Our Two Autopilots Setup

Introduction

On our Saba 50 the steering system is a hydraulic system. The steering wheel operates a hydraulic pump, which itself operates a hydraulic cylinder (See Image 1 below) which pushes and pulls on the starboard rudder stock arm (Image 2 below). Note that we need to add a Rose Joint to this arrangement as the board that it is mounted on flexes and we are finding that the stainless steel bolt though the aluminium arm is leaving filings as it turns. John previously pointed out this problem to us and its on our jobs list.

Image 1: Hydraulic Pump for Steering
Image 2: Rudder Tiller

The starboard rudder is operated by the hydraulic cylinder and the port rudder is linked by a aluminium bar that joins both rudders together so that they move in unison.

We ordered the Garmin autopilot from FP and this works with a hydraulic pump (Image 3 below), which is installed on the hydraulic circuit of the helm system.

Image 3: Autopilot Hydraulic Pump in Starboard Hull

The autopilot pump will turn the rudders in either direction , and works in a similar fashion to the hydraulic steering that is driven from the steering wheel.

It is important to note that if either the hydraulic pump for the steering fails (see Image 1 above), then we also cannot steer the boat with the autopilot either. FP provides emergency steering for the Saba that you have to stand in the engine room to try and use. Totally impractical.

So not only did we need a second autopilot in case our primary autopilot failed, we also needed one in case our hydraulic steering failed.

Our Solution

Uchimata installed a Leroy and Smitt (L&S) cylinder (See Image 4 below) and a hydraulic pump (Image 5) on the bit arm of the port rudder. Our primary autopilot on La Mischief was also a L&S hydraulic system and we were very comfortable with this. We also kept hold of the maintenance kit, which is a bit of a bonus.

Image 4: L&S Autopilot Hydraulic Linear Drive Unit in Port Hull
Image 5: L&S Autopilot Hydraulic Pump in Port Hull

The operating principle is the same as for the main autopilot, but is independent of the helm steering system, thereby providing redundancy for this system also. We can throw away our emergency steering system (but haven’t). The L&S autopilot cylinder directly actuates the port rudder, with the starboard rudder being actuated by the aluminium bar linking the two rudders together.

To reiterate, we can now have a hydraulic break in our boat’s helm system, the steering wheel pump, the helm system cylinder or the main autopilot’s hydraulic system pump, and we can still steer the boat as the port system is completely independent.

Each autopilot has its own head, and each are equipped with feedback (Images 6 and 7 below), there is one for the main pilot on starboard and there is one for the second pilot on port. So no matter which autopilot we are running, we can always tell where the rudders are.

Image 6: Feedback Arm for Port Hull (Secondary Autopilot)

Image 7: Feedback Arm for Starboard Hull (Primary Autopilot)

The Second Autopilot

Now we have 2 autopilots on board, w must be extremely careful that we don’t have both on at the same time. This could be quite catastrophic.

Unlike boats with mechanical steering, on our Saba with its hydraulic steering the autopilot pump (See Image 3 above) is mounted on the hydraulic circuit and “closes” the system, meaning the steering wheel is effectively disconnected whilst the autopilot is engaged. Disengaging the autopilot “opens” the hydraulic circuit and allows the steering wheel to once again be engaged. Therefore to use the second autopilot we must also do this but manually by turning a ball valve to cut the pressure to the ram. This is the same ball valve that was installed to allow the emergency steering bar to be used.

Image 8: Bypass Valve in Starboard Hull (in closed position – Helm and Primary Autopilot in use)

When the second autopilot is used, the bypass valve (08) must be opened.

Whenever the bypass valve (Image 8 above) has been opened and then closed, its very important that you use the feedback (Images 6 and 7) to ensure that the rudders are in the axis of the boat.

Step By Step Guide to Using the Second Autopilot

  1. Make sure the rudders are centred using the feedback on the Autopilot Head.
  2. Make sure the main pilot is on stand-by.
  3. Power on the second port autopilot by setting the switch ( Image 9 Below) on the second pilot.
Image 9: The Power Switch for Moving Between Autopilots

4. Open the bypass valve (see Image 8 above) and simultaneously set the second autopilot to AUTO (Head unit is under winch).

At this point, the second autopilot will be steering the boat. Its important to note that manual steering is unavailable when this second autopilot is being used.

Moving Back to the Primary Autopilot

  1. Make sure the rudders are centred using the feedback (see Images 6 and 7 above) that displays on the Autopilot Heads. This is very important.
  2. Make sure the secondary pilot is on standby.
  3. Power on the primary autopilot by setting the Power Switch (see Image 9 above) to the primary autopilot.
  4. Close the bypass valve
  5. Set the Primary Autopilot to Auto.
  6. Test that the Steering works by disengaging the autopilot briefly to test.
Testing the 2nd Autopilot

Sounds really good, doesn’t it? But unfortunately when we tried it all out it didn’t bloody work. This is because Uchimata didn’t test it (didn’t even do the dockside test) before we left La Rochelle despite numerous requests -and we couldn’t test it until now because we didn’t have any instructions from Uchimata on how to use it. All we got was Pierre telling us it was complicated and you need these instructions before you use it. Really!!!

On The Move

Well she is out of the factory and safely on the hard in La Pallice, where she will stay until we get there in a few months. Disappointed not to be able to drive behind her as she was trucked. Roms from Multihulls Solutions got us some video footage but its worth watching Out Chasing Stars video of their boat being trucked from the factory at https://youtu.be/REohRp_5X6k.

