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What autopilots are you using?

Discussion in 'Ocean Yacht' started by praetorian47, Sep 7, 2018.

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  1. praetorian47

    praetorian47 Member

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    I’ve got an ‘88 55SS that I “upgraded” to a Garmin Reactor autopilot last year. I’ve had nothing but trouble with it. Following a heading it does okay, until any wake hits and it over counters, causing more roll which it counters again, continuously increasing the roll. The auto tuning was terrible, e had to manually override every setting, and the auto tune wasn’t close. During troubleshooting. Garmin replaced all the hardware so I don’t think that’s the issue.

    It does seem to follow a course a bit better, but Garmin doesn’t allow me to reset XTE, so when I have to deviate from the course and deactivate the pilot it turns sharply to re-establish the original line, instead of being able to set a new line from current position.

    Last week, the rudder indicator went crazy, showing hard to prot no matter what I did. After disconnecting and repowering everyhting, the indicator started working. Now the pilot will run for about 5 seconds before turning the rudder hard over (different directions each time). Garmin support wasn’t really able to help much at all, and I’ve spend dozens of hour troubleshooting various issue with Garmin and my installer.

    I’m looking at replacing the pilot with a Raymarine Evolution pilot, and likely replace all the remaining Garmin equipment. I’m in Ontario, Canada and there seem to be no super Garmin installers around that may have some answers we haven’t seen.

    I find it hard to believe that the Garmin pilot is as bad as my experience shows. Maybe it simple can’t handle my boat? Maybe my boat is too unstable for any autopilot (which I doubt). Any comments would be welcome before I spend a ton of money redoing my electronics.
  2. Bill106

    Bill106 Senior Member

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    Beaufort NC
    Do you know which pump you have? If it's the Smart Pump, it should have no trouble steering your boat no matter what displacement steering rams you'd have on a boat that size. If it has one of the smaller pumps, the 2.0 or 1.2, that may be a big part of it. There's a few "tricks" to helping Autotune dial in your boats handling characteristics, main ones being only attempt it in calm winds and seas. Normally, only a slight tweak of rudder and counter rudder are all that's required if that.

    CCU (autopilots compass) location is critical as well, it needs to be low, close to centerline and three feet or more from any magnetic interference. That's the most common culprit in pilot complaints. Hopefully your installer did that. Also, if under a berth, make sure no one decides to put a drill or something in there, can change things quick!

    The XTE reset isn't an option, yet but there are acceleration limits that can help smooth out the rapid course veering.

    I'd say your rudder feedback unit may be on it's way out and time to order a replacement. RFU's of all brands don't have the greatest life expectancy, especially in a normally damp environment like a lazarette.

    Overall it sounds like you have a couple of problems that can be easily resolved to get it working. Local expertise is always preferred to remote diagnosis but sometimes it can't be avoided. If you'd like, I'd be happy to try and help. I'm an authorized Garmin OEM and have done plenty of installs on all of their pilots over the years. My cell is 252-732-4946, feel free to call anytime!

    Bill
  3. praetorian47

    praetorian47 Member

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    Bayport, Midland, Ontario
    Thanks for the reply!
    I don't have the smart pump, I kept the existing pump that the older RM 8002 pilot used. Initially I assumed it was an RM pump but now I'm not sure. I've attached a link (https://photos.app.goo.gl/PsRnYixWNjnjg7as8) to a photo I just took of the pump. I figured the pump was good enough because it worked for the RM pilot, but I replaced the pilot when I first got the boat and didn't really have much experience with the original.

    The CCU is located under the cockpit controls on the starboard side of the cockpit, about a foot above waterline. I did play with different mounting locations but none seemed to make a difference. I decided on this location because the original Robertson compass was still there and the RM compass was also there (both have been removed). The only location I could think of that may be better would be under the cockpit. My inverter and batteries are there but I could get 3' from them and still be close to center. My AC compressors are there also, so if they're running that could be a problem.

    Garmin has offered to replace the rudder feedback, but it's really barely a year old and it does appear to be working, I turn the wheel and it shows the turns accurately.

    I would have loved local expertise!!! Unfortunately, there are only RM people here and I've exhausted their help (which wasn't much, unfortunately).
  4. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    One of our associates sells and installs the Garmin APs.
    Sometimes the better pumps are late in shipping or out of budget. We have found conversion problems where the original pump was re-used, has issues.
    I feel Bill106 would agree, order in the Garmin smart pump.
  5. Bill106

    Bill106 Senior Member

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    In most cases I would indeed agree capt Ralph but there's a pretty big difference in the corepack for the smartphone and the one the op has with the solenoid setup. After a chat on the phone I think we've identified a couple of possible avenues to explore with his existing system that may take care of the main problems.

