In Part 1 of this article we set off for Bermuda on a broad reach in a gusty wind and biggish seas, reefed and properly trimmed the sails, and set the autopilot deadband for the conditions.
So now the autopilot is steering much better than when we first turned it on, the crew are looking less green, and the cook has arisen from his bunk, dumped the stew he puked in earlier over the side, and is bustling around the galley heating up a new batch.
Life aboard is way better, but it could be better still if we take the trouble to properly tune the gain and counter rudder (see Part 1) and this is exactly what the skipper orders, only to have the crew whine,
Why do we have to bother, surely a modern autopilot will sense the conditions and automatically adjust these settings for us?
The lazy crew
Did you learn nothing from how much better things got after we changed the deadband, and have you forgotten what we learned from that great article over at AAC? (A pity that lazy lout Harries didn't publish Part 2 before we left for Bermuda.)
Anyway, have you already forgotten that auto learning only works with super-smart autopilots with separate computers that cost way more than any cruiser would sensibly spend and take weeks of calibration and tuning to work right?
Remember, most autopilots, including many so-called smart ones, only learn the boat's steering characteristics when we do the sea trial in flat water under power and then never change it.
Does this booming broad reach in big waves look like motoring in flat water to you?
Skipper, while going red in the face and looking around for a handy rope's end
No Adjustment on Your Pilot?
Several members pointed out in the comments to the last article that some autopilots do not have gain and counter-rudder adjustments—thanks for the heads-up.
But before you give up on this, dig deep into the manuals to make sure these settings are not buried under some advanced settings menu and/or called something else.
If not, it's still worth reading this article to get more understanding of how pilots steer, particularly under sail offshore.
By the way, while I would not suggest junking a working pilot because it lacks these settings, I would recommend that those with sailboats buy new or replacement pilots that do have them.
And If your pilot only has a coarser version of these adjustments that combines gain and counter rudder —might be called Leisure, Cruise and Performance mode, or some such (Thanks, Rob)—reading on will clarify what the settings do (the names are deceptive) and when to make changes.
OK, now that the cranky skipper has reminded us of why we are doing this, let's get the gain and counter-rudder set right...we all know what those are...since we learned that in Part 1...which we all read...right?
Seriously, if you are even slightly hazy on this, or the other stuff the cranky skipper was ranting on about above, please re-read Part 1.
Also, remember that our heroes (of the story) have already reefed and trimmed the sails for the conditions.
Here are the steps to setting gain right for this booming broad reach: