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Author Topic: below deck autopilot  (Read 5361 times)

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stevewitt1

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below deck autopilot
« on: April 10, 2015, 06:22:07 PM »

Help-Help-Help

I've been struggling with the age old decision, keep my boat (1989 C34 hull 854) or sell and move up to a 36 (I'd love a 350 but budget won't go along)

Keeping my 34, I've decided to upgrade the electronics; new depth, speed, wind, autopilot, radar and GPS.  I've been leaning to B&G because I like the wifi module and really like the 4G broadband radar.  The problem is autopilot.  I have an Autohelm original 1989 era vintage wheel autohelm.  It works good (except rear quarterly seas) but it has the old interface NEMA box and that works poor.  It seems that other than the Raymarine EV100 there aren't any wheel mounted choices.  Ok, that brings us to a below deck drive. 

Is it a huge job to install one?  Will I end up butchering things below deck to get one installed? What is the best choice of a drive, controller, etc?

I've seen a few threads dealing with horror stories of autopilots, strip gears, failed heads, repetitive failures if not precisely installed.

I'm not a mechanic, but I've installed a tiller autohelm (easy install on my 27' Catalina tiller steering years ago) and two hydraulic units on boats.  One on my 30' Sea Ray Sedan Bridge and on on my 3270 MotorYacht.

Any suggestions, comments, recommendations would be deeply appreciated.
Thank You all in Advance!!

Steve

visit us at www.ocontoyachtclub.com and www.warbirdsix.com
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Noah

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2015, 06:51:30 PM »

On my boat, probably the most expensive, and totally squared-away, 1990 C34 in the world :shock:  8) I have a B&G Zeus electronics system and a Simrad hydraulic below deck autopilot. I like it all. Yes, the autopilot was a pain in the ass to install, requiring a custom glassed-in mount to support the ram and buying a new Edson tiller arm and drilling the rudder post to mount it. However, it all works well together, and fortunately, I was able to spend the dough to get good "boat worker" assistance to help me fumble through the job. I believe I posted some photos of the install last year. But if you are interested in more info email me.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2015, 06:52:27 PM by Noah »
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Roc

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2015, 07:38:18 PM »

Have you looked at Garmin electronics. ...   I haven't done research but all the ads I see are impressive.   
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Scott Hibbs

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2015, 12:03:54 PM »

OK, it's time to get out of the shadows and participate in the forum!  For the past 17-months of C34 ownership I have been "behind the scenes" reading, and learning, from this forum.  Thanks to everyone who contributes - the discussions and expertise are second to no other site.  Like many others have expressed, the "community" of C34 owners was the tipping point for my decision to purchase. 

A below-deck autopilot is my 2015 project.  Partly because the PO was meticulous in his attention to detail and upkeep (thanks, Tom!) and partly because a more robust autopilot will be a benefit for solo sailing - which includes time on the water with my better half, who is "challenged" to maintain a heading even if it's into the wind  :wink:

Steve, you are correct...many "horror stories" exist.  I called Gerry Douglas at Catalina, and Gerry explained the C34 was not designed with a below-deck autopilot in mind.  The C36 is evidently the first for this consideration.  The C36/375 site has useful information from the owner of Windfall, which as it turns out is based in the same marina I use (it really is a small world).  We have exchanged emails and phone conversations, which helped convince me to move forward with the installation.

Noah, I will email you for additional information on your successful installation.  The pics were extremely helpful; hopefully, you have more that I can share with my installer - along with your "lessons learned."  I will document my journey and post as appropriate.

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Scott Hibbs
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abelovarac

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #4 on: April 17, 2015, 08:30:14 PM »

I was thrilled to finally find some fellow Mk1 C34 owners struggling with the drive installation for an under deck auto pilot that I can commiserate with.  This spring I'm installing a Raymarine EV-200 linear drive system on my 1993 C34, hull #1263.  Not thinking there would be an issue down below, I discovered one as soon as I got the dimensions of the tiller arm I need from Edson.  The arm is 1 5/8" thick, requiring at least 1 3/4 inches of unobstructed rudder post on which to attach the arm. However, on my boat, there's only 1 1/8" of post between the radial drive and the rudder post stuffing box. I don't want to go back to the wheel pilot as I found that it gets overpowered too often when conditions pipe up.  I do a lot of long distance solo challenges on the Great Lakes so I need a more reliable and heavy duty system.  So, here's my solution I'd like to run by folks who might have encountered the same issue:  I'm thinking of cutting the top inch off the fiberglass sleeve that encases the rudder post, re-attach the stuffing box,  thus giving me the clearance I need for the tiller arm.  I'm waiting to hear back from Catalina whether I might be compromising the structure of the rudder assembly in any way ( I majored in history rather than engineering).  I did call Catalina but the fellow I spoke with wasn't sure what to tell me so he's going to get back to me. In the meantime, I'm hoping that some other C34 owners faced a similar problem and I'm interested in how they solved it.  I hate to reinvent the wheel if I can benefit from someone else's experience!
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KWKloeber

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #5 on: April 18, 2015, 12:03:47 AM »

whether I might be compromising the structure of the rudder assembly in any way ( I majored in history rather than engineering). 

I'll give you one Engineer's perspective -- I usually overkill slightly when in doubt.  So, though i wouldn't be concerned about cutting off the minimum needed to accommodate the arm, I would beef it up a little simply on general principle.

Again, just because I tend to overkill when in question, and because I love epoxy work, I'd lay up a few layers of bi-axial cloth or carbon fiber, with resin / 403 microfibers.  Again just to beef up a little for my peace of mind.

