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Author Topic:   Autopilot
WisED posted 03-18-2010 11:22 AM ET (US)   Profile for WisED   Send Email to WisED  
I left the autopilot out of my initial boat purchase. I thought that the over $3,000 price for the deal was in essence an unnecessary expense, particularly since most of our boating will be within the 600-square-mile Appostle Island area. Furthermore, I don't see the big advantage to something that basicly holds simple course or maps a fishing pattern when most of the navigating can be easily be done by visual navigation plus the GPS. Opinions and experiences welcome. Thanks
SouthFla posted 03-18-2010 11:32 AM ET (US)     Profile for SouthFla  Send Email to SouthFla     
Well, our current boat had an autopilot when we bought it. I use it nearly every time I go out, and I love it. It's great for trolling, nice to just keep a course and relax a bit at the helm, it's great for holding a perfectly straight line in our long narrow channel to the marina (while everyone else is ping-ponging back and forth with course over-corrections), and we even use it to steer us on leisurely off-plane cruises when we just want to "power-sail."

Having said that, I do not put it in the same category as RADAR, which I'll never NOT have on any future boat. If I didn't have an autopilot, it would probably be my last upgrade, after all of the other electronics--big, multiple display MFD and Radar).

I guess to me it's kind of like a pool. I don't think I would ever build one for an existing home, but it sure is nice to have one when you buy a house.

glen e posted 03-18-2010 02:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
Email me if you want to discuss autopilots. I sell every major brand and have no particular bias. There are several advantages to each brand and depends on what type of boating you are planning to do.
David Pendleton posted 03-18-2010 03:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Glen, what have you got that works with Teleflex hydraulic steering?
WisED posted 03-18-2010 03:19 PM ET (US)     Profile for WisED  Send Email to WisED     
Southfla, that is what I surmised. It probably is nice to have but not really essential. All my cruising will be in big open water so super precise navigation is not a big deal. I did [buy RADAR] since fog in Lake Superior is common, thus making RADAR a necessity rather than a nice-to-have. Another reason I hesitated is simply that I was wary to have another expensive non-essential system to break down, particularly, one that could leave me stranded in case of malfunction.

As to the brand of autopilot, it would definitely be Raymarine. All the other goods on the boat are Raymarine, and they have an excellent drop-in kit for the Verado. My guess is that unless I get real lazy in a couple of years the autopilot is off the books.

Ricky posted 03-18-2010 04:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for Ricky  Send Email to Ricky     
I have a TR1 autopilot that I purchased after I purchased a 305 Conquest. At the time it was the only one that worked with Verado engines. That was five years ago and never had a problem. It is a little noisy, I suppose, but, if you troll, it is great. Also great if you follow GPS routes as pilot will follow GPS course perfectly. Mine has wireless remote--fairly useless. I use it every time I use boat offshore.

You still have to watch where you are going as my neighbor will tell you who crashed into a piling.

There are some fuel savings to offset cost but tough to quantify yet real because there is no way you can follow a GPS course as closely as an autopilot. No way to justify it financially though. You just have to want it.

glen e posted 03-18-2010 06:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
They all work with Teleflex steering or any chartplotter. The three key players in the market are the Simrad Ap24, Raymarine X-10, and the Garmin GHP10. Furuno should have a good one in about six to eight months, as it is being re-designed now.The Garmin is the most feature laden of the bunch.

Like an anchor, the key is to buy a AP pump that is slightly bigger than what the manufacturer says is minimum. Figure about $3,000 for all of them and $1,000 to $1,300 labor to install.

David Pendleton posted 03-18-2010 07:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
Really? The Ray S1000 works with Teleflex (cable-to-ram) steering.

I didn't get that impression at all when looking at the documentation.

glen e posted 03-18-2010 08:08 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
The question was teleflex HYDRAULIC steering. The S1000 be discontinued soon and is not a big boat unit. Maximum 26-foot. The pump is very small and gets over-powered trolling in two to four foot waves in a quartering or following sea. And as it is slaved to the GPS and does not use a heading sensor, its accuracy is compromised. I do not consider it to be a full function autopilot. Just my opinion. I know many who use it on small single outboard vessels and are happy, and many that are not.
David Pendleton posted 03-18-2010 08:35 PM ET (US)     Profile for David Pendleton  Send Email to David Pendleton     
But it is hydraulic.

That's the problem with steering systems and their descriptions.

First off, I have an 23 Conquest sterndrive.

My steering is Teleflex. There is a cable between the helm and the ram (which is in the engine compartment).

