Rant - Raymarine ST1000 Tiller Pilot

tophat22

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I have a Pelagic tiller pilot actuator / arm, which I used to replace the Raymarine equivalent, QO47.

The Pelagic works perfectly with my Raymarine SmartPilot autopilot controller, and I believe with the newer Evo, too. It's handled force 7+ just fine, and I've crossed Biscay with it.

The Pelagic appears to be a rebadged Chinese industrial actuator, and I wrote this week to the suppler on made-in-china.com to see about getting a spare. I will update the forum when I have more information, but the headline price appears to be only £40.
@KompetentKrew - did you receive a reply about this mate?
 

Alfie168

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I've just taken my 2 year old Raymarine ST1000 Tiller Pilot apart to give it a clean and service as I noticed a spot of condensation inside the window. What a crappy piece of design it is! It had already let me down once last year off Start Point in fairly heavy weather singlehanded at night. The two screws that hold on the electric motor had worked loose as there was no thread lock on them. When I got to Plymouth I quickly got it working again without inspecting anything else as I needed to get sailing.

This time I had a good look over the rest of it and was unimpressed with the design and the quality control. It was clearly on the point of failing again and it's just a case of which bit would break first.

The roll pin which fixes the toothed-belt pulley to the main threaded rod had worked part way out and was in the process of destroying the toothed belt.

There's far too much end float of the threaded rod so the belt alignment is all over the place.

The outer end plate of the ram guide was bent and the plastic guide bush was broken. This happens because the unit has no way sensing when the ram has reached the end of it's travel so it keeps on applying full force, presumably until some time limit has been reached when it shuts off the motor and displays a message. The construction isn't strong enough to resist this force. The rapid clicking noise it makes at the end of it's travel must be one of the toothed belts slipping which can't be good for the belt or the pulleys.

The circuit board isn't given any sort of sealing after the components have been soldered on so there are bare metal terminals all over it which can corrode and short out if any salt water does get in, which is pretty much envitable over time.

There's no thread lock on any of the screws holding the mechanism together so it's just a matter of luck whether they work loose or not.

If you buy cheap things then it's likely that they're not going to be very well made and won't last long, but the recommended retail for this is £525. That's not cheap for a fairly simple and shoddily made mechanical device, and the electronics involved don't cost a lot these days.

It would be relatively straightforward to eliminate most of these problems at the design stage, in fact the existing design would need only minor modifications, a few extra components and a few lines of code in the firmware to add the ram position sensing. The unit must have paid for it's original development and tooling costs long ago so the company could easily afford to sort it out and still make a decent profit.

The impression I get is that it's designed to fail soon after the warranty runs out. It's not just the rip-off aspect that annoys me, it's the waste and environmental impact this sort of attitude results in. The management arseholes who make these decisions know perfectly well that a lot of these units are going to end up in landfill soon after the warranty runs out, but they don't give a toss because they're making a little more money than if they did it properly.

End of rant.

-----

Fortunately I caught it early enough that it's worth saving. I'll build in a couple of microswitches and diodes to shut off the motor when the ram reaches the ends of it's travel, remake the broken/bent bits, lacquer the circuit board and assemble everything properly with loctite. Liberal use of silicon grease should keep the worst of the salt water at bay. I use a plastic cover when it's likely to get wet but inevitably some moisture does get in.

Keeping the water out is tricky as hermetically sealing something like this would be very expensive to design in and I do have some sympathy for the designers on this point. As the ram moves out the volume of the internal space increases so the air pressure drops and damp air will be drawn into the unit. The motor generates heat and if the unit's been sitting in the sun the air inside can get quite hot. If it then gets a glob of cold spray over it the air inside will cool rapidly and that will also cause low pressure inside.

I've got a couple of ideas for solving this but I'm not sure how practical they are. A flexible tube could be connected between the tiller pilot and the inside of the boat so that relatively dry air is sucked in. It'd be a bit of extra faff when plugging the unit in but with a suitable connection arrangement for the tube it could work.

The other idea is to have a flexible bladder inside the unit which is connected to the outside air. As the inside air pressure drops the bladder will expand to equalise it. A small polythene bag would probably work but I'm not sure whether there's enough room inside for it to expand sufficiently.
A small goretex membrane might help with keeping internal pressures equal to outside, letting air circulate and keeping moisture out. It's not my idea NASA use a tiny goretex type membrane on their LED navlights with exactly that purpose in mind.
 

