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A Tale of Tiller Pilots

Raymarine SIMRAD tiller pilot auto helm autohelm ST1000 ST2000 TP 1000 TP 2000 TP10

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#1 Ajax

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:14 PM

Help me out with this one guys:

I have the opportunity to buy an older, "Raymarine Autohelm 1000 Micro" for cheap. I've tested it, and it works perfectly. The case is in good shape. I've had good luck with these units in the past. I had an Autohelm 800 on my Coronado 25 and loved it. I'm trying to determine if the 1000 Micro is strong enough to steer my boat. Here are the facts:

My boat = 30' LOA, 9,000lbs. fully loaded.

The newer Raymarine ST1000 is only rated for 6,600 lbs.
The newer Raymarine ST2000 is rated for up to 10,000 lbs.

Howeverrrrrrrrrrrr:
The older, Raymarine Autohelm 1000 Micro installation/operator's manual only states that this unit is rated for yachts up to 34 feet. No displacement limit is given.
The older Raymarine Autohelm 2000 manual states that this unit is rated for yachts up to 43 feet. No displacement limit is given.

See the manuals for obsolete tiller pilots here: http://www.raymarine...k/view/?id=1836

Given the fact that during the era when these older units were developed, it's reasonable to assume that a 34 foot yacht could displace as much as 10,000 lbs.
The Pearson 30 is a well-balanced boat, and I know how to trim the sails to give the tiller a light touch to reduce the loads on the tiller pilot. I'm not trying to cross the Atlantic, but I do want this unit to occasionally assist me during my sailing on the Chesapeake.

Bottom line:
Do you think this unit is adequate for that task?

#2 jameswilson29

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:19 PM

The ST1000 works fine on my Pearson 28 at 7,850 displacement in most conditions.

#3 Ajax

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:31 PM

The ST1000 works fine on my Pearson 28 at 7,850 displacement in most conditions.


That's good to know.

Friggin' Raymarine has shuffled model numbers around over the years, so not all 1000-series pilots are created equally. They eliminated the 800, and gave the new ST1000 a broader operating range, but back when the 1000 Micro was made, you had a choice of 800, 1000, and 2000. Then, just to make things more fun, their manuals rate them by LOA instead of displacement.

Grrrrrrr.

#4 Innocent Bystander

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:32 PM

How cheap is cheap? Is it enough to steer while you motor, set and strike sails or are you looking for it to drive under spinnaker? I have found the older Autohelms were somewhat optimistic on capability if just applied to an LOA criteria. The basic flux gate "null seeker" doesn't do any predictive steering nor does it recognize yaw rate. It just inputs a bit of helm and waits to see what happens.

Really depends on what you want it to do. My 22K # 42 was delivered with an AH4000 WP that the original owner liked just fine. For me, it barely sufficed under power on a calm day and my cat could steer better under sail. Going to a below decks ram with rate gyros and a decent processor that can handle a powered up reach under spinnaker is a huge improvement.

For basic steering under power and as a "third hand" for setting and striking sails, it's probably fine. If it can drive on a reach while you make a head call or grab a refreshing beverage, even better.

#5 hard aground

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:32 PM

Yeah Ajax, it will be fine. Just remember to keep your expectations reasonable. The only thing to be concerned about is how worn the inside bits you can't see are. Personally I've had the joy of having an older autohelm start making bad noises and not steering well. Luckily I did have an older "parts" 'helm in the bin and was able to resuscitate.

#6 Ajax

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:43 PM

Cheap= $100, maybe $150.00. (I'm on a budget)

Yes all I need it to do, is keep me head-to-wind while I set/strike the main, and steer while I make a sammich or pee. That's all I ever asked my AH800 to do, and it was great.

I've looked for used SIMRAD TP22's and ST2000's online and at Bacon's and have had no luck. The supply is very limited, and the prices are near enough to new, that I would just buy a new one. This is the first one I've found in ages that I can afford, that might do the job.

#7 Innocent Bystander

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 12:47 PM

Cheap= $100, maybe $150.00. (I'm on a budget)

Yes all I need it to do, is keep me head-to-wind while I set/strike the main, and steer while I make a sammich or pee. That's all I ever asked my AH800 to do, and it was great.

I've looked for used SIMRAD TP22's and ST2000's online and at Bacon's and have had no luck. The supply is very limited, and the prices are near enough to new, that I would just buy a new one. This is the first one I've found in ages that I can afford, that might do the job.


