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David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 346
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Monday, September 12, 2011 - 11:30 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I have put up a fairly complete Tillermaster page on the website including schematics and a troubleshooting guide should anyone be still interested.

My own TM works well. I'd recommend finding one and putting it back in service. The TM has proven more reliable than several other autopilots I have experience with. Even better, you can fix it.

It can be adapted to boats that steer with a wheel. I have no experience with that, however.

The Trusty Tillermaster
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 321
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Friday, February 20, 2009 - 08:12 am:   Edit Post Print Post

This is how my Tillermaster remote control switch is wired. The switch is a mom-off-mom toggle.

When used, it temporarily overrides the compass. You have to "pulse" it to keep the boat on a different course because the motor keeps running in one direction or the other. When you release the switch, the autopilot returns to the original course.

tillermaster remote
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 320
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2009 - 09:33 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I have one of the remote switches on my boat. I can figure out the connections tomorrow when I'm down there and post them here. The switch is a mom-off-mom but I don't yet know the configuration.
 

Robert Ford
New member
Username: bob

Post Number: 1
Registered: 02-2009
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2009 - 03:57 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I have a Tiller Master with the phone jack socket for a remote controller. I would like to get a remote controller or, failing that, a schematic for the remote. There arev only 4 wires involved (basically, in parallel with the wires going to the compass, but I don't dare take a guess at the connections because I may blow something on the PCB. I can make my own remote if I know how it works i.e. have a schematic.
 

David Cowell
New member
Username: cowelld

Post Number: 1
Registered: 10-2007
Posted on Friday, November 30, 2007 - 01:43 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

I recently repaired my TillerMaster and wrote a piece up with pictures for Good Old Boat. They said they didn't want it so if you'd like to publish it on the web site I'll send it. I can possibly repair other units that have bit the dust. I'm not in the business but just a hobby electronics guy who also sails, or is that a sailor with an electronics problem.
 

C.T. Clagett (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - 08:51 am:   Edit Post Print Post

David, Thanks for making Tiller Master info. available. I have an electrical problem similar to that described by Shawn. But not related to an immersion. I am looking for a possible repair or troubleshooting source. I had used Moonlight Marine years ago but, they don't work on the units anymore. Thank you in advance for any information you or other "posters" could share.
C. T. Clagett
 

Andre Mallegol (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Sunday, November 06, 2005 - 09:15 am:   Edit Post Print Post

David, Your email tells of posting the tillermaster manual on a web site. Can you give the the address or how to find the manual. I have a tillermaster that needs attention.

Thanks, Andre
 

Mike Miller (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2005 - 11:11 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

David,

Thanks for the info on the differential pully.
It is a bit like Integral on a PID controller. Except that this seems
to be a dead-band controller.
It is more like the 'anticipator' that is used on some thermostats.
They put a small heater near the sensor so it feels heat sooner.
It is interesting, in some old gear like this, the ways they used to get
good performance with so little circuitry.

The schematic shouldn't be too hard to figure out, but as mine seems to
work, I am more interested in getting it set up on the boat.

Mike
www.moonvalleycircuits.com

BTW, your web page has a dead yahoo addr for you
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: David

Post Number: 169
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Saturday, August 06, 2005 - 11:19 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Re: Setting the tillermaster for a particular boat:

The Tiller Master uses mechanical negative feedback on the compass to stabilize the system. That's what the string does. The amount of feedback required changes with the boat. I believe its related to the angular momentum of the boat as it yaws from side to side and the amount of force the rudder exerts for a given movement of the tiller. Too little feedback and the boat overcorrects and does an "S" course, too much feedback and it takes too long to get back on course.

Most Tiller Masters use a differential pulley with two different diameters to set the feedback rate. The company would swap them out as needed. I have a late model (mid 80's, I think)which has user-adjustable feedback using a series of holes along a swing arm. Parts are almost impossible to come by, but someone with a small lathe could probably turn out a differential pulley in a short time, provided one knew what size to make it.

So, no, its nothing electronic like a resistor.

The compass card shades a photocell from an internal light (all within the compass capsule)depending on heading. The balance point of the electronics is a partially-shaded photocell. The electronics determines the polarity of a heading error (to much or too little light) and powers the motor in the direction to bring things back into balance.

I have not had a capsule apart yet, so I don't know if the card is half black and half white and the photocell and light are on the same side of the card or if the card is opaque/transparent and the light shines through the card. Benmar autopilots, which operate on exactly the same principle, have a half-transparent card. The most somple solution would be an opaque card with a hole in it.

The "sensitivity" control changes the brightness of the internal compass light bulb. Mechanical feedback rotates the compass capsule in the direction the boat should be turning to stop rudder movement "early" and allow the boat to swing back on course without overcorrecting. Thats it.

