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Recommendation for Autopilots

our38

Member II
We finally got our (new to us) E38 out of the boatyard and in the water. We'll put the sails on tomorrow, and finish running the lines. Now, I'd like to look in to autopilots, so if anyone can provide information regarding an autopilot that you are currently using, that would be great. While out of the water, we installed a bronze transducer to go with out new Garmin 541s GPS/Chartplotter/Sonar, which is NMEA 2000 compatible, so we can network in other electronics. Since I went with the Garmin 541s, I was thinking about looking at Garmin autopilot, but I'm really open to anything that will work well.

If you have an autopilot, what size sailboat do you have, and how much work was the installation (if you did the installation). Any information would be much appreciated.
 

toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
Since I almost always sail single-handed, the autopilot was the single biggest improvement to my sailing experience. (So far... new sails coming next month I hope :) ) Since I have a tiller-steered E29, I found a raymarine (autohelm) ST2000 on craigslist. From the residual hardware, I knew there was previously an autohelm pilot on my boat. All I had to do was drop it into the pins and re-wire the electrical socket to mach raymarine. Worked great right out of the gate. Now I can finally let go of the tiller and actually trim the sails! Of course, that's probably not directly relevant to your boat. I haven't used it enough yet to know how fast it drains the batteries, etc.

That said, I spent a long weekend with a raymarine wheel-clutch model on a 35-foot boat. It seemed to be pretty much the same controller that I have, but we never could get it to work. Steered like a drunken cow. Of course, we didn't actually have the manual on us at the time. I suspect the problem there was that it depended on an external ST60 compass for bearings, and I don't think the ST60 was calibrated. (The ST2000 has an internal compass). Although I would have expected it to steer straight on a heading, even if the heading was wrong...

AFAIK, the NMEA 2000 bus is supposed to make everything compatible with everything...

Supposed to...
 

rwthomas1

Sustaining Partner
I put a Simrad HLD2000 ram hooked up to custom made G10 plate adapter on the quadrant, controlled with the Simrad AC42 computer and Simrad AP24 control head. Also have the uprated flux gate compass, but can't remember that part number. I've posted many times how much I like this system, its been dead reliable, is about 100% oversized, and steers the boat better than I can in poor conditions. It is the number one best modification I have made to the boat. The E38 is on the raw edge of wheel pilot capabilities. The wheel pilot will not be able to steer when the conditions go to pot, that is the advantage of powerful belowdecks systems. Wheel pilots are fine for motoring, light sailing, etc. The downsides of belowdecks systems is the cost and complexity of installation. Having done my E38 I could probably do it again in 20-30 hours but the first time is a steep learning curve. If I can help with pics, etc. let me know.
RT
 

Mindscape

Member III
Raymarine Wheel Pilot on an 32-3

I'm very happy with my wheel pilot from raymarine - uses the ST60 control head - seperate fluxgate and a rudder sensor. The rudder sensor was a pain to install. the rest of the install was not too bad. I also have NEMA183 data from my GPS going to the ST60 which is great and was also easy to set up. This set up works great for me and so long as the boat is not way over powered it has worked well in all kinds of weather and sea states.
I also feel this is one of the best things I've ever done. I said the same thing any time I've added an autopilot to any boat I've owned. For single handing and any significant cruise it's great. Getting the GPS info to the control head was great on my E32-3 as my plotter is below decks at the nav satation, so I can see bearing, course, speed and cross track error at the helm.

As RT said a 38 is at the advertised edge of the wheel pilot, and in my experience I'd say a wheel pilot would be too small for a 38. I'd say go with a belowdeck unit and get all the benifits offered by them.
 

mherrcat

Contributing Partner
I have the Raymarine wheel pilot on my 30+. Variable wind speeds and flukey wind direction will definitely wreak havoc on it; especially when you get below 6 kts wind speed. It has more to do with response time, which is adjustable, than it does with compass input. I do not have it networked with the wind speed/direction transducer which would be nice as then it could steer based on wind direction much like servo-pendulum units.
 

our38

Member II
Photos would be great

I put a Simrad HLD2000 ram hooked up to custom made G10 plate adapter on the quadrant, controlled with the Simrad AC42 computer and Simrad AP24 control head. Also have the uprated flux gate compass, but can't remember that part number. I've posted many times how much I like this system, its been dead reliable, is about 100% oversized, and steers the boat better than I can in poor conditions. It is the number one best modification I have made to the boat. The E38 is on the raw edge of wheel pilot capabilities. The wheel pilot will not be able to steer when the conditions go to pot, that is the advantage of powerful belowdecks systems. Wheel pilots are fine for motoring, light sailing, etc. The downsides of belowdecks systems is the cost and complexity of installation. Having done my E38 I could probably do it again in 20-30 hours but the first time is a steep learning curve. If I can help with pics, etc. let me know.
RT

