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Old 05-26-2017, 06:56 PM   #1
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Default Auto Pilot Question (IP29)

Hi guys (and gals),

My delima: I need to install something to help keep the boat pointed in the right direction while I'm up on the deck of my new (to me) Island Packet 29, messing around with the sails etc.

The boat's GPS has nmea 183 input, and the steering system is a wheel with rack & pinion. I've maxed out my budget on this boat so I'm trying to find the least expensive solution. On the other hand reliability & quality usually translate to the lowest cost over the long run, so I guess what I'm looking for is an autopilot with less bells and whistles. Any suggestions?

Also, the boat is 32' LOA and weighs about 14,000 lbs when fully loaded.

All USEFUL suggestions much appreciated!

A.J.
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Old 05-27-2017, 12:39 AM   #2
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Hi AJ, you can perhaps buy self steering (maybe an older autohelm for wheel steering) through eBay. But, new is better and new is also relatively expensive. There are however a few things you can do to keep the boat on track while you visit the foredeck.

For years I had only a hydraulic Hydrive system. They are good because they don't move once set. That's great for trade wind sailing and for short absences, such as a wander across the deck or making a cuppa below. If you tighten the friction lock on your binnacle, you can achieve the same effect with mechanical steering...just remember to back it off when you return to the cockpit.

But, and as I am sure you know, it's a big but, all this locking off is dependent on wind from a constant direction and trimmed sails. If you go forward to 'mess about with the sails' the trim will be affected and so will your subsequent direction of travel.

If you are sailing shorthanded, I imagine your lines are all led back to the cockpit. Going forward is still possible, but you need to first set the sails, lock off the wheel to balance the boat, then go forward to stretch your legs rather than to alter trim.

Island Packets are wonderful boats and maintain good direction but I fear you will need to eventually buy a self steering system so that you can sit up on the bow and thereby occupy the best spot on the boat in a three to four foot sea with wind on the beam.

Things would be immeasurably easier if you had a tiller (sheet to tiller self steering is a joy to behold) and I offer this link purely because it is interesting: Sheet-to-Tiller Self Steering

I wish I could be of more assistance. Best wishes.
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Old 05-29-2017, 03:29 AM   #3
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Best of luck. We sailed our 5Ton Rawson 30 without ever engaging the old autohelm on it but use the wheel lock instead for short bits (a run up to the foredeck to adjust something, etc). We also sailed our 30Ton schooner for about 18 months or so without installing the autopilot. Really that was because we wanted to do everything w/o the pilot and convince ourselves we could do it shorthanded just my husband and I. Once we were happy with our performance, we installed the pilot. It was an old chain drive to the wheel made by Wood Freeman and made for big fishing boats. Works a charm, cost about $800 all told and we'd have to invest about $4K-$6K to get something new which would work nearly so well. The point: old stuff can work well. Some of the used bits on Ebay or at the 2nd hand marine stores should serve you well but choose a brand that you or a friend has a lot of experience with. Thus the fixes will be easy and understanding the strengths or weaknesses will be easy.

I don't know if that's all that helpful but I will tell you that if you set your sails right, on many points of sail you'll be balanced and a locked wheel will be just fine.
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