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Date Posted: - Tuesday - 03/30/10 - 7:08pm
Author: kaizen m31 #148
Subject: looking to buy autopilot any suggestion on best and easy to install,

im looking to get a autopilot but not sure how to hook up .if anyone has done it in the past ..let me know any info .brands, mounting ... thanks

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[> Here's what I did -- Jared Kibele, - Tuesday - 03/30/10 - 7:50pm

Here's my installation: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kibele/sets/72157608829826444/

I put quite a bit of detail in the photo captions. I have noticed in looking at photos of other mariners that the steering gear seems to have varied a bit and that the worm part of the shaft seems to sometimes be aft of the rudder post. That would change the configuration a bit.

Essentially, what I found was that whatever auto pilot you choose has to turn the wheel shaft since you can't move the rudder from an extra tiller arm. As far as I can tell that makes wheel pilots and rotary drive units the only options. The only wheel pilot set ups I've seen on Mariners have been pretty ugly so, for me, the below deck rotary drive was the only option.

The install wasn't easy but it was worth it. It took a bit of fiddling around to get the correct settings (spending the extra money for the gyro might have helped there) but it works great now and I'm really glad I've got it.

Let me know if you have any other questions.


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[> Autohelm 3000A -- Paul M31 #106, - Tuesday - 03/30/10 - 9:42pm

My boat is rigged for an external belt driven system. There's a disc mounted behind the wheel which accepts a notched belt driven by a cockpit wall mounted servomotor, controlled by an external mounted compass module - Autohelm 3000A (Analog)....

The picture below shows the disc, the small wood plate mounted on the cockpit side where the servomotor goes, and the small block (just visible athwarthships against the rear of the cockpit on the other side of the wheel shaft) with a dove-tail slide connector where the compass module is mounted.

The module plugs into the outlet (also shown) for 12V.

I am told (haven't used it myself yet) that this system works like a charm and, as you can see, it is easily removed when not in use (except for the disc wheel)


This is what the unit looks like - note the wind vane option to steer to wind rather than to course.


There are more modern (digital) versions of units similar to this - probably better in many aspects, though I doubt anywhere near as durable as this one….

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[> [> thanks -- kaizen m31 #148, - Wednesday - 03/31/10 - 4:47pm

thanks i was thinking about using a wind vane .all the auto pilots are pretty exspensive .should i just spend more money and buy a vane .and has anyone used one on a mariner

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[> autohelm -- Craig M31-25 Hibou, - Thursday - 04/ 1/10 - 12:00am

I put a Raymarine unit on Hibou; can't remember the model number. It's similar to Paul's but the unit that turns the wheel is mounted to the back of the wheel. And, it doesn't have the belt drive.

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[> [> photo -- Craig M31-25 Hibou, - Thursday - 04/ 1/10 - 12:03am

Look at the last photo in the owners listing. On the wheel you'll notice a gray disk. That's the drive unit for the autohelm. The control unit is mounted next to the engine controls.

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[> Wheel Drive vs. Windvane and tiller pilot. -- Bruce, - Thursday - 04/ 1/10 - 3:55pm

Gitana Vela (M31#95) has an old Cetek Benmar autopilot set up just as Jared's (nice work Jared) was installed with the drive unit below the deck. It works and looks great, but does not have NMEA capabilities so it does not communicate with my other electronic devices. Cetek Benmar does have an upgrade available which would give me NMEA 0183 capabilities, but rather than do that I am considering a windvane/tiller pilot combination. I have seen several Mariners set up with a Monitor windvane, and a tiller pilot, either Raymarine, or Simrad. This method is how I plan to remodel the Autohelm for Gitana Vela because the mechanical advantage is about 50% more efficient in turning the boat, and uses about 1/3 less power than standard wheel and cog driven units. The tiller pilot would only be used dead down wind because the windvane would be engaged on other tacks the majority of the time, which requires no power. James Schea (Mololo, M31#14) installed a tiller pilot/windvane combination on his boat, and has recently sailed from San Francisco to Mexico with it - and reports that it works great. I will try to obtain and post some photos of the install. I am considering this method because I am outfitting to go cruising, and in my opinion, the less power demand on the battery bank, the better, especially when auto piloting the boat.

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[> Choosing a windvane -- Randall, Murre, M31, - Friday - 04/ 2/10 - 8:56pm

Bruce, and anyone...

Why a Monitor? I can't make up my mind, but between the Monitor, Hydrovane, and the Auto-Helm, I'd think the Monitor the most risky. Both the Hydrovane and Auto-Helm are independent of the worm gear stearing, and (I would think) that to work well the friction in the worm gear and the play would need to be at a minimum. My worm gear is old as anyone's--has about a spoke of play and can get grumpy.

It looks like hooking an inexpensive autopilot to any of these three is pretty easy. With both the Monitor and Auto-helm, the autopilot would drive the servo pendelum or trim tab, respectivley, and thus could be very low draw.

The Auto-Helm has the addional advantage of having a quick pull pin that would allow one to lower the sail out of the way of the mizzen boom. It's also a very tiny bit cheaper.

Only the Hydrovane is even remotely good looking.