A couple photos of what I might end up with belowdecks would be great. I'm waiting to hear back from a couple manufacturers regarding equipment requirements and pricing, but really hope to get this done sometime this year. Since this is my first experience owning a sailboat (or any boat), I may decide to wait a couple months before starting another big project, and enjoy some of this nice sailing weather here in Monterey Bay. Thanks for all the input.
 

jimk

Member II
wheel pilot

I have a Raymarine wheel pilot on my 38-200 installed it 2 years ago was a piece of cake to install and yes it is at the manufactures limit for boat size. We just finished an 800+ NM trip up north from Portland OR and it worked fine. At one point while off shore we had 25 knots of wind on the stern and a 6 to 8 ft following sea it was handling the boat but seemed to be working quite hard, however in these conditions I prefer to hand steer.
The rest of the trip was in and around the san juans/ gulf islands and straits of juan de fuca the wheel pilot worked just beautifully. <O:p></O:p>

For me if I were spending a lot time off shore I would add a wind vane to assist in steering.<O:p></O:p>
I too looked at below decks auto pilots, they are no doubt the best but that comes with a lot of work to install and a bunch more money,
jim
 

rwthomas1

Sustaining Partner
jmk just made my point for me. Wheel pilots are adequate. He stated he preferred to steer "in those conditions" I can't comment on why one would want to steer, however I can tell you that a quartering sea with wind on the beam, or aft on an E38 will cause it to slew around, so much so, that careful attention need be paid by the helmsman to maintain course. In these conditions, and much wilder conditions, my Simrad will steer the boat better than I can! I view it as a safety issue. With a powerful, reliable autopilot you can attend to navigation and paying attention to traffic, etc. instead of hours of monotonous, taxing hand steering. It also works great in calm weather so you don't spill your drink....

I will take a few pics this weekend and post them.

RT
 

our38

Member II
Autopilots

I removed everything from the lazerettes ( the previous owner built storage compartments blocking access to everything everywhere), and saw how little room there is below. It looks like I'll have to remove the water heater in order to access the space near the quadrant; does that sound about right? Or, were you able to install the below deck system without removing the water heater? Just curious?
 

rwthomas1

Sustaining Partner
On my E38 the water heater is easily removed. Prepare a short length of hose and a barb-to-barb fitting of the appropriate size so that when you disconnect the engine coolant circuit you do it quickly and hook the hoses to themselves. I only lose a few ounces of engine coolant when I do it. The electrical feed, the hot/cold hoses, three screws and the heater pulls right out. Maybe 5 minutes once you get the process down. Once the heater is out of the way, remove the steering cables and loosen the four pinch bolts at the back of the quadrant. Then the only thing holding the rudder in will be the long bolt that passes through the quadrant fore-aft. Support rudder externally, lower it and once it clears the quadrant, the quadrant will come right out. Sounds intimidating but its not all that bad. Lying on your back on the waterheater pad is the worst part. Having a helper hand you tools is great as its a bit of a contortionist act to get in there.

RT
 

celtium

Member III
CPT Autopilot

After doing a lot of research and a lot of help from the Ericson group here (thank you all!).

I ended up with a CPT. It was extremely easy to install, waterproof, super strong, and low draw on the electrical. The biggest negative is that it cannot interface with any of your other hardware.

Otherwise it gets 2 thumbs up.

As a bonus they are your neighbors in Aptos to boot! Save the freight and go pick it up! How cool is that?

CPTauotpilot.com

Hope that helps

Jay
Celtica
E38-200
SF Bay
 
Last edited:

our38

Member II
Autopilots

On my E38 the water heater is easily removed. Prepare a short length of hose and a barb-to-barb fitting of the appropriate size so that when you disconnect the engine coolant circuit you do it quickly and hook the hoses to themselves. I only lose a few ounces of engine coolant when I do it. The electrical feed, the hot/cold hoses, three screws and the heater pulls right out. Maybe 5 minutes once you get the process down. Once the heater is out of the way, remove the steering cables and loosen the four pinch bolts at the back of the quadrant. Then the only thing holding the rudder in will be the long bolt that passes through the quadrant fore-aft. Support rudder externally, lower it and once it clears the quadrant, the quadrant will come right out. Sounds intimidating but its not all that bad. Lying on your back on the waterheater pad is the worst part. Having a helper hand you tools is great as its a bit of a contortionist act to get in there.

RT

Back to thinking about autopilots. After being in close quarters with the cooling system, and water heater (which could probably stand being changed), I had an opportunity to see how little space there is for working. Whenever I do get to the autopilot, I'll pull out the old water heater and install a new one once the autopilot is in, and working properly. From the looks of it, I might be able to get it in next years budget; we'll see.

