There’s nothing like a good long voyage to sort out a boat, for better or for worse. That much I learned running a working charter boat for so many years. Every season we’d cover around 8000 hard miles between the English Channel and the Outer Hebrides in Scotland. On our return to Falmouth at the [...]

Gear Test—Autopilot

A reliable autopilot comes right after radar on our priority scale. A short handed crew that steers all the time, or even much of the time, is a tired crew, and a tired crew is a dangerous crew. Reliable After I fixed some initial teething problems, caused by the installing technician being too stupid and/or [...]

Windvane Or Autopilot?—Part 2

The first time I used a windvane in anger was back in the early 1980s, aboard my newly purchased UFO 34 cruiser-racer whilst delivering her home from Scotland through the Irish Sea. Fitted with a then state-of-the-art Aries vane, we had strong tailwinds for much of the way, which the vane handled fairly well, impressive [...]

Windvane Or Autopilot?—Part I

Sitting in the Canaries watching all the yachts turn up to make the transatlantic crossing has been instructive in one sense. I’ve spent some of my time counting the number of boats equipped with what used to be the long distance boat's badge of honour—a wind vane. And talking to the owners has been instructive, [...]

Neco Autopilot Drive

Question: I have a Neco autopilot in my (1973) Swan 44. Last year, the pilot control head stopped working and does not seem fixable. I spoke with a Simrad representative who said it was possible to replace the 'brain' and leave the drive in place. My drive seems to work fine and is chain driven. [...]

Which Autopilot Drive?

Question: I am planning a long trip in June (Sardinia to Canaries) and then the ARC in November. A working autopilot would be nice. I’m looking at Simrad autopilots. What drive would you recommend for a Swan 44 (displaces about 30,000lbs)? Answer: Your Swan is a big powerful boat and you are planning a downwind [...]

Windvane Or Autopilot?

Question: Do you prefer a windvane or an autopilot for longer passages? I currently only have an autopilot and am wondering if I should fit a windvane as well? My boat is a Nauticat 32 (10 meters) displacing 5.4 tons. Answer: On Morgan’s Cloud we have both and I think there are very good arguments [...]

Simrad Autopilot, Problems

During the winter of 1996/97 I was single handing in the Caribbean and our trusty old Neco autopilot bit the big one. Gear always dies when you need it most! I replaced it with a Simrad autopilot controlling the old Neco rotary drive. After a few hundred miles of sailing, the Neco drive died. I [...]

Simrad Autopilot

For a short handed crew, a reliable autopilot is one of the most important pieces of gear on the boat. After some initial teething problems our Simrad autopilot has steered us some 45,000 miles with no problems. Great gear!