Re: [Amel Yacht Owners] Autopilot failures and spares

Bill & Judy Rouse <yahoogroups@...>

Bill Kinney referred to my mention of "10% of autopilots fail on ocean crossings." Maybe there is some doubt that this number is accurate.

I should have given everyone more information about where this 10% number comes from. The 10% agrees with my experience with other 
boats crossing at the same time as we did. Many times while you are circumnavigating, you will cross in the loose company of 
others...seasons cause the migration at certain times.

I also asked the founder of the ARC and the ODYSSEY, Jimmy Cornell. In his vast experience, 10% of the boats crossing will have an autopilot failure. 

I strongly recommend having a backup for each component of your autopilot system during ocean crossings. Normally this includes:
  • Course Computer
  • Control head
  • Electronic compass
  • Rudder reference
  • Drive unit
I also recommend a backup GPS and any component such as an antenna.

There is a way to "rent" these backups for very little money. Buy them and sell them after your crossings are complete. I bought ours from Dan Gerhardt>. Dan sells new old stock and refurbished Raymarine components...and will repair anything Raymarine. I believe that a number of Amel owners have used Dan with complete satisfaction. 


Currently Galveston

On Tue, Feb 14, 2017 at 1:19 PM, James Wendell ms42phantom54@... [amelyachtowners] <amelyachtowners@...> wrote:


I know you have been given lots of really good advice, but since I have an Amel 54 I thought I might chime in to give you my humble opinions if they would help you. I have lived on my boat Phantom now for more than a year and am currently cruising the windward islands in the Caribbean. I have learned quite a bit about the boat during that time and can at least offer some advice based on my life on board.

Two windlasses:
My Amel 54 came with the 2-windlass option. I have never needed the second windlass, but I find it quite comforting to know it is there. I do exercise it every once in awhile to ensure it remains fully operational. I do this because the primary windlass has suffered some significant internal corrosion and I have lost the chain counter function. Having the second windlass ready to deploy is critical in my situation. I will be replacing the primary unit upon return to the US this summer. However, I agree with the consensus that a single windlass is just fine if properly maintained.

I wholeheartedly agree with the more is better philosophy here. You cannot have too much. I installed an arch with the biggest panels I could fit, giving me 570 watts. While it helps, I can tell you that it will not keep up with the battery requirements. I have a D400 wind generator as well, but I find wind generators far less beneficial than solar - at least during the day. During the day in the Caribbean with full sun I have seen nearly 540 watts at times, with an average of 350 more the norm. If the sun is out I am able to keep up with my 18-amp load for about 3 hours or so. I am going to add more in the way of a 140 watt Solbian flexible panel on the dodger. I just have to get to installing it. That will help even more. But I have to run the generator every day for an hour or two to keep my 660AH batteries happy. As others have noted, I use the generator run to make water and do laundry, etc. I also installed a Watt and Sea, which really helps on passage.

My Amel 54 also has the dual autopilot option. During my research on Amel 54's I never saw one with just the single autopilot. I have already experienced a failure where I had to switch on passage. I have the linear/rotary autopilot drive system, which is fine, but the newer 54's come with dual hydraulic linears, which I believe also included dual computers. Mine has a single computer with 2 drives. I would highly recommend the dual setup in either case.

I do not yet feel qualified to advise on circumnavigation. While I intend to do the World ARC in a year or so, I would not attempt that until I fully confident the boat is ready - and me as well. Getting to know the boat and ensuring everything is in top shape has been my priority. I would consider my current cruising in the Caribbean a good shake-down. However, I can assure you that the Amel 54 is a FANTASTIC boat. I can actually solo sail it - not that I will or intend to do so, but it is so well thought out I could do it. Two could cruise the world in supreme comfort for sure.

s/v Phantom Amel 54 #044

On Tuesday, February 14, 2017 9:26 AM, "greatketch@... [amelyachtowners]" <> wrote:


As Joel said, we all have our opinions, and at least mine are worth what you pay for them... so here are mine:

Two windlasses:
 This is not an important option in my thinking.  Take good care of one, and you'll not have problems. There are always ways to get an anchor up without the windlass.  They might not be much fun, but it can be done. The extra weight DOES matter up on the very end of the boat.  And it is not just the weight of the windlass, but the weight of the second anchor moved out to live full time on the roller, and its chain now always lives in the chainlocker.  Using two anchors at once certainly does happen, but not often unless you are cruising full time in the Bahamas, even then it is onlynsomething like 10 or 20% of the places you'll drop the hook.

More is better--always.  The old joke, "How much much money does it take to go cruising? All you have!" is doubly true of power usage. People who installed 400 watts of solar are likely to say that that it the right amount, people who installed 300 (or 500) will say the same. I doubt you will ever run into anybody who wishes they had installed less! We put 600W of high efficiency panels on an arch because that was all we could fit. If there was an easy, attractive, and safe way to rig 800W, I'd do it.  Our 600W panels supply the boat, but not us.  

Here is what I mean:  If we are plugged into shore power I will typically turn off the battery charger and just let the panels top off the batteries every day while our AC needs are met from shore power. The panels just keep up with our two refrigerators, one freezer, cabin lights and other miscellaneous DC power needs. 

If we are at anchor, our personnel power use for electronics and other small uses just overtop the panels supplies most day and we need to run the generator a little each early morning, which is when we run the watermaker.  Less the watermaker--our overall use of DC power at anchor is about 1.8 to 2.5 kW-hrs per day

If you are crossing oceans, two autopilots is barely enough. They work great--until they don't. Do as Joel Potter suggests (always a good idea!) They are complex electro-mechanical devices and failure is not just an option, it is to be expected.  Hand steering with a short handed crew on a long passage is not fun.

Bill Rouse's number of an autopilot failure one in ten passages would lead to an expectation that both would fail in one out of 100 passages.  I once sailed 800 ocean miles withou t an autopilot.  I would really, REALLY prefer to never do THAT again.

Don't let anybody tell you how long is right for YOU.  It is like someone trying to tell me I should like Brussels Sprouts because they taste so good and EVERYBODY loves them!  One one end, I know of someone who set out on a circumnavigation and 20 years later had not left the Pacific Basin.  I know someone else who circumnavigated in 18 months stopping only for provisions and repairs.  One thing they had in common:  They both did exactly what was right for THEM and had fun doing it.

Bill Kinney
SM#160 Harmonie
Providenciales, Turks and Caicos Islands

---In, wrote :

I am so grateful for all the responses!  
We sailed this past weekend on what we hope will be our new Amel 54. Loved it. What an adventure machine!  
Thank you guys for your thoughtful and complete responses. I have no doubts nor does my beloved that we're making the right choice. 

I do have a few other questions if you would bear them:

One windlass or 2?

How much solar is enough, how much too much? Is there ever too much?

Is one autopilot enough or is a backup the way to go?

The plan is a 4 year circumnavigation. Maybe 7? Maybe 2. 

You guys are such a great crew and I really appreciate it. 

Porter McRoberts.&nbsp ;

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