Saturday, 9 March 2019

....good and not so good... tiller pilot and DSC setup

...."not so good"? Read on..

Pretty damn good of those crafty days off work that usually deliver so much on the sailing front in the summer, also delivered some goodness on the construction and maintenance front..

There were three jobs (four actually) on the list today...

With a little more than 40 days to launch prioritisation is now the key, jobs that need power and electrics move closer to the top of the list, as paint jobs and the like can be done on the water if needed (they don't tend to get done, by the way, they just get moved to next winters list )

First (and easiest), it being March it was time to drop the outboard off for its service - job done and after time for a catch up with Simon at Emsworth Outboards, it was on to the chandlers for one of those (top left -  more anon) and some nuts and bolts..

Next was the job I have been (over) thinking about for far to long, and as is usually the case worked out much easier than I thought - it was time to construct the tiller pilot attachment..  over many long cycle rides to work I have come up with hundreds of ideas ( I was even welding a bracket at one point!) but in the end I rejected them all for the simplest solution a block of 4 x 2 and a hinge..  truly the most difficult thing about it was doing the measuring..  happy to say I followed the 'measure twice cut/drill once' this time rather than my usual other way round..

First off Julian on "Billy" found me a tiller pin in his spares box last summer - it was slightly over size for the fitting on the end of the ram on mine, but that is only plastic so I drilled it out slightly and all was good.. drilled a slightly undersized hole into the tiller and it screwed in with a good tight fit with no need for epoxy..

Just prior to drilling the hole for the pivot pin..  the tiller pin is fitted - thanks Julian!
That done I could do the measurement from pin to cockpit edge, and as suspected it was several inches short of recommended - trimmed down a piece of 4 x 2 I'd bought with me and offered it up with the pilot resting on top and the other end on the pin on the tiller so I could see the pilot was horizontal and at right angles, marked up the position of the end of the block on the cockpit side, and got a rough idea of the length I would need..  once that was cut, I repeated the above, and when I was happy, did a precise measure from the pin on the tiller to get me the position of the hole for the pivot on the pilot. 10mm hole was drilled - perfect size - tested again, perfect..

After that a stainless steel hinge from the spares box (I think I was originally going to use them for the cockpit lids but thought they weren't heavy duty enough) was attached to the block at the cockpit end of the block, and to the cockpit side - that way the block can lie flat again the cockpit side when I'm not using the pilot, so I can still open the cockpit hatches

All done bar the shouting - it's not switched on hence tiller position - power socket down in the corner on the cockpit floor - the hook and eye will be the other side of the block - eye end on the block
The block is in the garage for a couple of coats of paint; I'll fit the hook and eye (which will secure the block when it's being used) next time, as at this point the rain drove me into the cabin for a cup of tea... 

Warm and dry in the cabin (fan heater going like a banshee), tea in hand, it was time for the third job - the VHF..

The easy job was to program in the MMSI that I recently got from Ofcom when I registered the radio, but then the job that turned out to be infinitely more a pain in the ar*e - connecting my GPS 72 (which is truly old, but continues to work and therefore I am reluctant to upgrade) so I can send GPS data for the DSC function on the radio..

The problem was that the GPS data cable has two wires for data, the radio has four wires..  I read that radio manual about a hundred times trying to understand what the cables were doing and what matched up - I don't consider myself to be a dull bloke, but I could not get the GPS to talk to the VHF for love nor money, so in the end I did what I should have done and did some research on the web.

On the Practical Boat Owner forum I came up trumps, someone had asked the exact same question a number of years ago, and one of the respondents had done the exact same job that morning and had provided the very info I needed!

Seven years ago, but as valid and useful to me as the day it was written - thanks "Bru" (I follow his blog, by the way - he owns/owned SV "Pagan" if you want to find him on Google)..  the file he references is long gone but I managed to find it on the 'way back machine' so if you want to read it, it is here [clicky]

So a temporary fix later and we had the following lash up..

...went into the GPS and set the interface to NMEA - the 4800 baud was default and the only option

..and eureka..  GPS data feeding to the VHF =>

Top result....  I would never ever even have considered that one of the two connections required used the negative power cable on the GPS without that handy post!...

So the not so good? Display on the new VHF is faulty - two lines of pixels missing as can be seen from the picture above..  damn....  so the day came to an end on a good note and a bad note... 

Fourth job was going to be that fore hatch but it can wait, I'll be down on the boat again on Sunday..

Dismantled the VHF, went home, found the receipt, put it back in ts packaging, and went off to the Chandlers I bought it from (mail order) to return it and hopefully get a replacement only to find it doesn't work that way and after 16 days you don't get a replacement - it goes back to the manufacturer for assessment/repair ..  double damn...  still, I am advised they are quick so I should hear within the next week to two weeks..  #firstworldproblem

On the plus side, while I was there I picked up the antifoul..  after two years of Hempel Classic I was all set to go with that again (it's as good/bad as anything), but as they were doing a special on this one I went with that instead..   £35 for 2.5 litres - I could pay three times as much and am not convinced it would be any better, never mind three times better... navy blue naturally, as all boats look the dogs nadgers in navy blue antifoul as we all know..  


  1. It looks to me that if the auto helm wanted to turn the boat to port it would have to pull the tiller towards the auto helm - there doesn't seem to be enough distance to be able to alter course to port very much - but I am a complete novice and haven't had anything much to do with them.

    1. Hi Alden - an optical illusion, I think - the picture is taken looking across the cockpit rather than down it and as the pilot is switched off the ram arm is fully withdrawn so in maximum starboard turn.. ram arm is approx 18" when fully extended so it can extend to the same the other side of centre..

  2. The usual solution for the auto pilot would be an s shaped bracket bolted to the top of the tiller and the pole of the autopilot let into the top of the coaming but maybe the measurements didn't work for that solution

    1. Greetings Unknown - yeah - cockpit too wide - 23.2" is the magic number... toyed with the idea of getting extension rods but they cost an arm and a leg...