Arctic Gear Test—Autopilot

A reliable autopilot comes right after radar as the most important piece of electronic gear for a northern shorthanded voyage. In this chapter we report on how our Robertson AP300X autopilot handled our 10,000-mile trip.

Windvane Or Autopilot, Part 2

The best extra crew member of them all?

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 because the UFO was an early IOR design and a known handful downwind. But when the wind eased, the vane really began to struggle, failing to respond quickly enough to hold a course, and in the end we had to take over by hand.

Windvane Or Autopilot, Part I

A windvane is the best type of crew member—silent, powerful and efficient

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, too.

Q&A: 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)?

Q&A: 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.

Simrad Autopilot, Problems

The Problem

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.