After a couple of… hairy solo excursions in stronger wind, I bumped an autopilot up to the top of my list.
Now, being a 36′ foot with a wheel, there were two main types of options.
- An above-floor ‘wheel pilot’ like http://www.raymarine.com/view/?id=380
These basically sit attached to the wheel by lines and can steer a course on the chartplotter. These are a LOT cheaper than the second type, but don’t really have a great reputation. They tend to break, a lot, and can’t cope in heavy weather as they have a tendency to have the lines slip, or be overpowered.
This left the second option
- Below cockpit autopilot
These things if installed correctly are a lot more resilient than the other type, and can also handle far bigger seas – important for when I am cowering in the cabin during a storm. However, it’s a ton more pricey. It consists of the following components.
- Control head – My chartplotter, a NSS8, can handle this. This is where you control it from
- Electronic Compass – I went for the H2183 from airmar as it’s supposed to be the best
- Autopilot Computer – This is the ‘brains’. I went for the AC12 from Simrad, as most of my kit is Simrad and they have a good rep
- The drive. This was the tough one. In the end I went for the DD15 (I think, I have not bought it yet and keep wavering. It’s just so damn pricey). Simrad recommends the AC42, but Jefa (the guys who made the drive and simrad rebadged it) say an AC12 is fine, esp since the drive is oversized for my boat a fair bit. Mounting the drive is going to be it’s own challenge, as I will have to build a mounting platform and attach a little rudder tiller to the pole.
The whole caboodle will run on the existing N2K network.
Installing the whole thing will be it’s own project, for sure