I've never used a windvane and am finding it tough to make a choice.

Are these devices pretty much the same where our boats are concerned?


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[> [> wind vane/tiller pilot -- James (m-31" Pyxis"), - Wednesday - 04/14/10 - 6:36pm

Hey Randall and Bruce

I installed a used Aries IV on Pyxis (Mariner 31) last Oct. And have sailed to Northern Sea of Cortez. I Installed a tiller pilot on the sensor vane in San Diego. It has worked flawlessly ever since. The wind vane is great on all points of sail except light down wind. The tiller pilot takes over for light down wind and motoring. I single hand mainly so the vane and tiller pilot get used almost nonstop under way. The tiller pilot draws very little juice. The total cost for the used vane installed and the tiller pilot was about $1500.00. I am on My way back to San Francisco now. I will let you Know how it goes.

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[> [> [> You still have a wheel? -- Jared Kibele, - Friday - 04/16/10 - 3:46pm

Hi James,

Just to be clear, does your Mariner have a wheel or a tiller? I'm assuming that you have a wheel and are running the Aries lines to a wheel drum. Is that true? If so, that would help confirm my hope that we Mariner owners can indeed keep our funky wheels and still use servo-pedulum windvanes.

Also, let me know if you'll be stopping in Santa Barbara or Ventura on your way back up the coast. We'd love to see Pyxis and hear about your trip. We plan on heading down there with Architeuthis next fall.


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[> [> [> [> Wheel Or Tiller -- James (m-31" Pyxis"), - Friday - 04/16/10 - 8:36pm

Hi Jared
Yes I still have the original wheel and worm gear steering. I was concerned about the worm gear wind vane combo at first. Because of resistance and number of revolutions etc.. Now that I have used it I realize that once you balance the boat/trim sails the wind vane only corrects the wheel maybe 1/5 of a turn to port or starboard. The Servo pendulum is much stronger than any helmsman and does not need sleep or food. I Have the same set up as S/V Valhalla a Fuji 32. I took the tiller pilot Idea from him as well.He has great info on his web site just search sailing valhalla. The strong wind vane/tillerpilot combo has been essential to my trip. I will be in southern cal. hopefully by the first week of June. I will post to the forum when I get close.

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[> [> Howdy James! -- Randall, - Thursday - 04/15/10 - 1:15am

Great to hear from you. Amazed you have already headed the northern sea of cortez and are on the way back. Last I recall you were around La Paz. I just assumed you were still in snorkle gear or sitting on the beach with a beer. You've been busy!

Thanks for the Monitor info. Real time data always apprecaited.

When do you anticipate arriving SF? Would love to hook up.


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[> Windvane -- Doug Wilson, - Friday - 04/ 2/10 - 11:09pm

I put tiller steering on Cactus Tree, and a Norvane wind vane. Have not really used the windvane, as on long passages there has been no wind or right on the nose.
I use a Simrad tiller pilot, works well for me, but wish I had gotten the bigger one.
Norvane is in Carlsbad CA, he would not sell me one unless I had tiller steering, it will also work with a tiller pilot.

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[> [> Servo Pendulum on Worm Gear Steering -- Jared Kibele, - Monday - 04/ 5/10 - 2:42pm

It seems kind of strange that Norvane won't sell you one. Monitor claims that their servo pendulum wind vane will work just fine and the seem to have at least one customer testimonial to back it up: http://www.selfsteer.com/faqs/faq.php?ID=116 The points they make there seem fairly reasonable but I'm not in a big hurry to throw down several grand to find out if they're right. ...and I like my wheel too much to get rid of it.

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[> [> [> Nice testimonial -- Randall, - Monday - 04/ 5/10 - 8:16pm

Ya, am not in a hurry to rip out the wheel either.

Am getting the sense from very recent reading that the Monitor may be the best choice.

I really like the idea of "second rudder" types (Hydrovane, etc.), but one comment on the Cruiser's forum suggested that system does not have the rudder power to steer the boat in brisk (rough) downwind situations. Then the testimonial you posted states the Monitor can do exactly that well.

Getting a Mariner to sail well with wind above the beam is no great trick. It's aft of the beam where things get dicey; our boats can be difficult to balance with wind on the quarter, for example, and a unit that can apply some considerable rudderage (new word--mark it) would have a better chance at keeping the boat on point.

I've never used a windvane, so this may all be drivel.


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[> [> [> [> Wheel/ tiller -- Doug Wilson, - Monday - 04/ 5/10 - 10:17pm

It really didn't take long to pull the worm gear steering and wheel, I still have it, sitting in storage. I had just put 10 coats of varnish on the wheel, and a nice blue nylon turks head on the key spoke.
Anyway, Phil at Norvane was honest and the price was reasonable. He has made 300 of them, and circumnavigated on his own boat with one.
But I have yet to really use it, the test will be this fall.

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[> [> [> [> [> Tiller vs. wheel -- Bruce, - Tuesday - 04/ 6/10 - 4:06pm

I would prefer to have a tiller from a performance standpoint, but have grown quite fond of my old spoke wheel. I also like the steering gearbox for sitting on.

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