What do I need to know to buy an autopilot?

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Tom.B

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Vessel Name
Skinny Dippin'
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Navigator 4200 Classic
Part of the upcoming winter projects list will be to add an autopilot to Skinny Dippin' (35' single screw sundeck trawler). The Neuse is a large, wide open body of water and I am spending a lot of time focusing on the helm driving task and not enjoying the moments passing by.

Anyway, we have a hydraulic steering rig (Seastar HH5271 pumps and a BA150X7 cylinder - 10.2c.i.d. 167.3cc). I know I have to size the pump to the cylinder.

I'd like to not break the bank here so I can possibly afford to put a secondary control head at the lower helm. To be honest, I really just want something that will keep us going in a straight line and, at the moment, we don't have a very useful chartplotter for it to interface with.

Fill me in on what else I need to know. Thanks!

Tom-


-- Edited by GonzoF1 on Tuesday 20th of September 2011 07:09:23 PM
 
My boat came with a Sitex AP, which works very well. I didn't install it, so I can't say to much about selection and installation. The only problem I've had is bent pins on the corded control I use at the upper helm (lower help is panel mounted).

I will say that I'd definitely go with control at both stations. I'm always transferring control between upper and lower helms as I move around the boat for various reasons. Also, at least on my installation, I have to disengage the AP before I can use the wheel. I'd hate to have the AP on the upper helm, too far out of reach, when I'm down below and realize I'm about to run over a crab pot.

I could tie the AP into my chart plotter, but have no intention of doing that. Pressing buttons for minor coarse corrections to compensate for wind/current keeps me involved, alert, and watching the charts.
 
I installed the Garmin GHP 10 AP with shadow drive (this feature allows you take the helm w/o having to push the standby button). Interfaced with the 740 chartplotter. Best investment I've made to date.
 
We installed a Furuno system on our boat this year and I quite like it, although we went with a Furuno AP because everything else was Furuno; others I'm sure would be just fine.

I second the comment about having a control head at both stations, since one of the benefits of having an autopilot is the ability to move around more on the boat (I'm not suggesting that you don't keep a sharp lookout) but you always want to be close to a control head.

Ours doesn't ( I think) allow you to just grab the wheel and take over without first disengaging the AP; once I got accustomed to that I was fine.

Ours also has the ability to set a course via the chatplotter so that theoretically you can leave the dock/anchorage and travel all day via complex manoeuvres without ever touching the wheel. I have no intention of ever using that feature, except perhaps to experience it and have fun with it on the odd occasion.

Ours also has a feature that allows you to go to a fishing and then do spirals etc to catch the big one. Don't use it.

My point is that there are lots of features you can get on an autopilot but my experience so far is that I prefer the aim and shoot approach as it keeps me more involved in the trip. Which is why I'm out there.*
 
How was the install? (I will be doing it myself)
 
It's somewhere else here on the site, a few of us are using Wheel Pilots.* Super easy to install and a fraction of the price of a below deck unit.* But, admittedly, not as slick.

I have an ancient unit which will steer a tighter course than I can by hand.* I'm still fiddling with getting it to interface with my ancient chart plotter.* A modern Wheel Pilot will have no problem interfacing with a modern chart plotter.
 
BaltimoreLurker wrote:
It's somewhere else here on the site, a few of us are using Wheel Pilots.* Super easy to install and a fraction of the price of a below deck unit.* But, admittedly, not as slick.

I have an ancient unit which will steer a tighter course than I can by hand.* I'm still fiddling with getting it to interface with my ancient chart plotter.* A modern Wheel Pilot will have no problem interfacing with a modern chart plotter.
http://www.trawlerforum.com/t34690523/the-5-most-useful-improvements-on-your-boat/?page=4&sort=oldestFirst

*

Darrell, I think this is the link you were referring to -- around pp 4-5 . Mine's still trucking along.
 
