Installing Hydraulic steering

Dec 28, 2010
Catalina 380 san pedro
Our current new to us boat is a Catalina 380. It came with an older Autohelm autopilot mounted on the pedestal. It needs a lot of work and the display no longer is functioning properly. We are outfitting the boat and doing my due diligence research I find that although my boat weighs almost 20,000 lbs this autopilot is only rated for a maximum of 17,500. Obviously this is why it struggles in a following sea or when close hauled, sometimes to the point of rounding up into the wind helplessly. I am aware that the belt etc could be a problem but here is my question:
We are going to install a new autopilot, I would like to upgrade to a hydraulic system. I am quite mechanically and electrically inclined. Is this something that I will regret trying to do myself or should I hire a professional ( be as it may be difficult to find someone who knows how)?
Oct 22, 2014
CAL 35 Cruiser moored EVERETT WA
I decided on a wheel Raymarine autopilot. I am on the lower side of the displacement threshold so I decided to try the wheel system. The system is still in test so can not provide a review. When I examined the hydraulic systems the are 2.5 times the cost and a bit more technical to install, but I was not discouraged from attempting it. You will need the room to do the install. You will also require a rudder indicator. The hydraulic systems use more power so a stout battery system is needed. I believe MaineSail has developed some articles about the install so I would check his website ( There were several YouTube videos and plenty of website reading material. Your 20K displacement would overwhelm the small designed system.

Let us know how it goes.

Rick D

Jun 14, 2008
Hunter Legend 40.5 Shoreline Marina Long Beach CA
I'm sure there are much more common below deck electric-drive installations on the 380, but owners will weigh in on that. Clearly, the wheel pilot is way under-sized. The Hunters of my size and vintage usually used a rotary drive in the steering pedestal. However, FYI, I did sail 1500 miles in a ketch with a new-at-the-time B&G hydraulic AP. The thing was so noisy it was impossible to sleep in the aft cabin. Just something to ask about in your due diligence.
May 20, 2016
Catalina 36 MK1 94 Everett, WA
I installed the RayMarine Evolution with a linear drive on my Catalina 36 - couldn't be happier - it is rated for up to 24,000 lb - One benefit is that if your normal steering fails - it provides a second tiller and drive to the rudder - I have wrote a piece for the on how I installed it.
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Nov 12, 2012
Hunter 34 Portsmouth
I have a raymarine computer that would work for you if you go the hydraulic steering route. It is the wrong one for my boat and I would trade it for the right (cheaper) one and an appropriate rudder reference unit. I have the flux gate compass installed on my boat and a chart plotter display with the autopilot controls, so with the right computer and a rudder reference unit I can have the chartplotter and auto pilot function by slaving an old autopilot motor to the computer.
Dec 28, 2010
Catalina 380 san pedro
It looks like the best option for me is to install a linear actuated electric below deck autopilot. I'm leaning towards Raymarine due to availability and such. I'm going to do some further research but I appreciate any and all input.