Sail Gemini

Navigation & Steering

Updated (February 12, 2001)

New     Problems with Alpha Marine Autopilot, mainly service!  See Below.


Les does his magic at the nav table-- guiding us down the beautiful coast of California, and keeping us out of the shipping lanes!

Click on any thumbnail to see the larger photo.

These were some of the most important choices for us--obviously critical to a successful journey.  Luckily, we had lots of time to look at the choices and pick what we thought was reliable, affordable...and would fit on our boat!  We got most of our initial information at the Sail Expo Boat Show.  It was a great opportunity to try out software (what could possibly satisfy a Mac fiend like Les and a dyed-in-the-wool PC nerd like Diane?)  Similarly, the intricate design of something like a wind vane makes it look like a real Rube Goldberg...but subtle features could make all the difference between a feasible wind-steering system and a hunk of hardware hanging off the back of your boat!  Here's what we decided.


Charts & Tides

Although we track our course on paper charts, this computer-based system gives us incredible flexibility on planning and changing courses, integrates with our GPS and is easy to use.  The chart resolution is excellent, with automatic loading of detailed charts, tide & current information.  It can also control the auto-pilot for automatic steering, but we have not used this feature.  We don't want to make ourselves completely redundant on this trip!

Furuno 1731
24-mile radar

We opted for the CRT screen, and are very happy with this unit.  In addition to detecting  vessels, buoys and those pesky "little" oil platforms, it clearly outlines coastal features as a second-check on our location, especially around points.  Currently, we must go below-decks, however, to view the radar, and are considering a second mount visible from the cockpit.

Foruno GP-31

Magellan NAV1200XL

GPS Units

However did the pioneer sailors make it with a sextant?  Having longitude/latitude 24-hours a day seems indispensable, and the way it integrates with Chartview and radar makes our job so much easier.  The screen text on this model has been somewhat difficult to read, and Les made out his Christmas list early enough to get the Furuno added to our nav station--a remarkable improvement!

C.A.R.D. Model 060
Radar Detector

An added piece of insurance, this Collision Avoidance Radar Detection system alerts us to the presence of other ships with radar. 

Alpha 3000

The unit  is responsible for steering the boat about 99% of the time during passages.  Even downwind, which can be the most challenging situation for autopilots, our Alpha 3000 is pretty steady.  We have nicknamed it "Michelle".  

 Fleming Series II
Self-steering Windvane

This San Diego-based company has created a unit based on many stainless steel stock parts, minimizing the hassle of obtaining customized mount replacement in case of damage.  Its performance has been good, and we're hoping for more wind and longer passages to really put it to the test.


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