Daydream believer

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A small goretex membrane might help with keeping internal pressures equal to outside, letting air circulate and keeping moisture out. It's not my idea NASA use a tiny goretex type membrane on their LED navlights with exactly that purpose in mind.
Would not have thought nav lights needed on the way to Mars. Unless they know something about aliens that they are not telling us o_O
 

Praxinoscope

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The OP although a couple of years old, it does rather mirror my feelings about the quality of construction of the ST1000 and ST2000.
The lack of some form of sensor at the end stop is a serious design fault, and I have one unit sitting on a shelf which has managed to chew up the stop point over the years of use, you should have seen the mess of chewed up rubber and plastic.
I have another which suffered water ingress in bad weather and the PC board has shorted out, but at about £170 for a replacement PCB I am hoping that at some point I can find a knackered one cheap in the hope that the PCB might just be OK.
 

fredrussell

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The OP although a couple of years old, it does rather mirror my feelings about the quality of construction of the ST1000 and ST2000.
The lack of some form of sensor at the end stop is a serious design fault, and I have one unit sitting on a shelf which has managed to chew up the stop point over the years of use, you should have seen the mess of chewed up rubber and plastic.
Unless I’m going mad, I’m pretty sure my St2000+ does have an end stop switch. It certainly doesn’t graunch like my previous ST1000 did at the end of its travel. A feature of the plus models perhaps?
 

Praxinoscope

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Unless I’m going mad, I’m pretty sure my St2000+ does have an end stop switch. It certainly doesn’t graunch like my previous ST1000 did at the end of its travel. A feature of the plus models perhaps?
The ST1000 and ST 2000 are identical construction apart from the push rod screw thread and the colour of the casing, the PCB is also identical and is simply re-callibrated for either the 1000 or the 2000 push rod, none of the units I have (both 1000 & 2000) have end stop switches.
 

fredrussell

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The ST1000 and ST 2000 are identical construction apart from the push rod screw thread and the colour of the casing, the PCB is also identical and is simply re-callibrated for either the 1000 or the 2000 push rod, none of the units I have (both 1000 & 2000) have end stop switches.
I was more referring to the ‘plus’ models. Do they differ in some way I wonder?
 

Buck Turgidson

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I was more referring to the ‘plus’ models. Do they differ in some way I wonder?
Nope they are the same. You can turn your ST1000+ PCB into a ST2000+ PCB if you know the magic button combination which is hidden in the secret service manual which can be found using the mystical google incantation. But I wouldn't bother.
I did get my old st1000+ pub to run the pelagic ram for a short while until it decided not to anymore. As stated the pelagic rams are cheap Chinese but they do have end cutouts and you could even specify one with a position sensor for 10 RMB extra.

I'm happy with my TP22 and 32.
 

Praxinoscope

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I was more referring to the ‘plus’ models. Do they differ in some way I wonder?
I was being lazy and didn't put the + after the figures, all the units I have described are + versions. I have a copy of the 'secret service manual' but it has no info on test points for the PCB or potential PCB fault finding apart from 'replaçe'
 

chrisclin

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My 2000+ gave up the ghost and I bit the bullet and went for an Evo 100. It's very much better - but still doesn't have a cutout at full helm. It still grinds away. The only solution seems to be to go for a rudder reference but I'm not sure how you install one on a transom hung rudder. It also seems to cost an arm and a leg!
 

KompetentKrew

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As stated the pelagic rams are cheap Chinese but they do have end cutouts and you could even specify one with a position sensor for 10 RMB extra.
Wait, what!? Does the position sensor allow the rudder position to be fed back into the controller, like the Raymarine M81105 does, please @Buck Turgidson?

@KompetentKrew - did you receive a reply about this mate?
Contacted them around Chinese New Year and figured they maybe missed my mail when they came back from holidays. I forgot about it since, but will chase them next week.
 

Buck Turgidson

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Wait, what!? Does the position sensor allow the rudder position to be fed back into the controller, like the Raymarine M81105 does, please @Buck Turgidson?


Contacted them around Chinese New Year and figured they maybe missed my mail when they came back from holidays. I forgot about it since, but will chase them next week.
When I found the supplier they were offering different lengths, motor specs and with or without position sensor. I don't remember what type of sensor but I imagine it's a potentiometer. I don't know what the common AP rudder sensors are but I would hope they a RVDTs based on the price!
 

KompetentKrew

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@KompetentKrew - did you receive a reply about this mate?
I'm currently in communication with Wuxi HongBa Mechanical Electrical Equipment Co Ltd, who are the original manufacturer of the Pelagic actuator arm. Wuxi is a city about 90 miles from Shanghai, by the way.

