Over the years, marine technology has advanced to make seafaring easier. Marine electronics (which are electronic devices that are specially made to be used in the marine environment) are helping in different ways to make sailing easier and more fun. Marine autopilots are specialized marine electronics that self-stair vessels and ensure that they follow pre-set compass courses. Using them in your sailboat or powerboat has so many benefits.
Marine autopilots are not fancy electronics that you can add to your marine vessel. They are necessary and can save you in certain situations. Considering that humans get tired sometimes and may be distracted by several internal and external factors, investing in marine autopilots is what every marine vessel owner must consider.
With a good marine autopilot, you can cruise in your vessel without a crew and can even perform other on-board duties while the device is steering your vessel and taking you to your predetermined destination. A marine autopilot can even save you fuel. Once it is properly interfaced with GPS technology, it steers accurately and maintains straight course than humans can.
Here we’ve researched extensively to bring you the best marine autopilots for your vessel.
Top 10 Best Marine Autopilots
Raymarine is an established name in the marine electronic market having produced several top quality products for years. A raymarine autopilot is always expected to perform excellently and this particular one does not disappoint at all. This pack comprises a fully enclosed wheel-drive that fits most types of wheels. It is specifically made for smaller wheel steered sailboats with maximum displacement of 16,000 lbs.
There are several features that make this a great autopilot that it is actually hard to highlight the most important ones. The fact that no calibration is required, for instance, means that the autopilot automatically evolves and adapts to your vessels steering characteristics. As sea condition and vessel dynamics change, the autopilot adapts accordingly, thanks to evolution autopilot intelligence.
The Raymarine EV-100 P70 marine autopilot has waterproof housing so you can either install above or below deck. It is also very easy to install. It can equally handle both mechanical and hydraulic steering. It has rugged construction and comes with 3 years warranty.
This is another great autopilot from Raymarine that can improve your boating experience and also help you deal with some serious challenges that may arise in the sea. The package is a valuable lot that comes as an evolution autopilot system consisting of ACU200 processor, P70 control head, EV-1 sensor and EV-1 cabling kit. It is only the drive unit that is not included in the package.
There are several features that help to make this device an amazing autopilot. It has the capacity to evolve as the condition of the sea and your vessel’s dynamics change. It also features solid state sensor technology that will deliver dynamic accuracy to within 2 degrees in all conditions. This device is also very easy to install.
The NAC-3 Autopilot Core pack is another great marine autopilot from Simrad. The company is a veteran in the marine electronic market and this autopilot is one of their very best offerings. In the core pack, you will get the NAC-3 Autopilot Computer, precision-9 compass, RF25 Rudder Feedback, and Micro-C backbone kit. It is engineered to fit inboard and outboard boats.
The device is rated for high-current output and is recommended by the manufacturers for boats that are above 10 meters in length. It boasts of Simrad’s Virtual Rudder Feedback technology (VRF) that eliminates the need for a separate rudder feedback unit. You can also rely on the Simrad Pilot NAC-3 marine autopilot to make the right steering decisions always, as the Simrad Continium steering algorithm is perfect for that. The device is also easy to install and use.
This is a valuable Garmin autopilot that can greatly improve your sailing experience. It is a complete kit of electro-hydraulic marine autopilot system that is built for cockpit mounting. It comes complete with hydraulic unit, ECU, steering cylinder with steering hose, hand-held controller, deck-mount, compass ball, battery cable, and installation hardware. It is specifically made for small gasoline-powered outboard motorboats with the maximum power rating expected to be 20 Horsepower.
The device can easily interface with any Garmin GPS or NMEA 0183 compatible GPS systems. With this autopilot, you will easily automate your boat’s turns and maneuvers, ensuring worry-free remote steering and speed control.
The Garmin 101-70000-00 autopilot is compactly design and is very easy to install. It is also very easy to maintain. It comes with a waterproof enclosure that is surface-mountable. It also comes with helpful instruction manuals to set it up and use.
This is a revolutionary autopilot that is designed for both inboard and outboard vessels. It is well built with the highest grade materials and can perform excellently in the harshest marine conditions. The design is also in a manner that makes seafaring easier and more fun. It also features a color daynight graphic display that offers sunlight view ability during the day and will still not affect your vision at night.
NavPilot uses advanced technology to control your vessel while you are out for seafaring adventures. It utilizes self learning and adaptive software algorithm to guarantee course keeping. During navigation, the autopilot can easily adjust such essential parameters as vessel speed, trim draught tide, wind effect dead band weather and more. It also incorporates Furuno’s Safe Helm and Power Assist modes as well as their exclusive Sabiki mode.
This is another revolutionary marine autopilot system that boasts of several outstanding features that will make your boating experience more fun and enjoyable. According to the manufacturers of the product, you can just kick back, relax and let this Navpilot marine autopilot steer you to your destination. It is a well constructed device with a sunlight viewable display.
