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The Autopilot on a Charter

We were trying to start a race from Monkey Point to Cane Garden Bay on the back side of Tortola in the BVI. We had a flotilla and so we decided to do a reverse start. This means the slowest boats and least experienced captains started first. The race was to end with the boats moored in Cane Garden Bay and everyone from the boat on shore. The finish was really exciting with about 20 seconds between the first three finishers. However – seemingly the start was just as exciting. Right before the start, the VHF was going crazy with requests from the captains for help. One had his sail stuck, one couldn’t get their anchor off the bottom, and one mystery one was that their wheel was locked. I blurted out “Um um um turn off your auto-pilot – ok who’s next?” Well after fixing a few other issues they came back on and admitted that their autopilot was now turned off and they were ready for the start.

An autopilot can be easily knocked on unknowingly by anyone moving around the boat. If you’re experiencing wheel lock, this is the first thing to check.

autopilot The autopilot is a great tool for those long hauls and it’s probably better at holding a straight line than most of us. Of course, it does take away from the feeling of sailing but … after a while, everyone needs a wee rest.

To turn it on, turn on the appropriate breakers on the DC electric panel. Then once you’re on your approximate heading press “Auto”. To disengage press “Standby”. The autopilot will hold a true course. You can adjust the course in 1-degree or 10-degree increments by pushing the associated button.

We’ll give you the easy instructions here for the Raymarine autopilot 6001 since that is what you are likely to encounter, however, other brand systems work in a similar manner.

The autopilot can automatically tack the boat 100°. Press the “–1” and “–10” buttons simultaneously to autotack to port. Press the “+1” and “+10” buttons simultaneously to autotack to starboard.

Sometimes the responsiveness of the autopilot will be too slow or too fast. To make a change to the responsiveness press the “–1” and “+1” buttons simultaneously. Then use the “–1” or the “+1” buttons to increase or decrease the level of response. The higher the response level, the more frequently adjustments will be made by the autopilot. You’ll want a lower response level when sailing in big swells.

To adjust the brightness of the display hold down the “Disp” button for about 1 sec then press the “Disp” button again to cycle through the levels.

If the chart plotter is connected then you may be able to have the boat “track” to the next waypoint. This is very advantageous because the autopilot will take the boat to the waypoint not just steer a course. It takes into account set and drift from tidal flow and the lateral course deviation due to the wind pushing the boat sideways. With the autopilot engaged and waypoints programmed into the chart plotter, press “Track”. The display response will be “Next wpt”. Press “Track” again to accept the new heading. To exit track mode just press “Standby” or “Auto”.

Keep this in mind as well, in case of a steering system failure, the autopilot can be used like the emergency tiller.

You can learn more in the Bareboat Charter Online Course....

The Bareboat Charter online sailing course is your go-to resource for planning an unforgettable sailing vacation. This comprehensive online course equips you with all the necessary skills and knowledge to successfully charter a yacht. Upgrade to the Bareboat Charter Master bundle of courses to fully prepare for near-coastal sailing and sailing charters.

Source: Bareboat Charter
Topic: Bareboat Chartering
Authors: Ed Mapes, USCG Captain Master Mariner. Grant Headifen, NauticEd Global Director of Education
NauticEd is a fully recognized education and certification platform for sailing students combining online and on-the-water real instruction (and now VR). NauticEd offers +24 online courses, a free sailor's toolkit that includes 2 free courses, and six ranks of certification – all integrated into NauticEd’s proprietary platform. The USCG and NASBLA recognize NauticEd as having met the established American National Standards.