put that ugly, old still working Wagner MK IV in my new, yachty looking wheelhouse. I had kept it working by taking parts from someone else's hand me down. I replaced it with a ComNav Commander AP. I gave the old one to a friend and this last summer his MK IV passed away and he was able to just drop in my old one and keep his fishing trip going. As long as you only need to steer to a heading and not do anything fancy with waypoints, routes or following bottom contour lines those old pilots will get the job done.
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Old 12-29-2016, 01:40 PM   #19
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The time spent to piecemeal together a used unit of questionable dependability is better spent in just purchasing a new unit. It's been my experience that I'll spend quite a bit more cash in additional or missing parts when trying to install a used piece of electronics gear- not to mention the time to research missing manuals etc.

This is not always the case, but it does happen. I do love a good deal, though!
I fully agree with this. Raymarine's current crop of APs are pretty damn good and not terribly expensive. I know you are still in the 4 digit area but they will last a long time with good support.

ANd like someone said, there is no parallel with avionics. THe market just isn't there. Avionics are EXPENSIVE hence the market for used ones. THey are also provided by manufacturers that have been around for a very long time so the support is still there. Consumer grade marine electronics, on the other hand, are relatively quite cheap. So they are basically "throw away" and that is how the manufacturers treat them....hence their lack of support after a few years(5 maybe???).

NOW, with that said, there are no "radio shops" around here. I know that is an aviation term. But there are marine electronics providers and installers. Go to their shop and it is highly likely they have a BUNCH of older electronics laying around. I have a friend that owns such a shop. And he has shelves of stuff. He ends up eBaying it. Most of his customers just hand over the old working take outs.
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Old 12-29-2016, 01:52 PM   #20
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I was fishing around for a cheap way to add an AP, too. In the end it just isn't as simple as I thought. You really do need the expensive "brain", the right pump or actuator, and a way to interface it all with your existing electronics.

I did end up buying used via Craig's List, but would have bought new if I hadn't gotten lucky on that.
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