There are several other features that make NavPilot 700 the perfect autopilot system for different types of vessels. It is equipped with a self-learning and adaptive software algorithm that changes as the condition of the sea and the vessel change. Essential parameters for navigation such as vessel speed, trim, draught tide, wind effect weather and dead band can easily be altered by the device to keep things smooth and sweet.
This is a new model in the evolution autopilot line that has earned enviable reputation in the marine electronic market. Manufactured by Raymarine, the device is a reliable marine autopilot that will make seafaring enjoyable. It comes with P70Rs control head, ACU-150, EV1 sensor Core, EV1 Cabling kit, and Type 1 hydraulic pump.
The Pilot EV-150 hydraulic marine autopilot is made to fit the specific needs of small-to-medium-sized hydraulically steered vessels. It is specifically for 12-volt DC electrical systems only. It has all the features that the other autopilots in the evolution series have. The Evolution TrackIQ algorithms ensure tighter track-keeping and faster track acquisition. The device also supports the Raymarine’s patented Hydro-Balance technology that will compensate for any deficiencies in the hydraulic system of your boat.
As the name implies, this is a behind-the-dash mechanical-drive marine autopilot. It is designed to be directly compatible with the mores 290 steering helm. The straight shaft drive unit replaces the manual drive used on cable steered boats. It is designed to be used in small and medium-sized sailing boats. With the bezel kit that comes with this sailboat autopilot, it can be fitted into most wheel-steered boats.
The Octopus Type S autopilot uses a patented autopilot intelligence that lets it steer the vessel effectively through a preset course without any need for adjustment. Another reason you may want to invest in this high-performance cockpit-mounted autopilot is that it is easy to be installed and used.
9. Simrad Ap48
This is a simply-designed marine autopilot head with rotary knob that has all the features that will make seafaring easy and more fun. A well engineered device, the autopilot is responsive and very easy to use. It is presented on a wide-angle and zero-fog color display as the LCD panel is optically bonded to its protective glass covering. The aluminum rotary control dial with dedicated keys for instant access to steering modes makes operation easier and straightforward.
With an intuitive autopilot interface, this device makes hands-free maneuvering of marine vessels easy and efficient. While the rotary dial provides precise steering control, the dodge keys make instant heading changes in one 10 or 100 increments. The autopilot head and rotary knob is made to serve you in different kinds of situations and is highly reliable.
10. ComNav 1420
This is another well-engineered product that is considered among the best boat autopilot systems. It is a versatile marine electronic that can work with different kinds of vessels including commercial fleets, fishing boats, private yachts and tugs. It is also built for effortless operation and intuitive control. The parameters are easily customizable too.
Like other ComNav devices, the 1420 marine autopilot features the legendary Intelligent Steering Technology (IST). This technology lets the autopilot learn steering responses automatically and continue to improve with time. You can always trust the autopilot to perform excellently in most marine conditions. Automatic sea state adjustment will make sure that this is the case. Some other helpful buttons like the fly, port and starboard dodge buttons will also come in handy when you need to avoid collision.
Factors to consider when buying Marine Autopilot
Before you buy a marine autopilot, there are some important factors you need to consider. We will briefly discuss some of these factors to help you make the right decision. The most important factors are as follows:
You need to buy the right size of marine autopilot for your vessel or you will find yourself in a situation of either returning the device or discarding it afterwards. Different boating rigs require different sizes of autopilots and you need to consider boat design, displacement and boat length in choosing the right size of autopilot.
Most boat manufacturers have their recommendations for autopilot sizes and you need to follow the recommendations. It is a general rule to choose an autopilot that has displacement value that is 20% higher than the uppermost displacement unit given by the manufacturer.
Above Deck or Below Deck
There are two distinctive models of autopilots when you are considering where they will be mounted in the marine vessel.
Above-deck autopilots are the perfect small boat autopilot systems. They are more ideal for boats that normally do short-distance sailing whose displacement capacities are 13,200 pounds or less. These types of autopilots are also called cockpit-mounted or tiller-mounted autopilots.
Below-deck autopilots are more suitable for larger boats whose displacement capacities are above 13,200. They are more reliable and are likely to be more durable too. Below-deck autopilots are also called inboard autopilots and are more expensive.
Boat drive mechanism
You also need to check the drive mechanism of your boat if you want to buy the best boat autopilots. There are generally three types of drive units namely; linear, rotary, and hydraulic drives. Be certain of the type your boat uses and select the right autopilot unit. There are some marine autopilots that use one-size-fits-all drive units.
Select the right corepack
Basically, corepacks include the course computer, the fluxgate compass, and a rate gyro. It is important that you select the corepcks that matches the amperage draw of the drive unit. It is also important that the corepack is capable of handling the displacement capacity of your boat.