Whiller Pilot R&D
28 January 2013
Here is the ‘Final’ version of the Whiller Pilot.
The RAYMARINE ST-2000 Tiller Pilot was the choice. Here are the specs of the Tiller Pilot per RAYMARINE’s website.
10 V to 15 V DC
Drive unit thrust torque:
ST1000 Plus: 57 kg (125 lb)
ST2000 Plus: 77 kg (170 lb)
Maximum boat displacement:
ST1000 Plus: 3 000 kg (6 600 lb)
ST2000 Plus: 4 500 kg (10 000 lb)
ST1000 Plus: lead-screw and nut drive
ST2000 Plus: re-circulating ball drive
Helm speed (lock to lock):
ST1000 Plus: 8 seconds
ST2000 Plus: 4.5 seconds
•Standby: 40 mA (90 mA with full lighting)
• Auto: 0.5 A to 1.5 A depending on boat trim, helm load and sailing conditions
Operating temperature: 0°C to +70°C (32°F to 158°F)
• 6 button digital keypad
• Backlit LCD display of heading, locked course and navigational information
• User calibration for optimum performance
• WindTrim control in WindTrim mode
• SeaTalk compatible
• Automatic compass deviation correction
• Northerly/Southerly heading compensation
• Automatic heading deadband – seastate control
• Automatic tack
• Built-in navigator interface (NMEA and SeaTalk)
• Waypoint advance feature
So now it is time for me to explain what the heck it is all about.
Having an Autopilot on board is like having a few extra crewmembers. The bonuses are the Autopilot doesn’t eat up all your food, use water taking showers and such, or drink all you ‘Special Beverages’ and most of all, never needs to sleep. So why doesn’t EVERYONE have one you ask? Well, for one thing, they aren’t really good at making decisions. Actually, they are kind of SEVERELY lacking in the ability to see anything in the water ahead, like logs, boats, and half sunk junk from Japan’s tsunami, or even LAND HO!! So they need to be guided every so often. But based on where you are, where you are going, how fast you are doing it, you still need to keep the proverbial ‘Watch’ on duty, not to mention it is REQUIRED BY LAW, but we will discuss that later. Electrical consumption you ask? Well I refer you to prior posts showing my electrical generation and storage methods. Reader’s Digest version is, MOOT ISSUE!
So where did I come up with this wild crazy idea you wonder…
I got the tiller pilot for use with my wind vane steering system. This would allow me to use the wind vane unit to steer to a compass course. But wait, if I can get the wind instruments bought and installed on the masthead it will steer to the wind when the wind is too little for the wind vane unit to steer by. This, by the way, is a problem with all wind vane units. Also, it can be connected to my ship’s computer to steer a course plotted by me on the charts. Then thoughts started coming to me….
I have sailed on a few boats that have a ‘Wheel Pilot’ on the helm. They are noisy, constantly moving the wheel thru a big belt around a geared hub attached to the wheel. A few of them have issues as they cannot provide much torque without screwing up the belts and becoming a waste of money and energy of the brain.
As you can see, this unit has 170 lbs of torque. Looking at my wheel, the hub to outside radius is 14 inches. This got me to thinking. Yep, smoke started coming from my ears. 14”? Well, hey, wait a minute, you had a 24” breaker bar and tried to remove nuts that were torque to 225 lbs… Yep, I know the inch and foot pound relationship, but that was not part of the thought process. Since I have sailed my boat in some pretty good wind and waves, I know about how much muscles it took to steer the boat. So I quickly jury rigged some electrical and came up with a position and drilled a hole in the seat on the port side of the cockpit. Now, I had to make an extension so that when the wheel was centered and the tiller pilot was centered, it could connect to… Oh yeah, a piece of TREX decking was the initial piece going across the wheel. I figured I could design a better connection point after I gave it a few tests.
So the testing began at the slip in the marina. Yep, it moved the wheel, not a lot, but a good amount, I hoped. Next it was out into the bay with drill and tools in hand. First thing was that while motoring the boat has a pull to the port, drilling a hole for tiller pilot being at center and the boat motoring straight. So, it works very well at low and high motoring speeds. GREAT!!!!
Up go the sails and the winds of course are only at about 8 knots with gusts to 10-12 knots. Darn! Well it works very well. Time to try the Automatic Tack feature... Hey, this thing moves about as slow as me tacking… GREAT!! I think I have something here. I am not in a hurry to tack anyway. I ain’t racing!
So I sailed from Olympia to Tacoma, using the ‘Whiller Pilot’, that is the name I gave it since it is a combo of the Tiller Pilot and Wheel Pilot concepts. It worked like a charm keeping the compass course the whole way. During the trip, I decided to test the system to see how much torque it had, and how much force it would put on the wheel. I grabbed a hold of the wheel, put my feet and hands on it and braced it to keep it from moving. Then I hit the Auto Tack function. This makes the boat turn 110 degrees the opposite direction toward where the wind is coming from. Well, besides getting a real beating from it, it broke the ¾” thick wood seat the mounting pin was in, and the TREX. WOW! That works for me! I have ¼” quick release pins on both points of the wheel and the tiller pilot rod extension. A slight amount of counter pressure from me, and I can remove the pin. Also, just pulling the wheel end pin I can rotate it out of the way and it will store right on top of the cockpit seat back. Out of the way, ready on a moment’s notice.
I also have a ‘FOB’ for the tiller pilot that makes it possible to control it wirelessly from anywhere on my boat. I have it and my wireless hand microphone for my VHF radio attached to my inflatable PFD with integral harness. I need to get the interface for the computer and the wind instruments system for the masthead. I will then have the wind vane system that I designed, the OLD, 1960’s technology Benmar Autopilot system that still works and the ‘Whiller Pilot’ to keep me on course and rested.
Life is good, wonder what the rich folk are doing...