Last spring (2010) I installed a Sitex SP-70 autopilot on my single screw Albin 40. Total price for the sysyem including the high volum pump was $1700. I added a second station kit later *, which is just a plug for the handheld unit, for about $90. I wanted something with a hand held controller only since I have limited helm space. The SP 80 is the same autopilot with a built in control head.

The unit works very well. It is tied into my Garmin chartplotter (NMEA 0183) and does a great job. For the money you can't beat this system.* I did have trouble initially, it fried someting in the computer the first week, and Sitex turned it around within a day and it has been trouble free since.

The boat had an old no longer working autopilot so the hydraulics had already been set up. I added shut offs to the Ts and then ran standard lengths of hydraulic hose to the pump. (valves and hose thru McMaster-Carr).

If you want more info send me a PM

Jay

*
 
We use Comnav for the autopilot. - you can buy a remote that has every control that the main unit has and put it at the 2nd helm, or wander around the boat with it if you choose.

Model is 1001. Fluxgate compass coupled to a rate stabizier so it reacts very quickly. Hydaraulic drive and one size up on the pump, so it will drive the boat adequately even with chunky following seas.

The unit is now 7 years old and works very well. Installation is quite straightforward, as the hydraulic system was already in place, it is just a matter of mounting the parts and connecting them.

Be sure and mount your compass low, centered and a bit astern of your boats pivot point for best reaction response in following seas.





We do have it set up to talk with the chartplotter and I do use that feature alot, although in any tight spots, I will hover over it in case something wierd occurs - so far so good.


I also have a basic remote that gives me the ability to dodge debris from the foredeck or top of the pilothouse - The boat will automatically return to course or correct to intercept the next waypoint after the dodge manuever.
 

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boatk9 wrote:
Our OA has a W-H (Will Hamm) unit...
I've read a lot about these units as they are well received by fishermen in the PNW.
 
bshanafelt wrote:Model is 1001. Fluxgate compass coupled to a rate stabizier so it reacts very quickly.

____________________________________________________________

I had a Comnav A/P on my 1999 Mainship Pilot and never had a problem with it.

It was so simple to operate, I always wondered if I was operating it correctly. The steadiness of the course it held, however, answered that question.
 
It should work. I installed a Raymarine (ST 500+) *in my ex boat and it worked fine and had a lot of bells and whistles. It took me about 1 complete day to install everything and bleed it out.

I included a hand held remote unit for the flybridge. It had a nice long cable and it was nice sitting on the bow running the boat by autopilot.
biggrin.gif


*
 
jleonard wrote:I added shut offs to the Ts and then ran standard lengths of hydraulic hose to the pump. (valves and hose thru McMaster-Carr).
*Can you expand in this? Not sure where you would put T's and shut-off's.


-- Edited by GonzoF1 on Wednesday 21st of September 2011 11:24:12 AM
 
This is a picture before I installed the new autopilot. The 2 lines comming down from the Ts in the picture are going to the old hydraulic pump for the autopilot. (There is one more hyd line that is not in this view.)

I added shut offs to the Ts and then used hydraulic hose to feed the new pump. The*shut offs *were small 1/4 turn valves

*

*
 

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Shut off valves to isolate the pump for repair and removal?
 
GonzoF1 wrote:
Shut off valves to isolate the pump for repair and removal?
*That would be one reason for sure. The second and more pressing reason to me at the time was that I needed/wanted a way to swap pumps and NOT lose a lot of fluid in the process. PLUS I wanted to use hydraulic hose instead of copper so I needed a different connector anyway.

So with the new adapters for the hyd hose assembled to the shut off valves, and with the shut off valves closed, I was able to remove the old flare fittings from the Ts and replace with the new plumbing without losing more than a couple of tablespoons of fluid.

