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Backup Autopilot Strategy

In our earlier post in 2008 we discussed the Raymarine 4000 Tiller pilot that we installed before we left in 2006 on our trip. As a backup we also purchased another brand new one which we kept installed in a box.

In February 2008 just before we were about to depart on our pacific crossing from Mexico to Hawaii a very experienced cruiser asked if we had a backup autopilot to which I proudly answered, “Oh Yes! We have a brand new one in a box”. He pointed out that when our main one breaks in the middle of the ocean at night how are you going to install it. Good point. I quickly installed the second one in parallel, completely independent power, flux gate compass, control head and tiller actuator.

It took about  2 days in amongst all our last minute preparations in La Paz but after we were done we really appreciated that sage advice. Over the years wee have had minor issues from time to time with our main one, and it is sure sweet to just throw the switch for the backup one and unplug the actuator and we just keep on going. When we are at anchor then I can take my time trying to determine the problem.

We also had a third actuator drive arm as an extra backup plus an extra motor. Your autopilot is your best friend (after your wife of course!) so more backups the better

If you are going to go offshore (and you don’t have a windwane) you need a second installed autopilot to have true peace of mind.

About Author

Garett Hennigan

Garett Hennigan is a mechanical engineer who in partnership with his wife, Carllie, built a 28 foot catamaran, Light Wave, in 1999. He has sailed extensively with his wife through Mexico, Hawaii and now back in the Pacific northwest with over 20,000 sailing miles and over 5000 hours of boatbuilding experience.

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