    For others who may have similar issues, its critical to perform the compass calibration routine in absolutely calm conditions and to start and maintain a perfect as you can turn or the cal may not be optimal. His rate compass (the good 9 axis model) is off centerline which can also skew rudder and counter rudder but hes trying a re cal first before relocating the compass.
  6. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Yep, the compass needs to be set clear of all M stuff. I think the spec is 1 meter but the further the better.
    A good compass calibration is next important. The setup will guide you to fast or to slow and must be done on a calm keel.
    The learning curve will auto adjust any rate logarithms.

    You got me on off centerline. Can you expand on this please.
  7. Bill106

    Bill106 Senior Member

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    Certainly! Op reports compass is located in the cockpit box where the cockpit controls are located. Against the aft saloon bulkhead but almost at the hull side. My experience with older rate compasses off the boats centerline can sometimes cause poor steering commands as they are more affected by the acceleration of the initial roll the boat does in a turn. Granted the newer multi axis units are much better compensating for this and the op reports his old compasses were in the same location so I don't have a high confidence in this as a cause.

    I'm more inclined to think a calm sea state calibration will help the most. When we spoke he said seas were about a 3" ripple (yes, I'm jealous!) And he was going to go try again.

    He also reported he'd been advised to adjust rudder or counter rudder but never told to try both at the same time. Cranking just one can easily caise the increasing oscillations he's experiencing.
  8. Capt Ralph

    Capt Ralph Senior Member

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    Ah, I understand your off center comment now.
    That should not be a problem.
    I remember a Garmin customer a year ago, it took over two turns before the set up was completed. We thought something was wrong past 450 degrees but kept swinging.
    Then it signaled complete or finished. The tech thought something was still wrong so did it again. Sure enough near 3 spins.
    Then we went for the trials.... Worked like a champ.
    Next question for the O P, did you turn 1 circle or did the AP setup say it was complete.
  9. praetorian47

    praetorian47 Member

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    I redid both the dockside and seatrial settings. It took about 1.5 circles for the compass to calibrate and north was done in the proscribed 45 seconds. Autotune failed a few times but the alternate worked.

    When under hull speed, the pilot works quite well now. On plane it's as bad as ever. I've adjusted all the settings over a few hours yesterday and ran out of settings. Rudder and counter rudder are both at 100, up from 87 and 83 from the autotune. I made the changes 1 percent at a time. I increased the acceleration limiter to 95 with little further effect. Putting it in power save mode and dropping the power to 10 helped, but I still encountered AP induced roll.

    On a while, we also tested reducing the voltage to the solenoid thinking it might slow down the pilot but it made no difference.

    I can understand how the smartpump with extra electronics behind it might improve things, but after 2 years of fighting with this I don't want to throw more money at Garmin. The pump will cost me more than a Raymarine Evolution AP system. I had one on my last boat and it performed very well, and most importantly raymarine has technical expertise in my area that I have confidence in.

    Bill, thank you so much for your time yesterday. I did get the pilot working to the level it was previously so I know the hardware hasn't failed and I can sell it. I'm not sure why it needed to be reset, but that not the first Garmin device to need that. Over the winter my keep offset was reset to zero. I finally figured it out because my anchor wasn't setting easily for the first time ever. My process with my old Rocna and nee Spade, is to drop 3x depth then pull back and it works, except when youre off by 5 of depth!

    I really miss my old Navnet 3d units :)
  10. Bill106

    Bill106 Senior Member

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    I'm sorry we didn't get it completely going praetorian47! The below planing speed performance is encouraging though. Im not positive but i think your high speed parameters are way too high and surprised autotune ever passed with them. The last boat we built that had a similar setup with mechanical solenoids was around 57/48 If I recall correctly. Don't know if you tried dropping them that far but if she's still behaving as you described to me it couldn't hurt.
  11. praetorian47

    praetorian47 Member

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    I tried lowering them a bit and it got worse, but Im happy to try lowering them down that far and trying. I'll do it tomorrow, it's pretty windy today.
    Thanks!
  12. praetorian47

    praetorian47 Member

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    Sorry for the delay responding. Work, weather, and family prevented a followup seatrial until this morning. Today the wind is under 1km and the water is glass flat, so it's the perfect time to test.