Their websites:
The Pelagic is their HB-DJ809 model - it is available in various configurations,[PDF spec sheet] and I assume that Wuxi adjust the gearing to favour either a faster rate-of-travel or higher load capacity. The Pelagic is the HB-DJ809 with a 25cm stroke and a 200N load capacity, full part number HB-DJ809-12-250-453-58 - anyone with an official Pelagic will find this full part number on it, and will see that the logo matches that on Wuxi HongBa's website.

One european chandler is already selling these with a slight discount against Pelagic's price.

As Pelagic ship it, with pin, plug and bracket, their actuator arm is a drop in replacement for the Raymarine QO-47 actuator arm, but Wuxi do not include the articulating mounting bracket, so you will have to source that separately or have something fabricated. A google search for "linear actuator Install bracket" throws up plenty of possibilities, including Gimson Robotics (their GLA1500 actuator is also similar) and HyQuip in the UK. My Pelagic came with a 3-pin plug from the Bulgin Buccaneer standard series, which Raymarine have used on their QO-47 tiller arms in the past, although it doesn't look like this is used on the current version (in the 90's they used 2-pin Bulgin Buccaneer connectors).

Wuxi HongBa are quite open about being OEM for Pelagic, but have a minimum order quantity of 8 pieces. They are quoting about $50 per unit with a 2 week lead time, but FedEx shipping nearly doubles this cost and no doubt VAT / import duty will have to be added. I'm currently in discussion with them with regards to the position-sensor option - this may allow those handy with an Arduino to pipe rudder position information back to the controller.

The Pelagic does seem very rugged - I know there's been lots of discussion of this before, here and on other forums; I crossed Biscay with mine, and it'll quite happily cope with 30+ knots of wind. However I instigated this search because I wanted to get a spare actuator arm "just in case". I will probably order a batch and sell the spare ones at cost, but beware that I am currently located in the EU so you will probably get hit with a second set of VAT and customs charges if you're in the UK.


@pandos and @Daydream believer - in another thread you asked me to appraise you of the outcome of my enquiries. I do so now, and apologise for the delay.
 

Refueler

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Strange ... I have the forerunner AH1000 and AH800 that the later ST series were developed from when Raymarine acquired Nautech ...

My 1000 and 800 both cut-out at max travel both ways .. they have an initial 1 - 2 sec's of trying to go further - but then cut out. Only pain is that usually they have defaulted completely and you need to power down .. power up and hit auto again ...

I did have the 800 lock at max out one time and had to open and turn the 'block' on the thread to get it to retract back ... but that was long ago and hasn't repeated.
 

Refueler

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I have an old AH800 (would need to check exact model) where electronics are shot, but the motor and ram mechanism appear okay, if anyone wants to make an offer for it to make a good one out of 2 dud ones?
Shame as they were good ...... trouble is now to repair is not economic ...

I did have a component failure on one of mine - pal of mine checked and found one item on board was shot .. he swapped it from a spares or repair AH1000 I have ..... while before then I had been quoted by Raymarine for Service / Repair when the compass had fault ... when I got back in my chair after reading the pre-payment quote ... I decided to buy a spares or repair one ..
The compass turned out to be a simple fault ... pal later swapped that bit on the board ..
Last year we cut out the data plugs and replaced with better so my corded remote worked ... with original connection - it was intermittent.
Only thing I miss with these - is the lack of NMEA for plotter connection ... I have the Z081 box - but its useless.
 

Oldgeezer

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Just about to add a board in the power supply to my ST1000+

When it hits the end stop it takes 6 amps as opposed to its normal 2-3 amps, so I reckon this board will cut the supply briefly which will reset the ST1000+ and stop it graunching.
Can adjust the current cut-off and delay etc. Worth £6 to try anyway!
I may even add a sounder to it as the over current LED is not much use on the boat.

From ebay - "6V 12V 24V 10A PWM DC Motor Over Current Load Protection Switch Module Governor"
 

Refueler

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Just about to add a board in the power supply to my ST1000+

When it hits the end stop it takes 6 amps as opposed to its normal 2-3 amps, so I reckon this board will cut the supply briefly which will reset the ST1000+ and stop it graunching.
Can adjust the current cut-off and delay etc. Worth £6 to try anyway!
I may even add a sounder to it as the over current LED is not much use on the boat.

From ebay - "6V 12V 24V 10A PWM DC Motor Over Current Load Protection Switch Module Governor"
Usually if TP goes to end stop ... it means boat is not responding to TP or somethings happened to up-set balance ... so I would want to know why ...

Only time I see my TP go anywhere near end stop is when I use the auto-tack function ... otherwise its only moving in small bits either side of neutral ...
 
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