I would just like something that would maintain a heading while I do other things.

glen e posted 03-18-2010 08:50 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
Then the S1000 will work as long as you are not in really bad current or wind. But being an sterndrive, it is power assisted hydraulic. I would call Raymarine and ask. Their contact information is on the site.
WisED posted 03-18-2010 09:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for WisED  Send Email to WisED     
Dave--on the Raymarine site there is a "which is the right system for you" mini-site. Given your sterndrive, I think that for you a helm mounted system would be appropriate. Essentially it is a unit the drives the helm for you rather than something that operates within the steering system proper.
WisED posted 03-18-2010 09:48 PM ET (US)     Profile for WisED  Send Email to WisED     
I hadn't thought about installation costs, over $1,000 sounds reasonable, given what I'm paying for the other systems. That of course raises the price to over $4,000. Posibility of installation in my case is further dimmed; I can definitely use the money on other stuf, that is Mustang PFD for five cost over $1,000!
20dauntless posted 03-19-2010 11:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
I don't have an autopilot, but I know plenty of people who swear by them. Most of these people don't use them going fast on clear days, but they love them when cruising at displacement speeds and especially in poor visibility. In fog an autopilot allows you to concentrate on the radar screen and your surroundings and not worry about trying to maintain a heading.
WisED posted 03-19-2010 12:24 PM ET (US)     Profile for WisED  Send Email to WisED     
Good point! I guess time and expirience will tell. Personally, I'm counting on GPS (with weather) and radar for the less than optimal weather times. One good piece of advice that I have received from the DNR and boaters in the area is to avoid weather on the lake altogether. The islands (22, 21 of them unihabitted and completely wild) are within a few miles from each other. Most bad systems are very quick moving so they recommend you simply find the nearest dock and wait it out rather than fighting the freak storms that lake superior is famous for.
handn posted 03-20-2010 09:25 AM ET (US)     Profile for handn  Send Email to handn     
I would give up radar before an autopilot.
Uses: 1. M.O.B., you have a much better chance of finding a man overboard, particularly at night.
2. Long cruises, I can't imagine steering manually for 80-90 nautical miles. Most AP's have a "nav" function and will constantly correct to a distant waypoint. Point taken, about setting the AP and being inattentive or leaving the helm. A sleepy sailboater set the AP, dozed off and sailed right up on the beach in L.A.
3. Fishing, Iron Mike is the third crewmember when fishing short handed. Iron Mike handles the helm, the angler handles the rod and the third crew member gaffs or wires a big fish. Iron Mike is useful navigating back to the precise point when drift fishing. My Simrad AP 24 will troll in a box as big as you want, will U-turn and go back on course, will spiral, will S curve. zig-zag, and I forget what else.
4. Precise navigation, an A.P. will put you right in the middle of a narrow channel or in a tight anchorage in dense fog if you are completely sure of the way point.
I have had two Simrad A.P.'s and have had very little trouble with either.
Friends have had the Ratheon Sport Pilot and its successor that operates without a pump and manually turns the wheel. It is cheap, perhaps useful for light fishing but not much else.

glen e posted 03-20-2010 11:06 AM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
I totally agree with handn..I would gladly give up other electronics for an AP. If you have never had one, you can't possibly make a judgment from the sidelines. It's a third mate more than any thing else on the boat.
SouthFla posted 03-20-2010 12:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for SouthFla  Send Email to SouthFla     
You guys would choose an AP over RADAR? I'm flabbergasted...Having a clear picture at all times for every vessel, marker and landmass around me is not just a convienence but one of the best pieces of safety gear on my boat. I must be missing something about my AP :-)
glen e posted 03-20-2010 04:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for glen e  Send Email to glen e     
In florida I would, there is never any fog. Up north I would want it if I was encountering it a lot. I was speaking not just radar but a second screen, AIS, big dog 1kw transducers, Sirius weather or the other trappings of marine elelctrnics. Let's rephrase it, it would be in my top 4 things I would want on a boat.
JEvans posted 03-23-2010 03:30 PM ET (US)     Profile for JEvans  Send Email to JEvans     
Guys have had AP on my last 2 Whalers my 1997 24 had a Raytheon ST5000 and my 1991 31 has an ST6000 with an oversized pump. I have to say I agree with everyone that has said they can't live without them. I think they're like cell phones once you have one you can't live without it. I travel 70 miles offshore for tuna and would not want to make that run steering all the way out and back (six hours).

It's a lot easier to sit back and watch the electronics and keep a lookout then worry about keeping the course. Have to say it's a little disquieting letting go of the wheel at speed the first time but you get use to it just make sure you mount the electronic compass as low and as far back as you can otherwise the boat may have a tendency to turn when you least expect it. Just my 2 cents

Buckda posted 03-23-2010 03:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
WiseED will be using this vessel on Lake Superior.

One thing Lake Superior has a lot of (besides fresh, crystal clear water) is fog.

jimh posted 03-23-2010 09:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
[Moved to SMALL BOAT ELECTRICAL for discussion.]
20dauntless posted 03-24-2010 10:56 AM ET (US)     Profile for 20dauntless    
WiseED, if you boat in fog much like I do, get a radar no matter what. Without radar, the autopilot could steer you right into another boat. Radar shows you what is actually around you, which is critical when boating in limited visibility. I use the boat to commute to a cabin, and if I didn't have radar there would be plenty of times when I couldn't have gone. I can't say the same thing about an autopilot.
WisED posted 03-24-2010 11:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for WisED  Send Email to WisED     
Yep I have a full electronic package radar weather, depth finder etc, The only thing I passed over was the autopilot. MAybe in a few years I will figure that its an option I really want. I'm sure like many have posted that its one of those things that once you have you miss terribly, but for the time being, I wan't to see what my boating habits and such will be. Thanks for everyone's good input.

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