Monday - Jun 26, 2017

Tips On How To Select An Autopilot For Your Boat


It is difficult sometimes to manage a boat manually. So it is of much help to have an autopilot to assist them in controlling the boat. An autopilot is that system which is used for controlling the trajectory, weather and system and other wider aspects of operation of an engine.

Autopilots are used in many fields as in aircraft, boats, missiles, spacecraft, and others. In case of boat, autopilot is used as self-steering devices for sailboats or power. They also preset the course your compass and sophisticated pilots connecting to GPS receivers and gather data from other instruments of the boat to handle more advanced tasks.

Autopilots hold a steady course to moderate conditions in order to have minimal helm movements. Because of their accurate steering, they will save you a lot of fuels and bring you to your destination much faster when they are interfaced with a GPS. Autopilots have three main components-

  • A heading sensor– it is usually a fluxgate compass.
  • A course computer– it is the central processing unit i.e., brain of the autopilot.
  • A drive unit– it is a hydraulic pump or a motor that provides force to the boat’s rudder.

There are also other components of an autopilot such as data sources, which contains a masthead wind vane, a rate gyro which keeps track of pitch movements and momentary yaw, a GPS receiver, a rudder reference telling the direction of the rudder pointed, or a speedometer.

How to Select an Autopilot Size

The design of a boat, length, and displacement are also a vital part. Narrow boats, boats having v-shapes in forward section and also the long-keeled sailboats are directionally more stable.  To buy your correctly sized autopilot, check out the marine autopilot systems saleand their manufacturer’s recommendations.

Speed of the Helm Adjustment

A sailboat along with a spinnaker up should have fast response in order to make sure you avoid round-ups and round-downs.  Since the powerboats tend to yaw and slew as they go down seas, they also need a responsive pilot downwind. Slow pilots sometimes get out of their synchronization with the wave and thus resulting in over steer.

Selecting an Above Deck Pilot

  • Select a wheel pilot or tiller pilot that matches the boat’s displacement.
  •  Should move up a size in case of doubt.
  •  And for typical cruising gear, add 20% to the displacement of the boat.

Selecting a Below Deck Pilot

For large boat or a below deck, use a more powerful linear drive pilot, which is more durable. Use   powerboats such as Garmin’s GHP 10 or GHP 20 autopilots which include many unique characteristics.  Such type of autopilots re-engages automatically in case of a steady course.

According to the type of steering system, you can select a drive unit, a core-pack and the control head.

Selection of Drive Unit

Linear drive is used for mechanically steered sailboats, the rudder is directly moved from rudder quadrant or tiller arm. A self-contained system along with a bypass valve for moving the rudder is uses by hydraulic linear drive. Rotary drive is mostly used for cable and chain steering system. And the hydraulic drives are used for hydraulic steering system.

 Selection of a Corepack

  • Select a corepack, which matches the displacement of the boat and your amperage draw in the drive unit.
  • Rudder reference sensor must be selected if your steering system is making complicated for your rate Gyro to predict.

Selection of a Control Head

Autopilot controls and an LCD display that is waterproof are combined in control heads providing cockpit-friendly enclosure.

Autopilots for a long distance should not be recommended unless you have a backup autopilot in case an autopilot fails. Must not solely depend on the autopilot, you should also have system for windvane steering. Be sure to keep a watch and to react to an unexpected situation. All the members of the system must know how an autopilot is disengaged.