Anyone using the PCNautic autopilot?

Gigantasy

Front Row Himbo
53
36
Oakland
I'm looking into installing an autopilot into my Soverel 33 and have stumbled across this option by a Dutch company called PCNautic's. The price is right, they seem to be using the same actuator as Pelagic but using a slightly smarter controller (and measuring rudder angle). Does anyone have any experience with these? Are they legit or too good to be true? Any info would be much appreciated.
 

caius

New member
28
7
London
I’m using their actuator with a Raymarine autopilot and it works well including the rudder reference. I’ve not tried their autopilot controller though. It is an implementation of the open source pypilot as far as I’m aware so that might give you something more to look at.

As far as the company goes, no complaints. They were helpful when contacting them and there were no issues with delivery to the UK.
 

caius

New member
28
7
London
Both the Pelagic and PCNautic ones are rebadged Wuxi Hongba actuators, which are available in a variety of configurations, with and without position references. PCNautic include some bits and pieces to make it a drop in replacement. Not sure what Pelagic do.

You can order them direct from China at a lower cost, but usually only in quantities of 8 or so and you'd have to make up your own mounting bracket for it etc.
 

Gigantasy

Front Row Himbo
53
36
Oakland
Right, the actuator being the same as Pelagic’s is what drew me to the PCNautic system since it looks as though if I ever want to upgrade to a more sophisticated autopilot brain it’s a fairly straightforward affair.

@caius I’ve done some PyPilot research since you posted and that definitely goes a long way towards explaining the price. That said, it looks like a totally fine solution—at least for my purposes (Shorthanded SF Bay sailing).
 

caius

New member
28
7
London
It seems an interesting system. By all accounts it seems to work reasonably well - one advantage of it being open source is that you can see exactly how it works, and you are free to modify it and experiment as you see fit. I don't know what development PCNautic have done on the controller hardware, but I would assume they are fairly confident in it to sell it as a complete product. Certainly the actuator is up to the job and seems very sturdy so far. I suppose there is an element of risk in using what is a somewhat experimental system, as it won't be as polished as a commercially produced system, but the functionality seems to be there and the price is suitably competitive. You could of course reduce that somewhat by putting together your own hardware solution, but there is some value in someone already having done the legwork for it.
 

sbkenn

New member
4
1
I'm looking into installing an autopilot into my Soverel 33 and have stumbled across this option by a Dutch company called PCNautic's. The price is right, they seem to be using the same actuator as Pelagic but using a slightly smarter controller (and measuring rudder angle). Does anyone have any experience with these? Are they legit or too good to be true? Any info would be much appreciated.
Depending on your boat and circumstances, jackscrews for hospital beds might be good as the actuator.
 

Gigantasy

Front Row Himbo
53
36
Oakland
Mini update: box came in the mail on Monday, I installed it on Tuesday, and took it for a calibration sail this evening. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing but the compass was bang on my heading and steered the boat while I did some spinnaker practice with one of my crew. So far so good.
 

Gigantasy

Front Row Himbo
53
36
Oakland
Another update: After installing and troubleshooting the back-end of the system and logging a few hours shorthanding with non-sailing friends out in SF Bay where I was forced to rely heavily on the autopilot, I can say I'm extremely happy with the system. Conditions were pretty light for the Bay but we got into a situation where the wind went from ~5kts to ~12kts very abruptly and the PCNautic didn't have any issues holding course or the change in helm weight as we made trim adjustments to de-load the helm. Also, it was able to hold a wing-and-wing heading completely without issue.

That said, local wifi-based webpage used as a remote has some significant input lag and does not give you sufficient feedback when you try and adjust course by pressing a "button" on the page, I don't really see how this could be improved. The compass/head-unit is much better for that. This is also a bit of an issue for the gain calibration page... essentially, tiny little adjustments are not great and I was spending more time than I would like fiddling with my phone to get things set correctly.

I've still got a bit of dialing in to do, especially with respect to connecting the ram arm to the tiller, but I'm reasonably sure that's a me problem rather than a product problem. In all, I'm quite happy with it so far.

Also worth noting: it looks like PCNautic raised its price and is now 845 Euro before shipping, not quite the screaming deal at sub 700 Euro (for non-VAT payers), but still more than a hundred bucks cheaper than Pelagic's system.
 




Top