sy Escape has instruments from Navico / Brookes & Gatehouse (B&G).  They have worked well and our trusted autopilot – Seid – have steered us through calm and choppy waters since 2000.  But, on a return trip across the North Sea from Shetland, as the waves were building in the increasing NV and Escape was spreading her wings to fly, Seid the autopilot decided to go on strike.  REstart.  REboot.  REalign. REconfigure.  REality.  Handsteer.

It gave us 14 hours of fun sailing and when we passed the Utsira lighthouse, Escape were surfing 15 knots off the waves.  She was flying and we were all smiles.

Then, in harbour after a fantastic crossing, we realised that Seid did not want to come alive again.  Easy fix, was my first thought.  Navico, the owners of Lowrance, Simrad and B&G brands have their main office only 60 minutes drive from my house.  How wrong I was.  I called to no avail.  I e-mailed and are still waiting for an answer.  Then the biggest Norwegian chandler e-mailed but still no answer.  I find it amazing that there is so little focus on the service marked from a marked leader of maritime electronics.

So, where we are.  Escape has no working autopilot and we are preparing to do some shake-down crossings this summer to test ourselves and the boat before we leave.  Our choices are limited to the Navico brands; B&G, Simrad, Lowrance or Raymarine, Garmin and NKE.

We have some criteria that we use to decide

  • It must be 100% NMEA200 compatible and certified
  • It must be able to use our hydraulics from Lecomble & Schmitt
  • There must be a global service

Strangely, all the promoted functions are not on our list.  Honestly, they are all good with variations over the same topic with some minor differences in flavour.  The B&G promote sailing functions and NKE is a truly advanced piece of technology that I would love to have on board when I go for the Vendee Globe.  Simrad and Lowrance are similar products.  Raymarine focus on their SeaTalk network that I read as not 100% interchangeable with NMEA2000 sensors and equipment.  I will not jeopardise any interchangeability.

Follow the blog as I update with progress.