    Bill, I changed the high-speed rudder and counter rudder gains down to 50 and then tested. No rolling. I upped them by 5%, at at 70 the rolling came back, so backed down to 67% on both without any AP-induced roll!!! I even switched from economy to normal mode without impact. I tried crossing my own wake to induce the AP to overreact and it didn't!

    I was all set to replace my gear and now I don't think I need to. Thank you so much for this help. I've been playing with this for 2 years unsuccessfully. How do I know if I've got things tuned perfectly? Both rudder and counter are set to the same number, but from your responses, the counter should be lower?

    I dropped my acceleration limit from 95% to 87% with no noticeable effect, so not sure if that's good or will mean it will respond too sluggishly in worse weather. On the Raymarine and Furuno pilot's, there is a sea state setting to easily adjust the AP for different conditions. I don't see that in the Garmin, am I missing it?
  13. Bill106

    Bill106 Senior Member

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    Woo Hoo!! Sounds like you're getting close. There is no set rule of thumb for rudder/counter rudder settings. Usually I see the counter slightly lower than the initial rudder but every boat is different. Since you don't have the shadow drive sensor, I'd get her running on a constant heading (hold) and yank the wheel off course 10-15 degrees and see how she responds. How fast and how hard a turn she responds with is the rudder setting and acceleration limit. As she gets close back to the "set" heading, the counter rudder setting is (or should) slow the turn so she settles back on the set magnetic course (very rough description!). If it overshoots slightly and comes back steady on course, it's about right but if she "S" turns a couple times before settling, the counter needs to be increased.

    I'm at a loss as to why autotune was so far off on your many attempts and I will attempt to recreate it on that 41 when I go back to Liberia next month for a couple weeks of working :cool: vacation. Since it's very close to your system's setup maybe it will give me some ideas. You're right, Garmin doesn't have a sea state setting but the acceleration limit performs similarly. You may find you want to tweak settings a little in rougher conditions, I'd try the accel. first then the rudder/counter.

    Just finished packing the last boat in the shop and the travellift crews are finally catching their breath after five straight days of hauling and blocking. First rain bands from Florence are overhead now but we're as prepared as we know how to be so it's watch and wait and have a cocktail!


    Bill
  14. chesapeake46

    chesapeake46 Senior Member

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    Good luck down there.
  15. praetorian47

    praetorian47 Member

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    I hope all goes well for you, and all with you.

    Thanks for all you've done, and for your explanation of the counter rudder. I'll work on that .
  16. Bill106

    Bill106 Senior Member

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    Thanks guys! Relocated 30 miles inland at my weekend hideout. Have the kids and grandkids, kind of like a family reunion. High ground, away from flimsy pines, a good genset and plenty of food for two or three weeks (catfish in the pond are acting nervous!). Liberia is looking better every day!
  17. praetorian47

    praetorian47 Member

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    Just thinking of you, Bill. Hope you and yours are doing alright.
  18. Capt J

    Capt J Senior Member

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    I'm a big fan of the Garmin electronics (chartplotters, radar etc.) but NOT a fan of their autopilots. Give me a Simrad for autopilot any day of the week. I like the wheel/knob on the Simrads and lots of people have issues with Garmin autopilots it seems.
  19. praetorian47

    praetorian47 Member

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    With Bills help, my Garmin pilot is working finally. I think Garmins self tuning is simply horrible. Simrad, Raymarine and practically everyone else beats them. Grr ons support is pretty poor on this also. I can’t forgive 2 years it took for this to get working, despite dozens of calls. Bill was able to help me with a phone call and email, so why can’t the manufacturer?

    I’m also completely at a loss as to why garmins plotters don’t have a reset XTE setting, and apparently never have! I’d think that was a pretty basic feature and a huge oversight.

    as to the plotters, there are good and bad with them. Not a fan of Garmin charts themselves, they over simplify things. On paper and other electronic charts, land and water based markers show differently; I wish Garmin did. I hate how thick route lines are on screen, obstacles can be hidden under them. My biggest complaint is that a can’t turn off all alarms. When navigating a tight, Twisty area, the plotter alarms all the time and I can’t prevent it, only turn it off each time. Seriously annoying and distracting.

    No tablet companion app is annoying. I like open crossing while sitting on the bench in front of the helm while holding the ap control. I wish I could have my tablet to see my progress. If I had Raymarine or Furuno, I could. The pc planning app is horrible.

    On the plus side, I like that it can follow a route without hearing alarms and confirmation at every turn. Creating routes is easy on the plotter, easier than the Raymarine.

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