auto tiller pilots

Would appreciate any advice about my options as regards to tiller autopilots. There
appears to be two main selections-either raymarine or simrad. Thanks for any
guidance on this subject.- Pat

That’s a question related to one I need advice on – self steering
windvane/trimtab combinations either alone or interfaced with an autopilot.

When Dottie and I brought Itchen down from Haverstraw NY to Annapolis
last November, her Navico Corus TP300CX tillerpilot worked very well so
long as we were motoring. It seems rugged, oblivious to rain and spray and
easy to use and override. As expected, it was of only marginal use under
sail and this jibes with advice I got from Sumio and others that it should
be augmented with a windvane. I’ve seen a couple of Freehand trimtab
vanes, including one on Sumio’s BCC currently under construction at Sam L.
Morse yard. They seem about as unobtrusive as a windvane can be and pretty
straightforward in their setup. Sumio showed me how they can be interfaced
with a tiller pilot.

Monitor windvanes also are installed on several BCC’s and look very robust
but also more complicated. I need to find out more about the reasons and
tradeoffs that would lead to choosing one over the other. Ease of use,
reliability, ruggedness, appearance, etc. I’ve also considered making one
based on the Freehand/Pardey design.
I’ve never used a windvane so would value hearing from anyone who wants to
share their experiences and advice. Or, from any one with a used one to

We plan to take Itchen down the ICW to Florida as soon as the weather
improves and over to the Bahamas by mid-April, then then bring her back to
the Chesapeake and perhaps on to Maine this summer and fall, so reliable
self steering would be a big plus. We’ll probably haul her for some bottome
& rudder work after we get to Florida so that would be the time to fit her
out with whichever system we choose.

S/V Itchen

Hi Scott, Pat,
When we had Dilkara in the Carribbean for 8 years we used an Autohelm 2000 under very heavy conditions and it always worked perfectly. We had to replace the tiller bracket with a heavy duty bronze bracket bolted to the tiller on both ends?since the one supplied distorted badly in heavy seas. The real secret to the success of the autopilot was the trim tab we had on the tiller. When it was set properly there was very little strain on the autopilot. The wind vane didn’t work that well but the trim tab worked beautifully. In sailing from New England to South America and back the Autohelm never failed, no matter what the conditions. In eight years we had only one repair which Autohelm did for free. We met one boat that had the autopilot hooked up directly to the trim tab and their owners were very pleased with the result. We considered doing that but never found the time or need to do so.


I have the big Simrad on mine. It is supposed to be for boats to
14,000 pounds. After two seasons, I am pleased with it tho’ I don’t use it
a great deal. Find I use it when motoring more than under sail. (Wife Ann
is a terrific helmsperson and likes steering). I used their deck plate and
4"??(I would have to measure for you) pedestal to mount it. The pedestal
unscrews when not in use.
I had a Raymarine ST1000 on my previous, and smaller boat. I had
it fail while singlehanded and at the mast pulling a second reef. Came to
find that they had simply glued the gilmar gear onto the smooth, stainless
drive motor shaft. I ground a flat on the shaft and put a set screw in the
gear (which is what they should have done!) and continued to use it with no
further problems. I don’t know if their larger units are equally poorly
engineered but I was unwilling to chance it. I did like the heading
display feature on the ST series but find I don’t miss it with the Simrad.
After all, who cares if the tiller pilot thinks it’s going North as long as
it is steering me on my desired 180 degree course?

Tom Harrer
S/V Whitewings III

Pat and Tom,
To my earlier post I should add that after looking at catalogs and Practical
Sailor’s 2002 Gear & Equipment Annual Buying Guide, the current “big Simrad”
looks like an identical rebranded clone of Itchen’s “Navico Corus TP300CX”.
S/V Itchen

Raymond, thanks, that’s helpful. What sort of trim tab do you have and how
did it interface with the autopilot?

S/V Itchen