Autopilot for 290EX

I have a new Rinker 290 EX (Merc 8.2 and Bravo Three) and want to install an autopilot, but am getting mixed advice on what type to install. I have a Simrad GO9 mfd installed from the factory and want a Simrad autopilot to coordinate with it. One place said the Rinker 290 has mechanical cable steering that is power assisted and recommended the Simrad Outboard Pilot Cable Steer Pack, while a different dealer recommended the Simrad AP44 VRF Medium Pack which is recommended for hydraulic steered sterndrive boats up to 35 ft.
Can anyone shed advice on what autopilot is recommended for the 290 EX?? Is the steering cable or hydraulic?? Has anyone installed an autopilot on the 290 EX?


  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 5,037 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Your 290 is almost certainly cable steering with power assist.  That's generally how Rinker built sterndrive Merc-powered boats.   

    Unfortunately, the Simrad devices you mentioned won't work with your B3.  The first one is for outboard motors, not sterndrives.  The second is for hydraulic steering.

    Have you looked at Octopus Drives?

    For what it's worth, here's a thread about my install on a 370.  I have a Raymarine nav system.  Raymarine doesn't make an actuator for cable steering, so I used an Octopus drive.  After three full seasons, it's working perfectly.  Zero complaints.

    Will this be a DIY job, or is a shop installing it?
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 5,037 ✭✭✭✭✭
    The Octopus drive will work with a Simrad AP.  @SeaHare installed one on his 310.
  • CaledonCruiserCaledonCruiser Member Posts: 8
    The Simrad Outboard Pilot pack has a Helm-1 module similar to the Octopus and is designed to replace the factory cable steering helm unit. Check it out. It seems that this is the solution for all cable steered boards.
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 5,037 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Are you positive?  I still don't see anything saying that the Helm-1 can be used with a sterndrive.  It appears to be only for single outboard boats.  The only place where Simrad mentions sterndrive applications is for the hydraulic steering system.
  • CaledonCruiserCaledonCruiser Member Posts: 8
    Yes I know. Very confusing. The 290 does not have hydraulic steering so the AP44 hydraulic pack probably is not correct. I have asked the local electronics guy to verify with Simrad. I also asked Rinker directly and my dealer but neither is responsive on this issue.
  • davidbrooksdavidbrooks GermantownMember Posts: 807 ✭✭✭
    So i am curious why you are looking to install the autopilot.  At least by me there is so much to look out for i don't think i would ever use it.
    It's 5 O'Clock Somewhere!
  • aero3113aero3113 Long Island, NYMember Posts: 5,924 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I can definitely see it helping on long trips. You won’t have to tire yourself with throttle and steering, you can just keep a lookout at the helm.
    2008 330EC
  • CaledonCruiserCaledonCruiser Member Posts: 8
    We boat on the Great Lakes and it is very helpful for cruising on a straight line to a destination. Aero31113 is right - it is less stress and it maintains the heading without zigzag, and you just watch your gauges and for any obstacles in front and no need to fight the steering to maintain course. Works great at slow speed and at cruise as well. I had it on my old boat which was a Cruisers 455 motoryacht and we did the Great Loop and all through the Bahamas. Just now need to find out the right setup for this 290.
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 5,037 ✭✭✭✭✭
    A Looper!  Fantastic!  I'd like to hear more about that at some point.  

    When I built my AP in 2014, I don't remember seeing anything for cable sterndrives other than the Octopus.  I had a Simrad AP installed on my 342 in 2003, but I didn't do the work and can't remember what kind of drive it had.  
  • Dream_InnDream_Inn Annapolis, MDMember, Moderator Posts: 6,247 mod
    I've only seen the octopus used on the Rinkers as well.  It's a pretty clean setup.  I too will love to hear more about the great  loop.  Plan to do that on our next boat.

    Dream 'Inn III -- 2008 400 Express

  • SeaHareSeaHare Member Posts: 158 ✭✭✭
    Yes, I have AP on my 310... I also have a Simrad Go9. I use the go9 as my AP controller. 
    Heres everything you need:

    AP computer  - Simrad AC12N  (and NMEA2000 network if you dont have one already)
    Also, simrad computers have "Virtual Rudder feedback" so nothing is needed for Rudder feedback
    AP Compass - Simrad RC42
    Drive unit - Octopus Type R 

    Mine works FANTASTIC!! I love it
    01 FV 310, 5.7s carbed, B3s
  • SeaHareSeaHare Member Posts: 158 ✭✭✭
    edited June 2020
    There are newer computer and Compasses out now... i think the NAC2 and Precision9
    You do not need the High Voltage computer. They do make a "Core Pack" with everything you need besides the octopus drive
    01 FV 310, 5.7s carbed, B3s
  • CaledonCruiserCaledonCruiser Member Posts: 8
    I have now gotten info on two types of AP that could work:
    Option 1
    Simrad Outboard Pilot Cable Steer pack - comes with Helm-1 replacement helm drive, NAC-1 computer, and Point-1 GPS heading unit
    Option 2
    Octopus Type R drive, and NAC-2 core pack that includes the Precision 9 compass. This option has the better AP computer and better compass than Option 1 but not sure if I would notice any difference on my boat.
    I contacted Octopus and they said that either the helm drive or the Type R drive will work on the Merc sterndrives. The option 2 above is about $1000 more expensive and wondering if that is worth it. Both can interface and be controlled by the GO9 display,

  • SeaHareSeaHare Member Posts: 158 ✭✭✭
    Are you positive you have that type of cable steering?  Most are Rack and Pinion including mine. That helm drive will not work with Rack and pinion.
    01 FV 310, 5.7s carbed, B3s
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 5,037 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Simrad's literature only mentions sterndrives with hydraulic steering. @CaledonCruiser I think you'll end up with the Octopus drive.  If the Helm-1 was compatible with rack-and-pinion (cable) sterndrives, Simrad would advertise it for that application.  

    If Octopus is still delivering those drives as unpainted aluminum castings, consider slapping a coat of paint on it before installation.  I wish I had painted mine.  
  • CaledonCruiserCaledonCruiser Member Posts: 8
    I am going ahead with the Simrad NAC-2 Core pack with Precision 9 compass, my GO 9 mfd, a Simrad OP-12 controller, and the Octopus Type R drive. One dealer said that although the NAC-2 has a virtual rudder feedback in it, they strongly recommend me to get the Octopus RFU and the Octopus Resistance to Frequency conversion kit that is required for Simrad as they said it doesn’t work properly without it. Any last comments? Do you think I should get the Octopus RFU?
  • LaReaLaRea Alexandria VirginiaMember Posts: 5,037 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I didn't have more than a few minutes to look at this, so maybe I'm way off-base here.  It looks like older Simrad APs use some sort of frequency-modulated control, and newer ones use resistance, so you need a converter.  Why not just get the current generation of gear?  

    Maybe I'm wrong ...
  • CaledonCruiserCaledonCruiser Member Posts: 8
    These are all the latest and newest items from both Simrad and Octopus. I spoke again to Octopus directly who confirmed that their drive will work with the virtual rudder on the Simrad computer, but at slower speeds it will track much better with the Octopus module so I am going ahead with it. 
  • Aqua_AuraAqua_Aura Lower Columbia River, WashingtonMember Posts: 1,308 ✭✭✭
    edited September 2020
    My biggest question is will it hold the boat steady below 10kts and stop the wandering. It would be nice to have an autopilot especially for the slow cruise so I don't have to constantly adjust steering. 
    Post edited by Aqua_Aura on
    2007 280 EC Volvo 8.1 
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