When we got an autopilot on our last boat, it revolutionized our sailing. It lets whoever (Mack usually) is on the helm enjoy the dolphins on the bow with everyone else or go below to use the head or forward to help with the sails. Before we had the autopilot, that job belonged to Amber, which is how autopilots now earn the name Amber Jr.
Kenutu's wheel had a locking mechanism that held the wheel in one spot, but that didn't do much for maintaining your course. Well, Mack found us a Raymarine ST4000+ autopilot for $800 on Ebay and Amber Jr. is now performing live.
With some help from Scott, he drilled a hole in the cockpit and wired the computer to the boat's electronics. Initially they were going to use a hole cutter, but it didn't like cutting very much. Scott got crafty and use the drill to make a punch out hole. Sometimes he's helpful. Especially at those times when we're at Catalina and I want to go snorkeling but Mack wants to do huge boat projects.
Our batteries are in the same lazarette that serves as the autopilot mount, so I think they got the autopilot wired in to the instrument fuse that powers all the gauges below it.
The thing that actually turns the wheel also needs power. To accomplish that, Mack taped a wire to a rope and thread it up the stanchion (fancy word for metal tube) connected to the binnacle (fancy word for the steering column). Mack eventually wants to mount all the electronics and gauges on the thing that holds the wheel, so they left a little rope pulley to more easily access power later on. Smarties.
The autopilot was super easy to install and has a pretty good reputation for being reliable. You can also set waypoints on your chart plotter and the autopilot will follow your course accordingly. Mack told me that one person online said they sent their boat "ghost mode" on its way from one harbor to another far away and then flew to their destination and waited for their boat to arrive. It's probably a lie and you should never do that, but if it's true, this is one amazing autopilot. So far, Amber Jr. has earned every single dollar we threw at her.
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