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This one is really, really nerdy. Turn away now.

When we last saw our hero, he installed a wind sensor on the Garmin, but it wouldn’t talk to the SiTex autopilot.

Several emails later, we determined that we needed a full software upgrade to the autopilot. EZ peazy. Also, incredibly stupid. It will work, or it will turn the autopilot into a brick. So we did the stupid thing and upgraded.

Assemble parts:
WinXP computer (Win 8.1 is close enough, in this case, once you set compatibility).
Serial port (USB/Serial Port kit, bought in Spanish at a Spanish store in La Paz from a Spanish clerk, which was epic).
Jumper sockets and wires (not gonna happen).


But wait! The solution is simple! If you take a piece of 14ga hook up wire (the kind with the thick insulation), you can just jam it over a connection pin and get a reliable hookup, as long as the wire is immobilized to the connector with blue tape.


It works equally well on the autopilot control unit, also.


And the SiTex upload/upgrade software worked great. The laptop is resting on the lid of the garbage container, in case you’re wondering. La Paz is a pretty calm anchorage.

After, I needed to do a full configuration, selecting devices and communication protocols, but it went much better than the first time, probably because the software/documentation is better, and partly because I’m more familiar with the terms and issues.

So now, we can steer a compass heading, we can follow a GPS-plotted path, and we can sail to a fixed wind angle (I think, but I’m pretty sure). It’s cool, man. Also, I think the autopilot will perform better and be easier to adjust/optimize.

We tested the features while still at anchor. The two-three knot current reliably simulated actual movement.

Lesson Learned: An old computer is a vital safety item on a cruising sailboat. Win10 and Linux don’t support old communication protocols. I’ve talked to several other boats that have lost communication with the Iridium phone and other devices because they upgraded to Win10, just like we have. Disaster.