For any passage making boat or yacht, an autopilot is a necessity. The thrill of steering a boat on the open ocean is quickly diminished when one realises how tiring it is especially if there are many more hours ahead. An autopilot gives you the ability to accurately navigate to a point without having to touch the helm. In many ways an autopilot, especially if fitted with a rate gyro compass and interfaced with a chartplotter, can out steer and navigate a straighter course than even the most seasoned skipper (and it doesn’t get hungry or thirsty!!).
Autopilots comprise of several main components:
When selecting an autopilot you first need to select your drive unit to suit the steering mechanism of the boat. Secondly, select a course computer/corepack. This is sized to the boats size and weight. The key point here is not to undersize a system for when the seas are rough, you do not want the system struggling and or worse, failing. The final step is to select a head unit to drive the system.
You quickly realise how useful an autopilot is when correctly sized and installed.