Garmin TR1 Autopilot on a small cruiser - reviewed

Discussion in 'OnBoard Electronics & Controls' started by missinginaction, Jul 14, 2017.

  1. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
    Posts: 648
    Likes: 37, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 512
    Location: new york

    missinginaction Senior Member

    I thought I'd take a few minutes and review the performance of the Garmin TR1 that I installed this spring on my restored 1973 Silverton sedan.

    Typically these autopilots are used by fishermen who are looking for hands free trolling. When connected to a chartplotter the TR1 will follow a preset course. I'm more of a cruiser than a fisherman. I often boat alone though and find that steering all day gets a little tedious. I spoke with a couple of reps at Garmin. They were both pretty honest. "Well, we haven't personally seen the TR1 installed on a cruiser but it should be fine" was the answer I got. So I saved up and bought one.

    Installation was probably easier than on a small boat, since I had more room to work. It's important to get the fluxgate compass installed near the boats centerline, close to the waterline AND away from any metal that could cause issues with the magnetic fields the compass is designed to detect. Bleeding the hydraulics was pretty simple. The rest of the install is "plug and play".

    Over the past couple of weeks I've had the chance to adjust and fine tune the Tr1. The instructions Garmin provides are correct but read them carefully and more than once. There are specific sequences of commands (buttons you need to press in correct order) in order to make adjustments to the autopilot and to confirm the adjustments you've previously made.

    Once you begin to tune the system you can see the performance improve. Once the compass was calibrated I began running a course between two Nuns about a mile apart. I came up on the first buoy, lined up on the second and engaged the TR1. I ended up off by about 400 feet. I adjusted the rudder gain, rudder counter gain and tried again. This time I was off by about 40 feet. Time for a third attempt.

    I adjusted the two gains again and adjusted the sea state filter one setting lower. I passed my target marker 10 feet to starboard. I did a second run to verify the first, it tracked straight with only a couple of degrees of oscillation from time to time due to wind.

    The TR1 is a bit pricey, but based on my experience you are getting something of real value for your money. I don't work for Garmin or have any connection to them, I'm just a guy who enjoys building and running his boat like many others here.

    I wanted to post this since I don't see a lot of recent information on this system. I took an educated gamble (but trusted the Garmin reps opinion) when I invested in this system. I'm very glad I did.

    MIA
     
  2. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
    Posts: 648
    Likes: 37, Points: 28, Legacy Rep: 512
    Location: new york

    missinginaction Senior Member

    A few days ago I returned from my longest trip yet with my small cabin cruiser. From the upper Hudson River area out to Lake Ontario via the Erie/Oswego canals. It was about 400 miles round trip and 48 locks. I boat single handed.
    I wanted to post a follow up regarding the Garmin autopilot as well as a chartplotter I picked up just prior to my trip to go along with it. I added a Garmin Echomap 94SV to the TR1. The main reason for the addition of the chartplotter was it's ability, along with the autopilot to follow a preset course. Working alone the TR1 is a heading hold autopilot, it goes where you point the boat until you tell it otherwise. With the chartplotter I could program in way points and automate some turns. It's important to keep an eye on where you are going, even with an autopilot engaged. But the addition of these two devices freed me from making constant small steering corrections and being married to the helm for hours on end as I traveled along.
    As good as these systems are they are not perfect. I installed the wireless remote option with the TR1 and while it is convenient is was not consistent in following commands. Sometimes heading changes were gentle and controlled, sometimes abrupt and occasionally the wireless didn't execute commands at all. I'll be talking to the manufacturer about this as the system is under warranty. Generally though, the wireless worked OK. On the other hand the hardwired controller performed flawlessly, every time, without fail.
    The chartplotter, I found interesting. On rivers and canals, where the channels vary from about 100 feet wide to about 500 feet, sometimes the chartplotter showed my location being 50 feet or more up on dry land, even though I was in the middle of the channel. I'd look at the plotter awhile later and it would show me exactly where I actually was. I had the system set for WAAS reception and checked to see that I had good satellite reception. Nevertheless it was not accurate at all times and I would not program the plotter to have the autopilot follow a GPS course on rivers. On lakes or larger bodies of water, where I had more room for error, setting up a route worked out great. For instance, there is a lake in central New York that is part of the canal system. It's about 20 miles long and 5 miles wide with a defined channel. I simply set my waypoints about 800 feet off the channel markers and the system took me right through. If it hadn't been for the occasional boat fishing right in the channel I would have made the entire crossing without touching the helm.
    Having the autopilot controlling the high thrust outboard allows the flexibility of running on the kicker alone at displacement speeds or running the main engine and using the kicker to control the boats heading.
    I had a much more relaxing and enjoyable trip thanks to these electronic gadgets. I still have paper charts and keep an eye on things but I can adjust fenders or lines, do the dishes, straighten up the cabin or check something briefly without going off course. Perfect? No, but pretty impressive.

    Regards,

    MIA
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2017
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