We have a robust old autopilot whose drive unit is said to be the starter motor from a 1929 Buick. I kid you not. Wise engineers tell us it is bomb-proof and we must never get rid of it. So we won’t. It has two problems – first it has a voracious appetite for amps. Even when the boat is carefully balanced it draws up to 13 of them. Second, it has a clutch which is not at all forgiving, so that each on-phase commences with a snatch which the pedestal chain does not like at all.

So in Gibraltar I bought an elegant little CPT pilot, a simple and well built belt drive unit which is positively ampere-anorexic. Max and I have installed it here and I will be interested to try it out.

Of course, in these fresh trade winds the wonderful Mr Aries will be doing all the work. Only in light airs with residual swell does he struggle.

The US made CPT autopilot is beautifully built.  Because I ordered our unit while I was away from the boat I had to make some guesses as to correct belt size. I was wrong, as usual. I must say, the assistance I received from Jeff Swedberg at CPT was superb. He had the correct belts delivered to Cabo Verde and worried until I could confirm their safe arrival. If the autopilot is as good as the CPT after-sales service I will have no complaints. Thanks, Jeff.


10 thoughts on “Autopilots

  1. Andrew Dix
    February 20, 2015 at 06:15

    Hi Tainui, John, Ian
    I’ve just caught up on your 2015 doings – sounds wonderful as always, though your description of some of the passages got my landlubber’s stomach twitching. I was sorry to hear of the despatch of the Spam, and am glad I have a photo of its alluring can somewhere.
    guess you are sipping a few rums under a palm tree in the Caribbean by now. Looking forward to an update. Andrew

    1. February 20, 2015 at 09:12

      Arrived in Trinidad an hour ago, and doing just that. All well, but the bar here is rolling madly.

  2. Malcolm
    February 3, 2015 at 09:26

    I’m tailing you.
    Sail well, safely, comfortably, healthily (which I am not, at present! Bronchitis and all that.)

    1. February 20, 2015 at 09:15

      Malcolm, is your new anti-drugs website directed specifically at the crew of Tainui? I trust not. All good wishes to you and Peg, mate

      1. Grant mcdonald
        February 23, 2015 at 23:22

        Interested in what you thought of the new autopilot.the old tmq ap50 on Obsession has just about had the gong.Regards Grant

        1. February 24, 2015 at 00:34

          Grant, ours is a Benmar drive on the idler shaft above the engine. A couple of years ago I replaced the old TMQ brain with an AP55. It works well but is desperately ampere-hungry (up to 15 amps). This little CPT unit is a real gem. We had it on all the way across the Atlantic and it steered accurately, silently and cheaply (1 amp on average, I reckon). The seas were often lumpy but we were wing-on-wing with twin poled headsails and no main, so there was never any tendency to broach or round up. I withhold judgement on that. But as a backup system, the CPT is a real gem. In fresh wind I would prefer the Aries, but they are chalk and cheese and it is good to have both.

          1. Grant
            February 28, 2015 at 22:49

            Thanks John,I would like to get wind steering but unfortunately I have dav its,solar panels etc.etc.hanging off the back.Hydrovane would probably fit but at $6000 I could buy a couple of spare autopilots.i would be interested to hear how the CPT goes in different conditions.looking at the videos on YouTube even someone as technically challenged as me could install sailing keep the shiny side up,Grant

          2. March 3, 2015 at 02:09

            Grant, I like this little CPT. Steered us well across the Atlantic at 1 amp load. Worked well. As I say, I withhold judgement as to fresh beam winds and a swell – I think that might pose problems but I’m only guessing. As a simple little backup unit it is highly recommended, to my mind

          3. Grant mcdonald
            May 1, 2015 at 00:34

            Hello John,just wondering if you have tried the crt autopilot in rougher conditions and if so what you thought of its performance.Regards Grant

          4. May 1, 2015 at 01:39

            Grant, the answer is probably no. Reaching in unpredictable and large beam seas would be the test, as with any self-steering mechanism. We haven’t had that.
            In Venezuela and Columbia we had no more than 35 knots true, and always running well-balanced with twin pole headsails. In those conditions the CPT was fine, drawing about 1.5 amps.
            The CPT could not cope with round ups like the Aries does. Having said that, I must say it is a splendid little device.

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