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Old 05-17-2006, 10:26 PM   #1
Rear Admiral
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 437
Default Autopilots?

We're wondering if there is a consinsus on who makes the best autopilots.

We fitted our last boat with both windvane & autopilot self steering but this time around I'm gonna go with a below deck autopilot.

I'm leaning toward installing a unit built by WH in Washington but I also hear good things about the new NAVMAN G Pilot from New Zealand... Does anyone have experience with either of these pilots?

For the record - our old NAVICO WP-5000 and SAYES RIG performed beautifully across three oceans... but found the autopilot steered a better course and was much easier to operate.

Any thoughts on autopilots would be much appreciated,



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Old 05-17-2006, 11:12 PM   #2
Join Date: Jan 2005
Posts: 17

Just installed a NAVMAN 3380 (The new color version) on Lady Kay, a 1989 Catalina 42, and immediately put 1000 miles on it.

After comparing features and cost, it proved to be the best value. Internet prices are good....got mine at http://www.wmjmarine.com/

The "brain" seems to be pretty smart. In addition to a plethora of information and ways to display it, it has a variety of steering parameters....ratio's and gains, that can be adjusted, and stored in up to five "profiles" for different sea states/points of sail. There is also a "rate gyro" that allows for "adaptive learning". It all seems to work. Of course following seas is the hardest nut to crack, and it did a resonable but not perfect job. Other than that, the wheel movement eventually reduces to the minimum required to keep the course within the parameters you specify. This is good, because the pump is not exactly a power miser....bursts of 15+A happen...depending on sea state and rudder activity consumption will range from 3-4 to 10-15 Ah.

The installation is straight forward, and instructions are clear. Rams come in 12/7", with either 880, or 1320 pounds of thrust. Here's where it gets tricky. Depending on the lenght of the tiller arm on your rudder shaft, and the throw of the ram, you will get certain rudder travel and torque.....

Example: As per NAVMAN a 12" ram, 38mm (880 pounds) on a 10" arm will steer a boat up to about 28000 pounds, (about 733 ftlbs of torque) and yield 30 degrees of rudder travel either side of center.......

I just went through all this. Lady Kay has 45 degree of rudder travel, so I ended up mounting the ram on 7" arm......BUT the torque is then reduced to about 513 foot pounds of torque, and that proved insufficient. So I am replacing the 38mm ram with the 45 mm ram.

If you call NAVMAN tech support you get a helpful English speaking person in Massachussets after 1 menu choice, and just a few rings....

So, you need to know what your rudder travel is now, in degrees either side of center, and how heavy your boat is. Also, do you have a tiller arm already on the rudder post? How long is it? (center of hole to center of rudder post) Are there provisions for making holes at different distances? Tiller arms are NOT included with the autopilot. I got mine from Edson....10" for a 2.8" shaft around $350....

Oscar is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-28-2006, 03:34 PM   #3
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 7

you have forgoten something!!!!!

while the autopilot is doing your job! you might be missing something that is life changing
salvor is offline   Reply With Quote
Old 05-28-2006, 08:39 PM   #4
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Home Port: Darwin
Vessel Name: Sandettie
Posts: 1,917

Two people, one yacht, Indian ocean, no automatic helm...Now that would be life-changing!
"if at first you don't succeed....Redefine success"!

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