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SV Dawn Treader's Adventures
Whiller Pilot R&D

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.
General specifications:
Power supply:
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)
Drive mechanism:
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
Current consumption:
•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)
Main features:
• 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...

SV Dawn Treader Upgrades
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Helm Steering Wheel

So, why does every job need 2 people?
Because when you are doing it solo, you have to crawl in and out of every space, go from down in the bilge to up on deck and back 2 million times.
Last night was a very windy night again here in the marina. 5 MPH gusts and about 16 MPH sustained. Found a leak, a water leak, blowing wind and rain type. Duct tape to the rescue till warmer drier times so I can fix it right. BTW, WD-40 is a GREAT way to remove tape residue and it cleans off nicely. You can use it on the labels on jars, or on the surface you just pulled the duct tape off of.
SO, back to the intended work of today...
Finally after 7 years of dealing with it, the steering wheel at the helm is straight. The King Spoke/Pin is straight up when the rudder is centered. It used to be off ¼ turn. Also if I haven't mentioned before, it takes 197-200 feet of ¼" nylon single braid line to wrap the wheel. Also, almost 3 hours of work.... It is a sweet feeling instead of the cold slippery stainless steel. Wait till it gets all grimy with fish guts, engine grime and and other things that a cruising boat is so cruddy with... It will clean nicely, I hope.

How things are working
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Generator Greens, NOT the Blues!!!!
Happy Sailor
12/14/2012, Puget Sound South

What a great day here in Partly Sunny Puget Sound.
Went and bought a new multi-meter, and a couple of other things. Back to the boat to work.
So I put eh multi-meter into operation and checked it for correct functionality. Good to go....
So now it is time. I ran the Genset and tested AC Voltages. Without a load, it rant at 119.7 - 120.2VAC, within tolerances. Under load of 1500W Hydronic AC Element, and charging batteries at approx 50 amps 12VDC from the MANGUN Energy charger, 116.3 - 117.1 VAC. SWEET!!!
I let it run for about an hour, and it seemed to me that it started really smoothing out and the variances in the output voltages were becoming smaller. I think it is really happy to be operating again, and I will definitely take good care of it from now on. Without the sound enclosure it is a bit noisier than before but with my plans for quieting the engine area compartment, it will be fine.
The water temp gage still is tweaking a little. No loose wire, but if jiggle the wires/connection, the gage tweaks, goes to full right, must be inside the gage. It is a VDO 2" analog gage. I will work on this issue soon.

How things are working
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Solo Cruising to Hope Island
Lone Wolf Jim
12/14/2012, Puget Sound South

Here is a picture of what my yard looked like at 9 am on Monday....
So I forgot to post that last weekend I went to Hope Island!
Left Sunday and motored without much of any issues. Used one of the autopilots and it did good enough. Mr Benmar is old and is very tired. Benmar autopilots like mine were phased out in the late 60 's...
So out at a mooring ball enjoying the 100o amp hour house bank, hydronic heat and good food and good company. The 3 of us had a few good conversation with no arguments of and size. We usually get along well enough, Me, Myself and I of course. Kind of like Tom Hank's movie, ... If I only had a soccor ball...
Tried the new radio, it worked pretty good, I have a lot more to learn about it.
The AIS system worked exceptionally well, and I saw the tugs many miles and over an hour away from me. They also saw me! BONUS, if they see me on their AIS, it is a much better chance they will not run me over!
Anyway, Monday I started back. I hung out in the middle of the large portion of the where the bays and inlets come together for a few hours trying the radio systems, the new autopilots and just chillin' out! Yep, that is what life is really about, at least to me.
So anyway, the weather was basically drizzle, overcast, and no wind. So my solar panels and wind generator were worthless. So I ran my motor a bit, had to since I didn't sail. Now guess what, no need to guess, because you are reading.
2 of the new fuel lines were leaking while I was on my way back! Guess they got how and needed to be tightened a bit more, should have done it then. Oh well, I guess I will get them on the next trip... Maybe this weekend!

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Generator Blues
Bumblin' Bob!
12/14/2012, In the depths of the Engine area

Let's take this from the beginning of the issue...
The previous owner had this Generator System installed and never really used it, he just started it for the time the boat sat in the marina without going anywhere. When I got the boat the system had 95 hours on it. It is a Northern Lights 5KW diesel generator. It has a Lugger engine. A real nice sound enclosure that makes it one of the quietest on the market back in the mid-1990s. Yep, top of the line, bullet proof and made to last forever. Well, it does have a couple of Achilles Heels.
So I ran it for about 308 hours. It is so nice having the 120VAC for charging batteries, since I never really had good ones before, and making hot water, before the hydronic system, and running the microwave and whatever else...
So, at about 250 hours of my time on it it developed a water leak. It was a salt water leak to bat. I tried to find where it was coming from. I thought it was the raw water [ump, replaced that at a mere $200 and.. Nope, not there, finally found it was a hose clamp from the heat exchanger. Finally, leak stopped. But wait, we're not done yet.
So there I go, running the generator as I need to and life was good again. Until I started seeing issues, like the erratic gauges, both the 12VDC and the 120VAC sides.
Oh boy, what now? Well, it appears that the design engineers of this system never thought that water would actually get to the side of the motor, the electrical connection plug to the 12VDC alternator and voltage regulator seems to be right downstream from any heat exchanger leaks...
Yep, burned plug, burned wires and part of a wire harness screwed! So, let's see, a new solid state voltage regulator, $350, wiring harness, $375... OK, I can rebuild the wiring harness. Looked at the voltage regulator and the wiring diagram... Do I go get a NAPPA special and give it a try or not?
Yep, BOAT, Bring On Another Thousand... OK, buy the $350 regulator. Lift the generator out of the hold. Do the work. Put it back down and mount it. I will move the regulator later... Now remember, the generator hasn't been run in a couple of years...
Yep, took a while to get the diesel into it. But the engine side got running, and started running very nicely, just like it used to and should. But wait, what about the 120VAC side? The main purpose for the generator is this, remember? Nope, not a bit of Electrons were showing themselves... So recheck all the connections, fuses and switches... Nope, they are all ok... Next step is to 'flash the fields' of the generator. OH, did I also mention that I can't find my real nice multi-meter? Yep, it has gone AWOL! Might have been that midnight run to help the son with his 'new' car. 1965 Corvair Monza Convertible. Sweet, show quality car...
So after flashing the fields, it shows some electricity. When I switch the path to the inverter/charger unit, it keeps trying to use it, but the voltage must not be high enough to do the job. If I had a multi-meter, I could adjust it. Well, too late to get one tonight, after all, tomorrow is another day....
The saga goes on...

How things are working
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Welcome to Rainatroplolis
Holy Moley is it RAINING!!!!
12/02/2012, DEAD CENTER!!!!

Didn't go sailing today...
Helped my son with his car. 1965 Chevy Corvair Monza Convertible. Sweet car, Corvair Club owners for many years and it is show ready.
It has been raining basically on and off and very heavy for a month or more. We have only had a couple of days of little accumulaton.
The winds are quite heavy too. Since I have so much freeboard, I like to have less wind when I am taking it in and out of the marina slip. Lots of nice boats here and I don't think they want my anchor inside their boat. After I am out of teh congestion, I am fine. It s kind of tight in here though. Caution saves a lot of heart ache and wallet problems.
So Maybe tomorrow!

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Dawn Treader's Crew
Who: Jim
Port: Olympia, Washington USA
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