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Below Deck Autopilot


Oct 22, 2014
14,261
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
When the wind gets above 10 knots the load builds up and the belt slips. ...... but that doesn't solve the underlaying problem.
The Underlying problem, as I read your statement, is that the wheel pilot is becoming overwhelmed as the wind increases.

I agree with this evaluation. The wheel pilot depends on a balanced boat and struggles when a lot of hydrodynamic forces being applied to the rudder (think wave action pushing the rudder and the boat about) conspire against the AP.

As the wind picks up the forces that the pilot is designed to control become a complex problem.
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Your velocity increases, the hydro forces from waves/boat hull design, water currents and waves, plus the unbalanced sails all conspire to disrupt the steering of your boat.

We often focus on the issues easy to observe, like the size of the motor or the slippage of a belt. As the forces start to overwhelm the AP it is smart to personally take control.

You will increase the margins of AP performance by installing a beneath the deck linear or hydraulic AP. The under deck systems are stronger and more rigid in design. It is essential to recognize that these designs are more intrusive, being attached/bolted on/connected to your steering system. As such, should they break, they may disable your steering system.

It is a conservative action to take out your emergency tiller and test it on your boat before you place all your trust in your below deck AP system.

When the new system takes control, you will still need to balance the boat as the wind increases.
 
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KZW

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May 17, 2014
735
Catalina 310 #307 Bluewater Bay, FL
No drag on the wheel. Steering is light and easy. I tighten the band until when you release the lever, there is very light drag from the belt during manual control wheel.
 
Oct 22, 2014
14,261
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
KZW. That is about the correct method. There really should be no drag by the belt on the wheel. That is how you protect the wear and breakage of the rollers inside the wheel controller of the new Raymarine or the old Autohelm units. It think the older Autohelm units had stronger fittings for the rollers. The new Raymarine units are all plastic, which saves weight and cost.

An important discover I recently made was the need to clean out the inside of the wheel unit and to lightly lube the roller under the belt of the "eccentric" gear. Doing this really improved the operation of my Wheel AP.

Another improvement on my unit was to acquire a replacement clutch lever from a fellow in Canada. He 3D prints the units in a stronger plastic than I received from Raymarine. It also correctly sits over the locking nub on the wheel unit.
 

KZW

.
May 17, 2014
735
Catalina 310 #307 Bluewater Bay, FL
BTW, I have a Raymarine ST 4000. The person who designed those plastic mounts for the little wheels should be clubbed with a baseball bat.
 
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Mar 6, 2008
299
Catalina 310 Scott Creek, VA
What is your normal sail plan in 10 kts when it starts acting up? does this happen upwind and down? I also have the ST4000 and it handles quite well if the winds are under 20 and the helm is relatively balanced prior to engaging. I have the wing keel and generally throw in the first reef around 15 if the admiral if on board with a 155 jib. I switch out to the 135 if a passage is expected to be windy, as the shape is much better than rolling the 155, buit the 155 is generally up all summer on the Chesapeake.
 
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Nov 18, 2010
2,428
Catalina 310 Hingham, MA
Sorry for the late weigh in.

I have had an ST4000 and a new Raymarine Autopilot (EV-200 in case we decide to go below deck with a wheel pilot) on our 2001 C310. We had about 10-12K nm on the ST4000 before the board fried on the head unit thanks to Irma. We have about 5K nm on the new unit. Our experience seems to be different from some on this thread.

We found the ST4000 ok in most conditions. It struggled in large follow or quartering seas(+8 feet) the most. If you are struggling upwind that is most likely you are not balanced or sheeted correctly. As Mainesail has written many times the biggest issue with the wheel pilots is the rudder sensor being optional. You have to add the rudder sensor before you can have any valid opinions on the unit. It was decent but we wanted something more robust when we were forced to upgrade. We routinely sailed in 25+ knots of wind and 10 foot seas with this unit. Ut handled easting to the Caribbean Sea.

We installed the EV-200 computer so that we could add a below deck pilot if we felt it was necessary. We have had it in 35+ knots of steady wind with gusts of 45 kts and 10-12 foot breaking seas. It held the coarse for over 120 nm in those conditions going to windward. The only time I have disengage the autopilot was when a squall hit us unexpectedly with the full mainsail out and gusts over 60 kts. I had to tack and forerun under that mainsail for about 45 minutes and didn't trust it to not roundup coming off some waves. Other than that an autopilot steers and tacks my boat 95% of the time.

Just my thoughts.
 
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Aug 21, 2019
84
Catalina 315 Grosse Pointe Park, MI
JK writes "You have to add the rudder sensor before you can have any valid opinions on the unit. "

You would have to be able to directly compare the performance of the unit with and without a rudder sensor under similar conditions to even know if a rudder sensor would be helpful or not. So far, I have heard nothing from anyone who has actually had this experience. We do hear from "experts" who read lots of sailing magazines or who make money selling goods and services to boaters. I remain skeptical. It is interesting that JK also finds that the Raymarine Autopilot struggles with following seas on his boat, presumably with a rudder sensor. This exactly the same issue I have with mine, without a rudder sensor. My experience confirms his comment that upwind sail balance makes a huge difference.

I did contact Raymarine some time ago with the following question:

"My 31' Catalina 315 sailboat has a factory installed wheel driven EV-100 autopilot system. It works pretty well in flat water. But, I find that it struggles and loses the course when there are significant waves that hit my boat. This is especially a problem when waves are striking my rear quarter. These are conditions that are difficult to hand steer the boat as well. Would the addition of a rudder sensor improve this performance?"

