From CruisersWiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Autopilots are equipment used on ships and boats to maintain a chosen course without constant human action. It is also known by several other terms, such as self steering gear and autohelm (technically a Raymarine trademark, but often used generically). Several forms of self-steering gear exist, divided into two categories: electronic and mechanical.


Electronic self-steering is controlled by electronics operating according to one or more input sensors, invariably at least a magnetic compass and sometimes wind direction or GPS position versus a chosen waypoint. The electronics module calculates the required steering movement and a drive mechanism (usually electrical, though possibly hydraulic in larger systems) causes the rudder to move accordingly.

The main goal of a mechanical self-steering gear is to keep a sailboat on a given course towards the apparent wind and to free the helmsman from the steering job. An advantageous side effect is that the sails are kept in optimal angle towards the apparent wind, and deliver optimal propulsion force by that. Even in sailboats running under engine the self steering gear can be used to keep the boat on the correct heading into the wind to easily set or change sails.

Autopilot Types

Wheel Pilot

Tiller Pilot

Wind Vane (mechanical self-steering)

Direct Drive

Autopilot Vendors

Electronic Autopilots

Windvane / Mechanical Steering



Control Heads

Remote Controls

Hydraulic Pumps

Rudder Sensors



  • Autopilots are traditionally named "George".



See Also



We welcome users' contributions to the Wiki. Please click on Comments to view other users' comments, add your own personal experiences or recommend any changes to this page following your visit.

This page has an outline in place but needs completing. Please contribute if you can to help it grow further. Click on Comments to suggest further content or alternatively, if you feel confident to edit this page, click on the edit tab at the top and enter your changes directly.

SailorSmiley.gifContributors to this page

Names: Delatbabel

Personal tools
Friends of Cruisers Wiki