Auto-pilots and Wind-vanes:



As the O-38 has been sailed extensively across oceans the issue of auto-pilots and self-steering devices had been raised.

Wind vanes have the true advantage that they do not need electric power which makes them ideal for ocean crossings. Scanmar and Windpilot are two brands to be mentioned here with experiences on the Ohlson.

Electric autopilots:

Tiller vs quadrant: A number of people assume that because a boat is tiller-steered it has to have a tiller pilot fitted. We made the same mistake. I. a. for cost reasons we had mounted a tiller pilot (Navico ST30, similar to now Simrad ST 30) which did not work well. My take was that, as the fluxgate sat in the autopilot and thus pretty far away from the axle of moment of the vessel, the unit could not perform well. The unit was able to handle the boat upwind but downwind it was very difficult. Worse though it would not control the boat at all when she was running slowly under engine. Then she would go of course badly until finally the autopilot kicked in and always oversteered. The latter may have been a combination of two effects: the one described above plus the propeller sits very close in front of the rudder thus causing prop walk easily when moving in any direction. The tiller pilot was not able to cope with it.

Which one to use on a quadrant: We then changed to a CETREK autopilot 609/715 model, which is old by now but works extremely well. CETREK's were solid units, they still can be purchased at low cost. However on units operating on the quadrant or shaft the rudder machine becomes an important part and it may be worth spending some thoughts on the one to choose; not necessarily is the one offered by the maker of the electronics the one best to choose for the boat. We went through this and chose an excellent rudder machine from JEFA. It has a number of pros: it can be put beneath the cockpit sole as it is very small operating by a planetary gear thus avoiding the need for a long worm gear to be fitted. Thus it may be acting directly on to a small tiller/quadrant to be fitted on the rudder shaft. Usually the rudder shaft should have been produced with a groove to insert a wedge for mounting a quadrant. The unit is very strong and very fast thus it should be able to work with any electronics..