The answer I received from Raymarine was:

"Our experience is that the autopilot will have better performance with a rudder ref, especially when the wind hit you from behind, but we can't guarantee that it will do."

This answer did not make me want to run out and buy one.
 
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Sep 29, 2008
1,856
Catalina 310 #185 Quantico
Another improvement on my unit was to acquire a replacement clutch lever from a fellow in Canada. He 3D prints the units in a stronger plastic than I received from Raymarine. It also correctly sits over the locking nub on the wheel unit.
I did not buy from that guy, but he is pretty awesome. I have a broken outer cover and that black ring inside was broken and they were too big for him to 3D print:confused:. But the way he responded and interacted with me, and all the comments I have heard like yours make him sound like someone we want to support if possible:wow3:. You can do a lot with 3D printing.

I have the ST1 with the rudder sensor as it came with it. For the most part I like it a lot and in waves on the rear quarter I find it can also be problematic, but it can also be interesting hand steering in those conditions. I think you need to look at the AP as an extra hand so you can get a break, but you should always be ready to take over as it will most likely never be better than you in all conditions (I do have to admit under sail more it is many times better than me :what:).
 
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Jan 13, 2021
18
Catalina 315 75 San Diego
We heard back from our dealer that Catalina said they can install the Garmin below deck autopilot. We are not clear why this took so long but perhaps it is because they are not as familiar with Garmin as Raymarine. We were told this is the first time they have offered a Garmin option. Regardless thanks to everyone for their feedback. Great bunch of 310 and 315 owners.
 
Jan 13, 2021
18
Catalina 315 75 San Diego
I have a new 315, hull #74, at the dealer in CT, getting ready for the spring. The dealer offered Raymarine and Garmin, both wheel and below deck. I decided on Garmin for all my electronics, and went with the below deck autopilot Reactor 40. From my research, the below deck is a bit overkill for the 315, but I would rather go that way than the other. It was like twice the price of the Raymarine wheel pilot. I know at least some of the install was done by the dealer - I'm not totally clear what Catalina installed versus the dealer. But, to answer your question, yes there is plenty of room below deck to install it. These pictures are looking down into the area behind the cockpit in front of the transom, looking at the space between the transom and the rear cabin bulkhead.
We finally heard from the dealer that the factory can install the Garmin below deck autopilot. Not sure what the "hiccup" was but your information and photos were very helpful. Enjoy your new boat when spring arrives. We are hoping for an early March delivery.
 
Aug 21, 2019
84
Catalina 315 Grosse Pointe Park, MI
Those of you who are getting new C315s with below decks autopilots, I hope you will give us the benefit of your experience with them after next season. I would especially like to get an idea of how the below decks autopilot handles following seas when hand steering is difficult.
 
Jan 13, 2021
18
Catalina 315 75 San Diego
We are hoping for delivery of our 315 in early March to San Diego. The factory confirmed they will be able to install the Garmin below deck autopilot. We will be happy to report back on handling on following seas.
 
Jan 23, 2021
3
Catalina 30 Newport Beach
Congratulations and happy sailing in your new 315.

It is interesting to note that the 2021 price list from Catalina states, "Garmin Autopilot not available on 315." The 2020 price list had "Garmin Rector 40 Mechcl/Solenoid Corepack w/Class B Drive Autopilot." I wonder what changed? So you may have the only one!
 
Jan 13, 2021
18
Catalina 315 75 San Diego
Good question! We don't have the boat yet so . . . we keep wondering if we'll get a call that they can't do the install.
 
Sep 6, 2020
18
Catalina 315 74 Barrington, RI
My 315, #74, was delivered to the dealer in CT this past December. Like @senechals there was confusion with the ordering of it - several back and forths between the dealer and Catalina. Yet I've now seen it, and the Garmin below deck autopilot is installed. When it arrived at the dealer in December, I saw no sign of the autopilot, neither the controllers nor the physical connections. So much of it (if not all of it) was installed at the dealer, as I have pictures when it arrived, and then more recent ones with it installed. Seems Catalina and/or their dealer network doesn't have their act together on this. Not sure why: maybe political (Garmin vs Raymarine), maybe technical, maybe business/money. I can't say, except that I paid a bunch extra for it compared to the Raymarine wheel pilot, so I sure hope it works. It's snowing here now, but I'd be happy to report back in a few months!
 
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Sep 29, 2008
1,856
Catalina 310 #185 Quantico
I expect an autopilot as well as most electronic is custom and better done at the dealer.
 
Jan 18, 2016
538
Catalina 387 Dana Point
Glad to hear the below-deck fits in the 315. I would have guessed as much.

One thing not mentioned (that I've seen) is the below deck pilot is way quieter than the wheelpilot. I had a wheelpilot on my C-30, below deck on my C-387, and the difference in sound is amazing. (The below deck also works better, in all conditions, and has a angle-to-wind feature that's kinda handy)
 
Aug 21, 2019
84
Catalina 315 Grosse Pointe Park, MI
Glad to hear the below-deck fits in the 315. I would have guessed as much.

One thing not mentioned (that I've seen) is the below deck pilot is way quieter than the wheelpilot. I had a wheelpilot on my C-30, below deck on my C-387, and the difference in sound is amazing. (The below deck also works better, in all conditions, and has a angle-to-wind feature that's kinda handy)
Oh gosh, I have to say, not having that wheel pilot whine would be huge plus.