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Last September, I introduced our third crew member, Wheeler, our auto pilot. I am happy to announce that he is now ‘going steady‘ with Carmine (the Garmin chartplotter). You see, up until the other day, we had a chartplotter on which we could plot routes and we had an auto pilot that could steer a course. They weren’t in a position to communicate though, having never been introduced. Now, with the help of just 2 tiny wires, that has all changed.

Having heard that others (most people?) have them connected, I decided to do the unthinkable, read the manuals. In doing so, I was inspired to believe that yes, it might be possible, but it still wasn’t at all clear how to make it happen. I then Googled to find the info on how to connect them, but still had no luck. Ultimately, I just took a bit of an educated guess and connected the NMEA output on the Garmin to the NMEA input on the autopilot. That wire, plus one other going to the ground bus bar and bang, it worked!

So, when Wheeler and Carmine are talking, they function like this:

  1. We set up a route on the chartplotter
  2. Begin navigating the route on the chartplotter
  3. Steer the boat onto a course close to the first leg of the route
  4. Engage the autopilot
  5. Hit “Track” on the autopilot
  6. It will then ask us if we want to adjust course to follow, giving us the new bearing
  7. Hit “Track” again to confirm yes

Engaged as such, the autopilot will continue to make adjustments to the course to follow the route to the waypoints we plotted.

What this won’t do, that I thought it would, is automatically turn onto the next leg of a route when a waypoint is reached. I guess that would make the liability lawyers crazy. Instead, the autopilot will beep at us and we have to hit the “Track” button to say yes, please turn onto that new leg. Oh well, it works, and we love it! Let’s hope that Wheeler and Carmine continue to get along for a long time to come!

I wrote yesterday that we bailed on bashing across the banks to head to French Cay. Well, you have to pay the piper some time and we did so yesterday, motoring for almost 8 hours to get across the shallow water with a 15-20 knot headwind. What is amazing to us is that this body of water is so big that when in the middle, you can see no land and yet for as far as the eye can see, it is no more than about 10-12 feet deep!

After rounding the final corner we were actually able to SAIL! The sad part is that we were able to make virtually the same speed under sail for that small leg of the journey that we had for the previous 7 hours of bashing while running both engines.

Cockburn Harbor in South Caicos, where we are currently anchored. Today will be a non-travel day.


  1. It is so nice having the auto pilot and navigation system in sync……..I have about 25 routes in my system and once I leave the harbor, I don’t touch the wheel except to dodge lobstaaa pots and snailboaters………Being simple is great, but once you have technology, simplicity becomes a thing of the past….

  2. Ahh! Government Dock, big sneaky policeman, a night on dirty foam and a mean, very expensive Sargent. Not so sweet memories.
    Loved the island though!

  3. Glad you made it safely. I was following spot and it looked like you ‘hove to’ overnight. Is the leg to DR going to be the longest open ocean stretch? I really enjoy the details of your posts! I am going to try your threesome hookup on our dinghy. Looks like a winner. Congrats on the Dynemma contest. Are you getting all new standing or running rigging? I started reading Lin and LArry Pardy’s book ‘Capable Cruiser’ last weekend and I see from the cover where you got the idea for your ‘North Pole’ picture of Rebecca.

    • Hi guys

      As you likely read, we just anchored at French Cay as opposed to heaving to. The passage from Rum to Mayaguana was 25 hours. I think it should only be about 16 to the DR.

      The Dyneema people are replacing our running rigging. In fact, I just got an email from the yesterday requesting specifics on the lines required. It should be cool.

      As for that pic, I think just about every other Lats and Atts magazine has a similar photo on the cover. 🙂

  4. Awsome!

    Do NOT enter exact waypoints into the GPS. Several years ago, while on the hard prepping my Stiletto for sale, I got to talking with a man doing some repairs on the front beam of his cat. I assumed it was a docking mishap. Not that simple.

    It turns out he entered marker coordinates in his GPS and the boat found them. He was even on watch, but the helm on his boat was centered, so was the mast, and he never saw the marker. Fortunatly for him the wind was light and sailboats are relativly slow.

    The trick is to enter a known off-set, perhaps 50 feet to one side of the marker. And use some common sense!

    • Well, that does make sense. In this case, we were entering coordinates from the wavy line charts, not coordinates of buoys. Our Garmin has virtually ZERO data for the Turks and Caicos. Apparently that was a separate chip. 🙂

  5. When running tracks, it may be tempting to be somewhere on the boat other than directly in front of the autopilot at all times. It is unlikely you would hear the off-track / waypoint alarm. You may wish to consider rigging an external alarm. The autopilot should have contacts for an external (i.e. loud) alarm.

    Crossing my fingers for a great jaunt to DR.

  6. Carmine knows where you are and where you want to be. She also knows that Wheeler is not all that smart so she doesn’t tell him about the next leg of the course until she has reached the waypoint (within an acceptable distance) AND agreed with the skipper that it would be a good idea to change course. Neither of them know what direction the wind is coming from or what other boats or supertankers might be around. Hence the need for confirmation.

    Incidentally, you should be able to set Carmine’s ‘acceptable distance’ which may be called Arrival Alarm Radius or something similar which means she will call you when she is within that distance of the Closest Point of Approach and you will then have time to wake up, get dressed and climb on deck to check that all is OK before agreeing to the course change. Caution on setting it too small because Carmine will get very jittery as you close on the waypoint. Give her plenty of room and she will allow Wheeler to have the next leg ready for a smooth transition onto the new course.

    • I love that description, Peter!

      I will look to see if we can adjust the acceptable distance figure that you are describing. I was also looking to see if I could adjust the XTE (cross track error) figure which tells the auto when to steer back the other way after it has moved too far off course. Right now it is set at 0.01nm.

  7. andy & sonja cru-zinacatamaran - Reply

    i HAVE just found another chart system for the Apple Mac that you have its called “MacENC” i have downloaded the trial & it looks ok, the whole package is around $180. for all charts as well, now i need to look in to it & find out more at an apple store.

    • We have GPSNavX, made by the same company. Ours uses raster charts and that one uses vector charts (ENC may work with raster too but ours, the cheaper version, does not use vector).

  8. Do you have a remote for your AP? You could be sitting on the bow keeping watch and change the setting of the wheel, I think. Anyway, good to know that you are having a good trip!

  9. Cool. Running into a mark would be SO embarasing.

    • We almost saw that, under different circumstances. While anchored in Cape may, we watched a guy was slowly cruising along in the harbor, taking photos of something in our direction, while his boat was moving towards a fixed marker. He either hit it or reversed a mili-second before doing so. Pretty funny from our perspective.

  10. I love “going steady” and I plan to work it into future conversations (and probably posts) about gear.

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