On The Truck

Arriving at La Pallice

Leaving the Factory
Safely on the Hard at La Pallice
Safely on the Hard at La Pallice

Boatless in Somerset

LATEST UPDATE

  • We are still hanging out in the relative seclusion of Meyers Ranch. It is one of the better places to be as Covid runs rampant and the US Cities are rather unsettled in these trying times. With 27 Acres to roam around on, we are certainly not cramped for space.
  • We have been allocated an ex-Factory date of 15th October. Then there’s about one month of commissioning work before she’s ready to move on board. Exciting!

  • Dee still hasn’t decided on a name that I will agree to. We have a shortlist.
  • By process of elimination we have decided on the Cook Islands for our flag.

As part of this process, we will become members of the Cook Island Yacht Club.


  • Have finalised our aftermarket list with Multihulls Solutions/Uchimata. Still working on options for the Vinyl Wrap and screen covers for the heads, which we will probably organise ourselves. We also changed our factory order, dropping the swim platform and going back to hydraulic davits.

  • All our stuff (60+ boxes) from La Mischief is still sitting in East Coast Shipping’s warehouse in Ft Lauderdale (http://www.ecshipping.net/contact/). We will add to this with a few more things (Keenan Fuel Filter system etc.) and will ship sometime in August to give it the time to get to France just after us.
  • We are still waiting for France/Europe to allow us to fly there. At the moment, the USA is banned. Hopefully things will change in the next couple of months, before we try and fly there in October. My USA Visa is about to expire, but because I have applied for an extension I should be right to stay where I am until we fly. Extensions are taking 12 to 18 months to process!!!
  • Have been busy getting quotes for insurance from the likes of Topsail UK, Jacklines and Pantaneus Australia. Looking like around $8K for the Med (will jump a lot the next year to $20K+ when we head across the Atlantic). Will finalise this closer to the time.
Kerstin
  • We are still trying to organise our pre-delivery survey. Another Saba 50 owner recommended Kerstin and Hans from KPYM Yacht Management (http://www.kpym.de/team/) in Germany and they sound really good, especially given all their experience with FP in La Rochelle.
Hans

However, they currently don’t have any other clients that need their services in La Rochelle in October so we need to find some way to make their trip worthwhile. They offer a whole heap of services geared to new FP owners in La Rochelle so if you are interested…..

Movies In the Middle of Nowhere

Like a lot of cruisers, we like to watch movies; but most of the time the Internet is either nonexistent or slower than a one-fingered typist, making flicking through Netflix and Youtube impossible. Over the years, us cruisers have instead met in beautiful anchorages and marinas and “swapped” movies stored on our respective hard drives. With luck you would get quite a few unseen movies amongst a whole heap of movies you have already watched; scattered on multiple hard drives that you’ve collected over the years. 

Recently, we’ve got a bit more cleverer, downloading Netflix and Amazon shows to our Android (or iOS) tablets so we can watch them offline. Youtube Premium also allowed us to download offline copies. We tried to play these using Chromecast on our TVs but we still needed a little bit of Internet to do this.  

With my enforced downtime, I set about coming up with a much better solution, using a combination of a Synergy DS118 NAS with a single 6TB hard drive (as I didn’t want to cart anything too big on the plane with me – maybe I will invest in a bigger RAID system in time).

 My first job was to consolidate all our existing movies spread across various hard drives onto a single NAS (Network Attached Storage) unit. The Synergy DS118 has a useful USB Copy function that allows me to plug in my USB Hard Drives into the NAS and copy the movies and music straight across.  

Installing the  Plex Media Server on the DS118 was pretty straightforward, and with this installed we can consolidate all our movies in the one place. Using Plex, we can easily scroll through all our movie titles, without seeing any duplicates. We can view all our movies  on our smart TVs and tablets – all we had to do was install the relevant  Plex app on each particular device. We have one older style TV in our temporary land based abode, and for this we use our Chromecast dongle.  We will definitely buy smart TVs for the new catamaran that have Plex capability. 

Plex is a wonderful piece of software, collecting all the metadata for each movie, including Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB Ratings, a short description, and a list of actors. This makes choosing our next movie a lot easier, especially in remote anchorages without internet.  Plex also allows us to remove duplicates using the “Show Duplicates” feature of Plex that not only identifies all the movies that have multiple copies, but also allows you to identify the best copy to keep. Its super easy in Flex to delete all the other (inferior) copies.   

For new content, we are going to use an Android app called PlayOn Cloud, which looks like a groovy solution.  PlayOn Cloud is a streaming video recorder (SVR) located in the cloud. I can ask them to record content from Netflix, Amazon, ABC iView, Youtube and the BBC plus a few others and once  that recording is complete, they email us an .mp4 file download link, which I can use to download the mp4 file to my Plex installation on my NAS. Each recording costs 50c a copy or less if you buy a larger pack. 

We are also using Plex for our offline music. Our Sonos system has a Plex client so that makes integration easy. We were using Google Play Music for all our music and we were able to download an entire copy from the Internet to our hard drive so we have over 11,000  songs on our NAS, that can be accessed from our Sonos system. Now that Google have migrated me from Google Play Music to Youtube Music Premium, I’m not sure if this will allow us to continue downloading our music to a computer. Have yet to try this one out.   

Finally we decided to invest in a 1080P Android TV mini projector. We ended up going for a XGIMI MOGO Pro, with Harman/Kardon Speakers and its great. No need to connect your phone, tablet or laptop, it can pull up Youtube, Plex, Amazon etc straight from the Wifi. And its battery powered meaning we can have movie nights in our upstairs lounge or on the beach under the stars.

So with all this sorted out it will be super easy for Dee to watch movies and for me to fall asleep 10 minutes in.