Most non-obsessed owners put their boats away over the winter. From the fall to a reasonable point in the spring (mid-April?) the boats are covered, stuffed in a boat yard somewhere and remain untouched. The better heeled crowd may have their boat stored inside at reputable yard where pros may be doing larger projects.
For me working on the boat is therapy year round so no reason to stop when others head for Florida or the ski slopes. I am lucky because I have the boat stored on my property (actually my driveway), I live in a town where this is allowed and acceptable (I am sure some of my neighbors are like WTF) and my wife lets me keep it there. Also, I can do it because I drive a car with a low roofline and have a boat with nice bow overhang. So the car goes under the boat about six feet, fitting like two puzzle pieces.
The boat stays plugged in with the battery charger on float and a few small space heaters are at the ready for when a project starts calling. Yes, you do get strange looks from the neighbors when they see you on the ladder climbing in during a snow storm.
Using the heaters I can get the cabin warmed up for general work. I have also done some epoxy/glass work by keeping one of the heaters focused on the work area until the epoxy is completely set (10-12 hours).
Today was a good example. Relaxing Saturday – I wanted to get a few hours in on the autopilot project. Patagonia thermals under the work pants, thermal socks and heavy hoodie pulled over a winter hat. Put a heater down in the aft lazarette and I am ready to go.
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Calypso (the Sabre 36′) came with a 20 year Raymarine ST4000 wheel pilot. The best it could it do is steer a “snake wake” average heading in flat calm conditions while motoring. Any helm pressure would just cause the thing to struggle. It was never installed well to begin with. The compass was installed on the rear bulkhead behind the helm when it should be installed near the center of motion. I believe it also really needs a rudder reference sensor.
I am in process of ditching the thing and installing a below decks system with linear drive, computer, rudder sensor, etc. This should be able to steer the boat under all in all but the most extreme conditions. It is a significant undertaking both in terms of time and cost but there are many reasons to have such a system:
1. Stress free single handing or shorthanded sailing. I like to sail with my child, wife and others who could who may not be able to take the helm incase my attention is needed elsewhere.
2. We like to do overnight deliveries to cruising grounds (Maine, South Coast, etc.) and it really helps to have a good autopilot at night when it can be harder to hand steer.
3. Also if there is inclement weather can duck under the dodger while the boat steers itself.
As of today I have started moving out of the planning stage and into the building stage. I have acquired the following pieces of kit:
Edson Tiller Arm
Raymarine Linear Drive
Simrad AP components including AC12, AP42, RF25, RC42
Bunch of NMEA2000 Micro-C stuff to hook everything into my existing network. I spent about a week measuring and test fitting various things. Next post we will start to get into details.
One fine piece of bronze
Below Decks Autopilot DIY Part 2 (of many)
Welcome to my blog. I have been working in IT for over 20 years. During this time I have seen the internet happen. I have benefitted in countless ways from information garnered on the net. This includes tons of stuff that has helped me professionally and in my personal pursuits. This blog is a little space so I can give something back about something I am highly passionate about: boats. More specifically sailboats. I have owned five boats (so far) and maintained all of them in a DIY style. During ownership of my first boat (1993-1995), a 63′ Pearson Triton, I did call in in the pros a few times but if I knew then what I know now it wouldn’t have been necessary.
This blog will cover some interesting projects, sailing stuff or ask me anything. My current boat is a Sabre 36′ which I have a deep affection for. Anyway, on to the good stuff.