Below Deck Auto-Pilot
By Joran Gendell

ELIXIR – 1984 MK-II Yawl #234


ELIXIR had an Autohelm 3000 wheel pilot that served for a long time.  It worked well enough but had shortcomings.  It was always a nuisance to bring it on deck and rig it.  Then there were cables in the way and the drive belt just waiting to grab anything dangling nearby.  In extreme weather, the unit was sometimes overwhelmed.  So I decided to fix all these problems by installing a Raymarine, below deck, auto-pilot with an electric linear actuator.


First issue was the tiller arm.  Whitby put a three inch long keyway in the rudder shaft and I decided that the key was long enough to be shared by both the quadrant and a new Buck Algonquin tiller arm. 


Photo 1 shows the arm with the studs installed for the actuator and the position feedback sensor.



Photo 2 shows  the sensor mounted on a new platform glassed to the hull. 



To mount the tiller arm, the quadrant had to be raised on the rudder shaft.  This required cutting off the original rudder stop and fabricating a new one, shown in photo 3.



 Photo 4 is looking aft and shows the finished installation including the tiller arm, position sensor, and linear actuator.



To mount the linear actuator, I had a local shop weld the bracket shown in photo 5.



The 1.5” square tubing slides right inside the original tube that Whitby installed athwartships under the cockpit sole.  Note that Whitby installed the tube several inches “out of square” on ELIXIR.  


Photos 6 and 7 show the actuator installed in the starboard cockpit locker. 




The space lost is well worth the new system’s convenience and performance


The control/display  head neatly replaced an obsolete DataMarine instrument on the cabin bulkhead.  I mounted the fluxgate compass high in the cabinet that hides the backside of the bulkhead mounted instruments.


I opted to spend the extra money for the model with enhanced software and gyroscopic sensing.  This summer ELIXIR did a 1200 mile cruise and the auto-pilot performed flawlessly on all points of sail.  It’s terrific!