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Recommendation for Autopilots

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Here's my experience with the EV-100: consider "hard over time" and attention to sail trim to limit weather helm.

Video (six minutes)
 
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jailer

New Member
I had the EV-100 with my last boat. I don't have fond memories, but it is better than nothing. I was curious about the B&G T1 ram because that's exactly the model I was hoping to fit onto my 35-3. It would be great to know whether someone has managed it, or if I should simply resign myself to getting another wheel pilot.
 

trickdhat

Member III
Blogs Author
I've been thinking about updating the autopilot on my 35-3 from an older Raymarine wheel pilot system. There's enough other items on the list I don't think it will happen any time soon, but I have been exchanging some emails with PYI about the Jefa Direct Drive unit:


They said it can be mounted upside-down which could make the install relatively simple (working overhead above the water heater vs fabricating a mount). From what I've read, it's also fairly low power consumption. Might be something to consider if you're already looking at a hydraulic or servo motor ram type drive.
 

K2MSmith

Sustaining Member
In your search, I would consider looking at Pelagic:


They get a lot of recommendations by sailors in the Bay Area and they have both below deck systems and above deck. Their remote control units also seem reasonable in price compared to comparable Raymarine solutions if you are interested in that feature. I am considering replacing my Simrad tiller pilot with a Pelagic tiller pilot.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
In your search, I would consider looking at Pelagic:


They get a lot of recommendations by sailors in the Bay Area and they have both below deck systems and above deck. Their remote control units also seem reasonable in price compared to comparable Raymarine solutions if you are interested in that feature. I am considering replacing my Simrad tiller pilot with a Pelagic tiller pilot.
And the engineer/inventor is a member of our site forums and a solo offshore sailor with a lot of miles. :)
 
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Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Pelagic is great from all I've heard, and Brian Boschma is a hands-on guy with many sea miles on his Olson 34.

His interest was in tiller-steered racing boats, and in gear that could make the necessary corrections even under spinnaker in rough conditions. Off-shelf products just can't do it, and the power requirements in heavy conditions are high-- 6 amps plus. He solved the problems.

But for casual sailing with a wheel, I still say you can't beat a $1500 Raymarine wheel pilot. It's good up to the first reef, in calm seas, and allows shorthanders to hoist sail, or go below for a Coke, or motor for hours free from tyranny of the helm. Installation is fairly easy, and yields push-button course changes and tacking.

I say this because wheel pilots are widely condemned for not doing what they can't. Sailing Uma complained that they failed in a Transatlantic. Delivery crews beef that 10-year-old (worn out) Raymarines can't hold a course. Others mutter than they turn themselves off whenever the wind comes up.

Even for a 16,000-pound E38, the EV-100 works marvelously well within its limitations. Sails must be set for a balanced helm, which in whitecaps means reduced sail--a necessity for all forms of self-steering. Everybody should have auto steering, in my opinion, and a cheap wheel pilot is the easiest way to get it.

The Raymarine is enough for most of us, and changes the whole business of casual daysailing and cruising. Video on setup and operation here.
 

Pete the Cat

Member II
I have an EV 1000 on my 32-200 and an old Raymarine electric below deck linear ram with an old 6000+ control head on my Tartan 37. Here are my observations:
1. The EV 1000 is disappointing compared to everything on the much older below deck Raymarine 6000+ deck model. Even the computer seems to lag in its ability to adjust to sea state. Some of that might be the inherent stability of the boats they are on. The Ericson is a great boat for around the buoy racing, daysails and some coastal cruising, but the Tartan is a much better sea boat and I take longer trips with it from my home in Maine. So vessel type and how you use the autopilot is a key consideration. I could see no way to install a below deck autopilot on my 32-200 and thought I probably could put up with the EV 1000. That has not stopped me from appreciating my below deck autopilot when I sail the Tartan. I suppose if you are just day sailing a 38 or doing weekend trips a wheel pilot would be OK, but there really is no comparison in performance. If I was planning a long trip on a E38, I would definitely want an under deck unit.
2. Here is an observation from a delivery skipper: For goodness sake, mount the control head where you can see and and access it no matter what kind of autopilot you install. It is really annoying to have to bend over and squint in some dark corner of the cockpit to try to find the right button to actuate or modify the function everytime you need to change a setting on the the autopilot. I realize that it is a wiring pain to get the control head right in front of you at the helm, but if you put it somewhere else, you may regret it. To me, having the control head readily accessible at the helm is much more important than locating your radar display there.
3. The Raymarine electric linear drive unit is really well tested for decades in world racing circles. At one time Raymarine held the patent on the electric clutch arrangement which means you can touch a button (hopefully conveniently located at the helm) and disconnect the drive--almost completely-- from the quadrant--and you can not really sense that there is any residual drag on the wheel function. I contrast this with the manual disconnect on the EV 1000 that leaves you with a noisy drag feeling and other under deck systems that do not seem to ever really free up the wheel. Perhaps there is some new model that does this as well, but I have not seen it.
4. I realize the temptation to connect the drive to the quadrant rather than install a separate tiller from Edson--or have one fabricated (likely cheaper if you have access to a marine machine shop because Edson stuff is so expensive). I suppose this is OK, but that quadrant is likely cast aluminum and I would be very careful to reinforce it--not just drlll and put the pivot point in it. I delivered a yacht once that had a substantial crack in the quadrant from the autopilot drive--the owner assured me it had been that way for years--possiibly from the installation, but I was concerned and nervous--it held. Fitting a under deck autopilot can require a professional consultation as there are many ways to get around space limitations and it seems they are always a challenge. Most under deck drives can be mounted starboard or port, forward or aft or even upside down. I have seen some very ingenious fitting. I would like to believe the reports that newer electronics have helped with the ability of autopilot computers to learn the seas state and steer better down wind, but I have not experienced that. Yet.
FWIW.
 

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Good past AP thread link:
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
I suppose if you are just day sailing a 38 or doing weekend trips a wheel pilot would be OK, but there really is no comparison in performance. If I was planning a long trip on a E38, I would definitely want an under deck unit.

Absolutely. Or a wind vane. Wheel pilots are designed for day sailing, and cannot handle waves or strong conditions. But they can motor forever when the wind dies-- their great value.
 
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