Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Raymarine Auto Pilot - Upgrade review

Raymarine Auto Pilot - Upgrade review

I'm normally pretty easy on reviews of boat equipment, but I have to step it up with my review of the Raymarine EV100 Autopilot that we installed this year.

The installation - Here's a link to the install process, but here's a quick overview.
  • I planned the install in great detail as it was an expensive and complex install due to the existing wiring on the boat.
  • The old Autopilot was suffering, turns out it was probably due to bad wiring of the original install whenever that was done, before my time owning the boat.
  • The install was done in the summertime here in South Florida - yes - Sweaty work.
  • All of the existing navigation equipment was rewired.
After finishing the install a few months ago, we did a dockside test with the boat tied fast to the dock.
That basically consisted of calibrating the Wheel rotation. Once complete we set the wheel pilot to Auto and then adjusted the heading to see that the wheel turned in the correct direction, a simple test, but it sure gives a greater degree of confidence in the complete installation.

Ok, fast forward to the New Year's Eve Cruise on December 30th 2021. We left the dock at 6:15am dawn was just breaking, we navigated down the New River and passed all of the bridges, the last being the 3rd Avenue Bridge, from there is was simple motoring down the river then North on the Intracoastal Waterway, there were only two bridges we need to pass to get us from the River to Sunrise Bay.

I took the opportunity to turn on the Autopilot once we passed the last bridge on the New River. Initially the controller complained that there was no drive unit found, turned out that the Autopilot was not powered on, but the instrument was via the NEMA 2000 Network. Peggy turned on the Autopilot at the Electrical control panel by the Nav Table in the Cabin. 

Now the Autopilot started to obey the commands at the Helm Station. There are 4 heading control buttons:- -1º +1º, -10º, +10º. As soon as the Autopilot was put into Auto mode, the wheel drive motor took control of the Helm. Pressing any of the heading control buttons changed the heading very quickly, it was a quick as if I had manually tried to change the heading by rotating the Helm. I must admit, I was impressed! I was able to navigate all the way from 3rd Avenue bridge to the Las Olas Blvd Bridge - there I took the pilot out of Auto and manually steered through the bridge where the current was pretty heavy and there was other boat traffic the really required manual control.

Again, when we passed the Sunrise Blvd Bridge, I went back to manual operation. After the last bridge, Peggy took the helm with the Autopilot in Standby.

The old Autopilot would very slowly react to a heading change request and would often just stop steering, it was not reliable. We tried to steer via the Autopilot but had to keep a close eye because it deviated from the desired heading every few minutes. The Helm wheel would move with exaggerated turns and confidence in the Autopilot system was zero.

The new Autopilot is amazing so far! It responds immediately to a heading change request and does not make exaggerated wheel movements, in fact they are quite fine movements. We have had other people sail on Eximius, and they would not make such fine movements of the wheel despite instructions on how to hold the wheel and make small but early trims of the wheel to keep on course.

Beneath the digital heading display on the Control Instrument, there is a text bar that indicates when the system is detecting local magnetics, every now and then it would change color but it pretty much stayed visible on the first day of use.

After a great New Year's Eve cruise with the Hillsboro Inlet Sailing Club, we left Sunrise Bay at 7:15 Sunday Jan 2nd 2022. Once past the Sunrise Bridge, we put the Autopilot to work again and easily navigated to Las Olas Blvd Bridge, manually steered past the raised bridge and then back into Auto.

As we continued up the New River, we heard from the FEC Railroad bridge that it was going down in 6 minutes. I called the bridge tender asked how long he expected the bridge to be down. 14 minutes.
At the rate we were travelling though the flooding river, we would be at the FEC bridge before it opened. So I decided to do a few Doughnuts downstream of the 'Tunnel' to pass some time in order that we don't end up trying to hover back from the approaching bridges. I probably made 5 or 6 doughnuts, just turning to Stbd by adjusting the heading via the Control instrument. 

During this maneuver the Control Instrument display changed completely. It displayed a message stating that the system had completed the Magnetic evaluation. WooHoo.

After accepting that info (OK) the screen returned to the normal display and the Detecting Magnetics notice was no longer visible.

We have yet to complete the Commissioning process and that requires that we are in an area that is free of obstructions (like the sides of the New River!) as we have to let the Autopilot take charge.

The Autopilot has a learning curve (the pilot, not me!) and during one phase of the commissioning process the Autopilot follows a track similar to the one shown here. We'll have to be on the Ocean to do that, it's far too crowded on the New River and ICW and the lakes are not big enough as well as normally being occupied by many boats.

I'm good with this, another reason for getting the boat out.

So far, my impression of the EV-100 is Excellent! Easy to use, Very Responsive and very conservative in the way it manages the steering.  We have a lot to learn about the system after completing the Commissioning including being able to follow a track (not sure if it will do that, but it has the systems required, just have to make sure that the Raymarine part will listen to the Garmin GPS Chartplotter which provides the data for following a track.)

Right now, I give it a **********, 10 out of 10 stars. I am delighted with the upgrade. Well worth the effort and we both look forward to using it often.

Oh! One last thing! 
Prior to installing the new Autopilot (which includes a Rudder Position Sensor) we had to look down between our legs to see which way the Rudder cap was pointed in order to determine the Rudder Position. It was almost comical, Peggy would be at the helm, I would ask her to go Amidships and she would look down between her legs and turn the wheel till the rudder cap pointed directly forwards.

The New Autopilot has a Rudder Position Display, even if the Drive it not powered up.

The display shows a Red (port) or Green (starboard) block from 0º to current rudder position. 

No more looking between our legs to see the Rudder position. BTW this was only necessary because the wheel required more than 1 turn to move the rudder from fully to port to fully to starboard, so the whipping that we have on the wheel to indicate Amidships is only useful if the rudder it nearly Amidships already. 

Stay tuned for more updates as we complete the Commissioning process and get used to using this awesome upgrade to Eximius.

See you on the water. 

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