For that price, do it.

#8 froggie

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:30 PM

Ajax -
For that price, I'd do it.
If it doesn't work well enough you can sell it next spring and get your money back. (That's assuming that you don't get mad at it and deep six it.)

#9 Bob Perry

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:39 PM

Not sure I'd pay much attention to displacement figuring helm loads. Rudder area and boat speed do are more important. I think using displ is just a rough gauge.

#10 Ishmael

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:53 PM

We had a Autohelm tiller pilot on our 29 that was so old it didn't have numbers. It creaked and groaned a lot, especially when there was a lot of pressure, but for all the important stuff (pee break, lunch break, beer break) it worked fine. Bob's absolutely right that displacement is just a guideline. I favour the 2000 over the 1000 primarily for the response speed, if the boat is well-balanced you could drive a 50'er with the 1000.

#11 Ajax

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 02:54 PM

Hm, good point Bob. I don't know my rudder surface area, but it's that scimitar-shaped thing, and boat speed could be figured at 7.2 kts. I dunno if anything can be gleaned from this sketch... I'll also say that the rudder is quite thick.

http://sailboatdata....p?class_id=1276

#12 Joli

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:02 PM

As long as the helm is light the pilot will do fine. If the helm loads up it will still steer but will take some time to bring you back to course.

We've used tiller pilots on some of our other boats, they were always welcome crew espcially during deliveries or racing double handed.

#13 Beau.Vrolyk

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:02 PM

Ajax, I'm with Bob, I don't think displacement is helpful when sizing an autopilot. What would be much more useful is to guess at how many pounds of pull you're putting on the tiller when you move it at the rate required to sail the boat well. Get a fish scale and pull on the tiller. Or guess, you'll be close. Also, if it's a tiller pilot, the force that's required is a function of how far out along the tiller you mount it, obviously. That will slow down how fast it can turn the boat and make the tiller pilot less responsive in big waves, but it could allow you to use a much smaller tiller pilot. For some boats, fast response from the autopilot just isn't required. By using a mounting point farther away from the rudder post you can get away with a much smaller auto pilot and you'll use less power.

There is such a massive difference in the power required based on the different rudder types that I just don't think length and displacement are at all helpful. For example, when Stan Honey got the new rudder developed for the Cal-40 the force it took to turn the boat dropped by over 50%! That's because there is a lot more of the rudder ahead of the rudder post (it's more "balanced"). The length of the boat and the displacement didn't change.

If I remember correctly, your rudder is on the end of the keel. So, it will take a lot more force than a balanced spade, as would a skeg mounted rudder. As a result, you'd want a stronger autopilot than a similarly size boat with a spade. But, your boat may be a lot more stable, meaning it doesn't need as much steering, so you could use a slower auto pilot - see longer tiller above.

BV

#14 Bob Perry

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:03 PM

Ajax:
Rudder loads go up with the square of the boat speed. So calculating your rudder load it makes a huge difference if you use 7.5 knots or 6.5 knots. Rudder thickness doesn't play a roll in the calculation.
Your spade/scimitar rudder has no appreciable balance area so it could see some heavy loads. I also think that if I were designing a rudder stock for your boat I'd use 10 knots as max speed. But you know the boat. Is the helm light or heavy at times?

#15 Ajax

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:18 PM

Bob-

In even moderately strong breezes, I can trim the sails so that the tiller only requires a very light touch. If I get inattentive to sail trim, the weather helm can be quite strong. Stickboy can also attest that the P30 can be trimmed to nearly sail itself (if you're not moving all around the boat). If the boat had a typically heavy helm, I wouldn't even be considering this unit.

#16 Great White

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 03:53 PM

I have owned two Tiller Pilots, the Autohelm 1000(analouge) and the ST1000 when I had a 30ft half tonner that disp 7400#. Both did a good job, but my needs were more for motoring long distances. But, I could get them both to sail the boat at times. The ST 1000 did a better job.

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#17 stickboy

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Posted 24 October 2012 - 11:47 PM

Most of the time under sail I can helm the P30 with the traction of my fingerprint on the tiller.

My only concern about the load on this tiller pilot would be that the tiller loads up a little under power, off the top of my head I think the boat wants to turn to port under power. But the boat tracks pretty well so there isn't a lot of big adjustments under power.

If you're just thinking about powering, setting and dousing sail you should be fine. If you're under sail you should be helming anyway :)

#18 Ajax

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 12:48 AM

Well, I bought it tonight, so I'll let you know how it works out. If it doesn't have the juice, I'll sell it I guess, and hope I recoup my money.

