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Showing posts from November 16, 2014

Commissioning a tiller pilot

Complaining about the difficulty of getting a tiller pilot installed and calibrated is probably a small thing compared to having an obedient hand on the tiller when your attention is required elsewhere.
Still, for a device that has been around as long as the Ray Marine ST/1000/2000, one might expect clearer instructions and a better calibration interface.  There are six buttons on the device, and a lot of overloaded combinations (chords, if you will) for invoking various states of calibration and operation.

Since calibration is only rarely invoked, and hence not easily retained,  best to keep that manual handy!

My first attempts were near the end of a tiring, chilly day and were less than fully satisfactory.  The next day I went out on Lake Union and tried again, with greater success.  Having calibrated magnetic deviation and heading,  I tried the +40 degree test called for in the manual to assess tiller-gain.  Hit the +10 button 4 times, and the heading should come to starboard by 40…

Tiller Pilots

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I have hovered over the acquisition of a tiller pilot for several years, once having even manufactured a mounting point for one.  I didn't install it.  Misgivings about its non-traditional complexion and fear of the siren-call of creeping complexity stayed my hand.

Last summer convinced me that cruising alone without one is inconvenient, and possibly more dangerous than accommodating the additional set of failure modes of yet another electrical gadget.

I decided to get a Ray Marine, and having done so had to choose between the ST1000 and the ST2000.  The additional push-rod thrust of the beefier model is appealing, but the clincher for me was the underlying technology.  The two models look nearly identical, but the ST2000 translates circular motion to linear push-rod motion via a recirculating ball drive.  According to Wikipedia:
Low friction in ball screws yields high mechanical efficiency compared to alternatives. A typical ball screw may be 90 percent efficient, versus 50 per…