Here is are my first set of questions (of many to come, I'm sure) regarding installing the belowdecks system. How did you support the rudder externally, and lower it? This means I have to haul the boat out again, right?
 

ref_123

Member III
Yes...

Dropping the rudder can be done in the water - or so I was told :). However, last time we asked the yard to drop it, it took 3 people to pull it out with a great amout of help given to gravity - thanks to the pervious yard's work to remove the play in the tube. Since it was 8 years ago my memory is a bit foggy, but I think the plan was to use a teflon sheet. Did not look like it when it was pulled out this spring though.

Also, one thing about pilots - if you have an option to install a gyroscope, it's worth it. Our Otto (2003 vintage Navman G-pilot) deals with the following seas without much fuss. Of course human can do it better as we have a power to anticipate, but Otto manages just fine in most cases.

Regards,
Stan
 

toddster

Curator of Broken Parts
Blogs Author
dropping rudder

Never having lifted one before, I was surprised at how heavy my rudder is. I did think a little about how I'd drop it if I had to, without hauling the boat. Of course, yours may be totally different. But mine has nothing to tie off on. You'd have to wrap it some kind of a barrel hitch, with some extra loops to account for the irregular shape. Then either secure it to the boom or a large lift-bag, before dropping it. And don't drop it on the diver :rolleyes:
 

rwthomas1

Sustaining Partner
There is enough room to install a belowdecks pilot. The equipment fits, the "installer" is a tight fit though. With the waterheater out its not a problem if you are patient. Yes, having the boat hauled makes it much easier. Support rudder with blocks and shims. If boat is high enough off the ground, the rudder will drop enough to allow the quadrant to be removed. It really only needs to drop about 9" to clear. Rudder weighs maybe 100lbs or so so lifting it was not too bad. RT
 

markvone

Sustaining Member
Consider a separate tiller to attach underdeck pilot ram to rudder stock.

My E36RH has an Autohelm 7000 underdeck pilot. The actuator attaches to a separate Edson 10 inch tiller mounted to the rudder stock just above the Merrimon quadrant and extending aft. No need to mess with the steering quadrant (except to attach rudder position indicator). The main benefit is you have totally redundant steering via autopilot if the pedestal gear, chain, cables fail. Something to consider if you have the room and are going to go with the under deck pilot. Attached are two pictures.

IMG_1513.jpgIMG_1511.jpg

The left shows the black quadrant on the rudder stock above the tube seal with the (yes corroded!) bronze tiller above it. The right pic is upside down looking up and aft from below the black quadrant to the ram (port side) attached to the tiller extending behind the rudder shaft. The black cylinder on left is the rudder position indicator mounted on the custon aluminium base/mount for the actuator which is glassed to the hull.

This setup is close to 20 years old but still works great and can steer the boat in any weather.

The downside is the expense and complexity of getting it all setup initially.

Mark
 

rwthomas1

Sustaining Partner
Nice setup Mark, however that wouldn't work on my E38. There is only about 1/4" clearance above the quadrant. No room for an additional tiller, so the solution was a G10 plate mounted on standoffs under the quadrant. Works great. RT
 

brianb00

O - 34
@our38 ?

on the E38 how do you attach an emergency tiller ? Is there access to the top of the rudder post ? If so you may be able to put a AP drive solution on the rudder post at much lower cost.

Brian
s/v redsky
 

rwthomas1

Sustaining Partner
on the E38 how do you attach an emergency tiller ? Is there access to the top of the rudder post ? If so you may be able to put a AP drive solution on the rudder post at much lower cost.

Brian
s/v redsky

The emergency tiller slots in directly to the top of the rudder stock. This is accessed by removing a deck plate directly behind the steering pedestal. Since this plate is exactly where you stand to steer, in the middle of the cockpit floor, any assembly that attached to it would be a major inconvenience as at least a large obstruction on the cockpit sole.

I wrestled with this problem when I did my belowdecks AP install. There are only two options: Cut the rudder tube down to allow an additional auxiliary tiller arm below the quadrant. OR Remove, reinforce, modify the existing quadrant to accept the AP ram.

Cutting down the tube would be a large gamble with potentially disastrous results. Removing the quadrant and modifying it is actually fairly simple. I am intimately acquainted with this particular project. Trust me when I tell you there is no other way.

RT
 

brianb00

O - 34
@ourE38

rwthomas,

I sure do trust you - you own an E38. I was just tossing out an idea that has worked in other cases. I also toyed with adding a RAM below deck. The added cost to an install was enourmus, parts and largely yard charges/labor. My final solution moved above deck using hydraulics made for full sea exposure and easy access to all moving parts.

Brian
 
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