#19 olaf hart

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Posted 25 October 2012 - 01:47 AM

Just remember to use a rope or something to limit rudder movement, or the shaft will unscrew itself.

#20 Hike, Bitches!

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Posted 30 October 2012 - 11:48 PM

Ajax, There was an St2000 on Craigslist from a guy that worked in the Annapolis area. He wanted $300. A little steep since a NIB is $450. but I considered it, and I talked to him a bit about it. The circumstances did not work out for me to pick it up, however. The circumstances may have been better if the unit was a bit cheaper.

I mostly want an autopilot to hold the tiller straight for a pee or beverage refresh..oh yeah, and taking a sail down.. Stickboy is correct..the direct drive A-4 drives the boat to port with a relative vengeance under power, so it is difficult to leave them helm for more than a few seconds unless you have some sort of rig to hold the tiller sorta straight..Those hot as crap days under power it will be nice to get out of the sun for 3 minutes while the tiller pilot takes the load for a bit. B)

#21 Ajax

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 12:42 AM

Hey Mr. Bitches,

Glad to see you after the storm. I hope all is well with TA and the home.

#22 Diarmuid

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 01:16 AM

I've looked for used SIMRAD TP22's and ST2000's online and at Bacon's and have had no luck. The supply is very limited, and the prices are near enough to new, that I would just buy a new one. This is the first one I've found in ages that I can afford, that might do the job.


Dingdingding. It is amazing how few used TPs are on the market, how high they are priced, and how fast they sell. Esp. since most of them aren't supported by the manufacturer anymore.

When we were hunting them a couple years back, even very old models were asking (and apparently getting) $250 on CL or eBay. I finally got tired of that game & waited for Defender's Spring Sale; in conjunction with a $50 rebate from Simrad, we got the price down to $300 on a new TP10. With warranty, and factory support.

Why an object that: a) has improved markedly with the years, and bee) tends to break a lot, should retain value like fine Scotch, I do not know. Must be the high buy-in for new ones that has everybody scrambling to save $50 by scrounging. Suggests to me that if anyone could build a reliable $250 tillerpilot, the world would beat a path to their door.

#23 Ajax

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 01:21 AM

Yep. If I hadn't scored this one so cheaply, I would have bought a new one. I'd never pay close to new price when for a few dollars more, I could get the warranty, etc. This was more than just a few dollars' savings though, and I was given the chance to examine it thoroughly before committing. :)

#24 Moonduster

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 02:29 AM

If you're only concerned about using the pilot to hold the boat head-to-wind then you should be in fine shape.

Holding head-to-wind, you'll have the engine running and the prop wash will be directly over the rudder. The helm ought to be mostly neutral and the prop wash effect will make the helm remarkably responsive provided you keep a bit of throttle on.

Should work like a champ.

For what it's worth, all those displacement and LOA advertising schemes are utter crap. The pilot has no idea how long your boat is or what it displaces. The only real numbers to pay attention to are stall force of the pilot and hard-over times at about half load. Most manufacturers won't quote those, but they aren't hard to compute from the specs of the DC motor in the pilot and a stop watch.

Good luck!

#25 SiempreSabado

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 02:01 PM

Looks like it's all been said but here's my 2 pesos worth anyway. We used an Autohelm 800 quite successfully on our 13,500 lb. Westsail 28 which is loaded down for cruising. The W28 has a huge rudder. Used the tillerpilot successfully until y bad wire routing allowed the RF from the SSB to fry it. We now use a Simrad TP22 which works just as well as the AH did.

#26 Ajax

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Posted 31 October 2012 - 02:26 PM

Wow, this certainly leaves a lot of room for interpretation in vendor recommendations, just as you guys have said.

#27 Hike, Bitches!

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Posted 06 November 2012 - 12:50 AM

Ajax, Roger that thanks. Last time at the boat was Tuesday afternoon during the super high tide...Dock was under water...boat was floating and I could see bottom paint and the lines were not taught. I need to get back to her soon. House good as well..One tree top broke off that I need to cut up..I doubt it will burn up the gas in the chain saw that i splashed in there to make sure it would run...cannot complain. Glad to see you fared Ok as well. B)





Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: Raymarine, SIMRAD, tiller pilot, auto helm, autohelm, ST1000, ST2000, TP 1000, TP 2000, TP10

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