Here is what I bought*from McMaster-Carr:
<table class="MsoNormalTable" style="width:95%;" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0"><tbody><tr><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:6%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="6%">2 Each
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:13%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="13%">5683K11
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:46%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="46%">Flame-Resistant SAE Hydraulic Hose W/Male X Female Fittings, 2'L, 1/4" ID, 5800 PSI
</td></tr><tr><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:6%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="6%">1 Each
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:13%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="13%">5683K51
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:46%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="46%">Flame-Resistant SAE Hydraulic Hose W/Male X Female Fittings, 4'L, 1/4" ID, 5800 PSI
</td></tr><tr><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:6%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="6%">3 Each
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:13%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="13%">50695K162
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:46%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="46%">Steel 37 Degree Flared Tube Fitting Adapter for 1/4" Tube OD X 1/4" NPTF Male Pipe
</td></tr><tr><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:6%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="6%">3 Each
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:13%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="13%">4112T63
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:46%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="46%">Compact High-Pressure Brass Ball Valve 1/4" NPT Female X Male, T-Handle
</td></tr></tbody></table>
<table class="MsoNormalTable" style="width:95%;" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0"><tbody><tr><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:13%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="13%">*
</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:46%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="46%">*
</td></tr><tr><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:13%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="13%">*</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:46%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="46%">*
</td></tr><tr><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:13%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="13%">*</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:46%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="46%">*
</td></tr><tr><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:13%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="13%">*</td><td style="border-bottom:#edefed 1pt solid;border-left:#f0f0f0;background-color:transparent;width:46%;border-top:#f0f0f0;border-right:#f0f0f0;padding:1.2pt;" valign="top" width="46%">*
</td></tr></tbody></table>
 
Thanks. When you get a chance, I'd love to see a few current pics of the install.
 
My mistake.

Sorry.


-- Edited by nomadwilly on Thursday 22nd of September 2011 09:19:56 PM
 
I went with the Raymarine X-30 corepack St-70 head and wireless remote control. Hands down the best steering AP I've ever used. It will steer the boat staighter in a following sea then I can by hand. Having the steering wheel on a remote control hanging off my neck has opened up a whole new level of relaxation/control.
 
I like that one too, DaddyO, but the core pack alone is the price of the entire X10 package with pump and all. I just can't put that much into it. There are too many other things to pay for this winter.
 
boatk9 wrote:
Our OA has a W-H (Will Hamm) unit...small operation out of Seattle area....one of the islands...Widby or Bainbridge, I believe.* Simple heading hold system*with*remote for flybridge.* Believe he equips a lot of fishing boats on*Left*Coast.* Bullet proof, adjustable for sea/speed conditions, power steer, heading hold, and "dodge" features.* Never encountered a sea state where it wouldn't do a better job than a human.* I believe the newer versions can be linked to chart plotter, but not sure.* No idea if he's price competitive.* Nice to work with a small operation.* I had a minor issue*a couple years ago and spoke directly with the designer who identified the problem just from my description.*
*Dang, that sounds almost as if I wrote it. The only thing I'd add is that*Mr. Hamm lives on*Bainbridge Island, and I believe they still have their shop in Ballard.
 
GonzoF1 wrote:
Thanks. When you get a chance, I'd love to see a few current pics of the install.
*Here is one of the shut offs and hose connection.
 

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Thanks. What sealant are you using on those threads?
 
GonzoF1 wrote:
I like that one too, DaddyO, but the core pack alone is the price of the entire X10 package with pump and all. I just can't put that much into it. There are too many other things to pay for this winter.
*Will a type1 pump drive your boat? I had to have a type2 which meant the x-30 core pack
 
The stated ram size for the X10 is right down the middle of the range for that pump.
 
I installed a Comnav, Cammonder P2,with a Cr -203 remote for the flybridge before I left Fl. to come here to Belize, I researced and found this unit is the choice of most comercial fishing boats from Alaska to Main. I wanted to have a reliable, simple auto and I am so glad I got this machine. It was pricy but it should out last me. It is Wonderful. BB
 
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