I like Mas Epoxy over West Systems, but either would be fine.

Ken
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Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did.
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Noah

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #6 on: April 18, 2015, 10:30:14 AM »

I must have just gotten lucky (?) on my 1990 as you can see from my photos posted earlier, that I had enough clearance between the rudder stuffing box collar and the quadrant to mount the Edson tiller arm. Not sure why you would have less clearance? Different Edson part, or??? Good luck.
« Last Edit: April 18, 2015, 06:41:08 PM by Noah »
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1990 hull #1014, San Diego, CA,  Fin Keel,
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KWKloeber

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #7 on: April 18, 2015, 07:16:40 PM »

I must have just gotten lucky (?) on my 1990 as you can see from my photos posted earlier, that I had enough clearance between the rudder stuffing box collar and the quadrant to mount the Edson tiller arm. Not sure why you would have less clearance? Different Edson part, or??? Good luck.

I wonder if your radial wheel is higher on the stock?

KK
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Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the tradewinds in your sails.
Explore.  Dream.  Discover.   -Mark Twain

abelovarac

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #8 on: April 18, 2015, 09:50:49 PM »

Thanks for the suggestion, Ken - I hadn't thought of that but it sounds like a winner.  Interestingly, I have a brother named Ken and he's an engineer too.   Not sure why  my clearance is less - from the picture Noah posted it looks like his radial wheel is positioned higher than mine.  I have about equal clearance above and below the radial.
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KWKloeber

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2015, 10:45:09 PM »

 Not sure why  my clearance is less - from the picture Noah posted it looks like his radial wheel is positioned higher than mine.  I have about equal clearance above and below the radial.

Look up "Standard" in Merriam-Webster and you will never see any boat manufacture's picture next to it.   :donno:
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Twenty years from now you'll be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines.  Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the tradewinds in your sails.
Explore.  Dream.  Discover.   -Mark Twain

Noah

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2015, 07:55:52 AM »

Another pic: there is little leeway for placement of the radial drive wheel/quadrant on the exposed rudder stock due to location of idler wheels/pulleys and the need to keep steering cables horizontal and all in proper alignment. It is possible each boat could vary as to how much rudder stock is exposed verses buried in the fiberglass rudder tube but I wouldn't think there would be much leeway for adusting the height of radial drive wheel/quadrant a still have steering line up.
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ChrisOB

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #11 on: March 08, 2017, 09:42:26 PM »

Hello and my apologies for replying to an old thread, but the pics of Noah's install are relevant.  I am looking to install a below deck pilot.  I have the new ev-100 and after a year of using it I'd like something stronger.  I have confirmed I have the same clearance on my rudder post below my quadrant as Noah, and I am looking to install the Simrad HLD350 which I believe Noah has.  I already have all B&G triton instruments and a Zeus MFD/AP control head so the cost to do the Raymarine Linear drive and be able to use parts of my existing system is similar, but i prefer the simrad (keeping the ev-100 as a backup).   My question is specifically regarding the mounting shelf.  I have a shelf glassed in on the port side, mostly just used as storage but its pretty strong and lines up with the rudder post.  My idea is to reinforce that shelf and install the hydraulic arm there.  Does that sound feasible?  Does anyone else have that shelf?  I was also thinking I could use some of the stainless chainplate material I have on hand from another boat to tie it into the 4x4's under the deck (i have through bolted 6x2's coming aft of the 4x4's).  Many thanks for any help.
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Noah

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #12 on: March 08, 2017, 10:10:46 PM »

Chris: My mount is made out of marine plywood and West epoxy. It took some messing around to get it in the right position/angle/ throw distance for the ram, etc. I confess it got "stuck down" in the wrong place the first time (due to poor planning brain fade) and had to be cut off the hull and moved a few inches. I am not familiar with the shelf you are talking about, and whether it is OEM on older boats or a some PO's modification. Alignment and angle of the unit is pretty important so it may work mounting it there with some fiddling around or may be worth removing the shelf and starting from scratch. Photo of your set up may help understand your situation better. Your signature doesn't say where your boat is located. If close to San Diego you are welcome to by come by and poke around my boat and check it out. BTW-the other little "shelf" attached on my rudder post housing tube, supports the rudder angle indicator.
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ChrisOB

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #13 on: March 08, 2017, 10:40:24 PM »

Thanks for coming back Noah, i hoped your west coast time would work.  I am currently in New York but we are sailing for the Bahamas later this year.  i have photos but I am not sure how to load them or how helpful they'd be.  If the shelf on the port side isn't stock i don't think i can trust it anyway, there is a ton of torque on that unit.  My aft water tank shelf is sagging and some of the other carpentry back there is suspect so I think I want to take the tank out and re-do it all, and while i am at it glassing a shelf in will be a must have.  My wife and I are moving aboard and leaving our jobs here in NYC because, honestly, its not as great as people say.  The whole thing started when i saw my aft water tank sitting on the fiberglass tab behind the aft cabin wall, and then the back of the tak was sitting on a wood shelf that extended all the way to the front of the tank, leaving a 2" gap between the tank and the shelf.  upon poking/prodding, the shelf is suspect as is some of the other aft tank wood.  Your tank 'pan' looks fiberglass.  did you do that yourself?
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ChrisOB

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Re: below deck autopilot
« Reply #14 on: March 08, 2017, 11:21:36 PM »

Here are a few of them, mostly trying to show the 2 issues, the shelf on the Starboard side (i accidentally said port earlier).  #2 issue is the water tank not sitting on its shelf (it slid forward and hit the fake wall pretty hard last year making some bad noises).
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