A Hand To Steer
Whatever else I may or may not have achieved during this year of marina life. There is one thing for certain. Gleda will be better prepared for extended short-handed cruising than ever before.
There was one item of equipment missing from her inventory that I knew would transform our sailing; An electronic autopilot.
The Hebridean wind-vane self-steering I built in Falmouth works well for offshore passages. It steered us across the Bay of Biscay for four days without problem. But it needs playing with to get it set correctly. It’s not easy to change course quickly. And it’s no help during coastal passages and when we’re motoring.
Gail and I have completed two 26/28 hour passages. One of us had to be at the wheel the whole time. It’s hard work. It restricts our range and it means there’s only one of us to do everything else.
I wanted to solve these problems.
After a lot of research, I settled on the CPT Autopilot. Made in California U.S.A. the system has been around for years. There were a lot of positive reviews online from cruisers who’d circumnavigated and completed thousands of miles of cruising with a CPT in control.
A big appeal for me was its simplicity.
A heavy duty 12v motor with drive wheel in one box. A control unit in another. Both boxes fully waterproof. No fancy electronics & interfaces. No plastic components. It steers a compass course. That’s it.
It struck me that this CPT matched the Wharram KISS principle perfectly.
Biggest downside? The price. Not at all unreasonable for quality kit. But a huge chunk of our annual budget. $2,200 including shipping. On top of that, I had to pay 20% Import Tax to get it delivered in the UK.
There were some other cheaper alternatives to the CPT like the Raymarine EV-100. But I’d seen a few of them aboard other boats and they just didn’t inspire confidence. More than a few owners had experienced problems.
I decided that if we were going to splash the cash I’d spend it wisely. I’m confident this autopilot will prove a very sound investment.
Another thing that gave me confidence I’d made the right choice was the excellent communications and support from Jeff at CPT.
Before I ordered many e-mails flew back and forth for information and advice.
This is probably the first CPT fitted to a Wharram Tiki 38. My pod and wheel are unique. It was going to be a bespoke fit. Jeff sent many detailed drawings, dimensions and photos of other installations that enabled me to work out how I was going to do it.
Gail brought the units back with her after a trip to the UK in September. I’ve now got the mechanical fit completed. I just need to connect a single 2-core cable to a suitable 12v supply and we’ll be able to test it.
The job took a lot longer because I grabbed the opportunity to completely re-build the steering wheel shaft housing. There was too much friction in the old system and the wheel didn’t run true. I’m sure the CPT could have handled it. But it would have had to work harder and draw more power than it really needed. It was a job worth doing.
Here are some pics of the install.
The best place for the self-contained control/compass unit was midships on the pod dash. To make room I had to re-route the mainmast halyards out to the port side. It took a bit of experimentation to get the turning block at the right angle. But now it’s done I think it’ll be a far more efficient set-up and make life easier when hauling the main up.
Oh and before I forget. We need to give our new crew member a name. We already have ‘Lewis’ now we need another. Any suggestions welcomed.
‘Gleda’ is booked in with the nearby boatyard on 8th January to be lifted out for anti-foul and maintenance. My plan is to leave our berth early and have a play. More on both these events later.
In the meanwhile, Gail and I would like to send you all Seasons Greetings and wish you a very healthy and happy 2018