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Old 10-09-2015, 12:21 PM   #1
City: Portland,OR
Country: USA
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Updating Autopilot

I am hoping that someone has the patience to answer this lengthy question about autopilot updating for my GB 32 woody.

The scenario:

Have a Benmar chain drive that works fine but the compass and controls are shot. I know I can send this to Benmar to refurbish but I would like to enter the modern world of AP.

Want to get keep the price down, basic entry level system would be perfect, but want to interface with a new GPS.

Would like a remote to use on flybridge and reardeck, corded is fine.


What brand(s) are entry level but reliable?

Precisely what components do I need so that I can use my Benmar drive
I will spring for a new GPS too, so what mates up easily.

Are the components plug and play.
(I know that I will have to do some wiring to the Steering drive.)

Does anybody have instructions or schematic for any AP brands to do this ?

I would appreciate answers to any or all parts of this project.


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Old 10-09-2015, 01:48 PM   #2
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You need to run those kinds of question by the autopilot manufacturers or a tech that handles a few different brands of pilots.

And you also might consider installing a complete system that replaces your chain drive with a linear drive that you could attach to your rudder quadrant.

Oh, and what you describing, with a remote and all, is not a basic, cheap system IMO.

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Old 10-09-2015, 02:18 PM   #3
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City: Essex, Ct
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Vessel Name: Bella
Vessel Model: Mainship Pilot 34
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Your existing chain drive will work fine with almost any major brand of autopilot. But the new AP's course computer must produce enough drive current to power your old Benmar drive.

Raymarine for example sells different course computers- Type 1, Type 2 that can drive 20 or 40 amp (these values are rough, from memory) drives. So you need to know how much current your Benmar drive takes.

Garmin, Simrad, etc are all similar.

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Old 10-09-2015, 03:17 PM   #4
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Mr. bib. Haven't got a clue BUT welcome aboard.
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Old 10-09-2015, 04:42 PM   #5
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City: Westport, CT
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The unit I replaced a Benmar with (retaining the drive) was a basic unit by ComNav on my previous 36' GB. If you go that route, suggest you let a tech install it. A linear drive at the quadrant is not the best solution for a cable drive system as it,moves not,just the quadrant but all the cables and the,steering wheels. They are not designed to do that. Check out ComNav.
Magic, 1996 Grand Banks Europa
Westport, CT and Stuart, FL
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Old 10-09-2015, 05:24 PM   #6
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City: Sidney BC
Country: Canada
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We replaced our old autopilot with a 1001 ComNav years ago but kept the drive unit, ours was hydraulic but should still work with yours after all it is only suppling power. Did the install ourselves, instructions and support were great. Super product with no issues over the years.

Send an email to their support department and ask........
Mike Barge
MV Rochepoint
Sidney, British Columbia.
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Old 10-10-2015, 08:51 AM   #7
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If as I expect the chain drive is working a pure mechanical system I might consider something even simpler.

The units that attach to the existing steering wheel might be compatible with your GPS desire . Check the catalogs.

The huge advantage (besides price) is simplicity and reliability with low current draw.

As many boats will charge the house bank while underway , not having a 35A pump system or big old electric motor could mean the current alt wont need an upgrade.

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