I have a couple of Tiller Masters at the moment and plan to add what I learn about them to the website. This includes circuit info. Do not, however, hold your breath. Its not likely anything will happen until my late Fall "slower" season.
 

Mike Miller (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Friday, August 05, 2005 - 09:48 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

My Catalina 30 came with a Tiller Master, though it was converted a few years before to wheel steering.

I have a SJ21 that could use the Tiller Master.
I have all the original papers for the TM. There is a mention of them being preset to fit the customer's boat, and that they would reset it for a different boat for free. This makes me think that there may be a resistor or other component change involved? Anybody know about this?
I am going to try it out on the 21 soon.

Does anyone have a schematic diagram? I do electronics engineering, and may be able to help others fix thier units.

replace the * with a . in my email addr.
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: David

Post Number: 160
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Tuesday, March 22, 2005 - 10:14 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Hugh,

I cannot duplicate your problem because I don't have a Tillermaster to experiment with.

However, ALL AUTOPILOTS WORK THE SAME WAY, basically. They accomplish the functions with different technology and some have added tweaks that compensate for vessel characteristics or sea state. If you watch a modern autopilot, you can see it behaving much like the Tillermaster. And that is why I like the Tillermaster so much. Once you get the principle, you understand autopilots. But let me get on with the story.

I extensively rebuilt an early Benmar autopilot binnacle, which is of similar vintage and works very much like a Tillermaster. I expect the tillermaster does indeed have a fluid-filled compass, because the damping of the fluid is required to stabilize the compass reference. I replaced the fluid in the Benmar compass, but that's major surgery and another story entirely.

Again, the fluid stabilizes the compass card so it tends to keep pointing north and south no matter what the boat or the ocean does.

I don't know how the tillermaster senses the compass card position, but optical was about the only technology available when the tillermaster was designed.

The key symptom of your troubles would seem to be that the unit works just fine for quite a while and then gradually requires more and more deviation to start a course adjustment.

One possibility is that the compass card starts to hang up. A gradual loss or contamination of of the fluid would make the card stick. But that doesn't explain the delay in the symptom without weaving a very complex story.

The time lag is on the order of some gross thermal effect, like the motor warming up or the string stretching. The simplest culprit is the string, and something that would have taken the factory very little time and no parts to fix. If the string slips the boat starts to go further off course before it corrects. The boat steers an "S" course. I guess that sort of fits what you describe.

Here is why it happens. With the compass set to a course, the tiller shaft (and rudder) is somewhere in the middle of its range, not to one end or the other. When the boat goes off course, the compass detects this and causes the control rod to move one way or the other depending on the direction of the error. This turns the rudder in the direction, hopefully, that will put the boat back on course.

This is the key point: The rod stops moving before the tiller goes "hard over" because the string rotates the compass capsule just enough to cancel the heading error. This mechanical negative feedback gives the boat time to react to the rudder movement.

The rod may also stop moving because the electronics only runs the motor for a short period. This prevents the motor from correcting too much for each sensed heading error. At least that's what the Benmar does.

This may be a little confusing so let me reiterate. The compass card itself is not affected by the movement of the control rod. The whole fluid-filled compass capsule turns along with its sensing mechanism. Its as though you were manually turning the knob just a smidgen to make the compass think the heading error went away.

Once the tiller moves, the vessel heads back toward course. As the boat turns, the compass senses an opposite error, which moves the tiller back again toward the center. The error is sensed quickly because the compass capsule is no longer pointed "on course," remember? But as the tiller comes back toward center, the capsule turns back again, once more pointing the direction you manually set it. The process of course-keeping is a continuous series of small tiller corrections back and forth. These corrections are limited by compass capsule rotations which keep nulling out the error.

In the absence of the negative feedback provided by the string, the autopilot would continue to sense a heading error until the boat turned back toward course. As the tiller moves much faster than the boat turns, the tendency would be to overcorrect and steer a wide "S" course. Even if the autopilot only moved the tiller a little bit every few seconds, under some conditions of sea and trim the boat would correct its course more slowly or rapidly than at other times. The autopilot would only be "tuned" for one specific response time of the boat. In any other conditions, the autopilot would oversteer immediately or would "panic" when the boat did not seem to be responding. Just like a new helmsman.

Here's a tip. An autopilot is working optimaly when it moves the rudder as well or better than an experienced helmsman. If it is slow to react or always overcorrecting, something needs adjusting.

I hope that helps. My advice is to replace or tighten the string. It slips where it should not. The bearings on the compass capsule may also be sticky, making it hard for the string to turn it. Or some other item in the string system is binding. But its the string not turning the capsule correctly for one reason or another.

Please let me know how it comes out.

Regards,

David
 

Hugh Stout (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Wednesday, March 16, 2005 - 04:59 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

Unfortunately I've lost my original query to a hard disk crash, but this is my best recollection.

I have a 30 year old Tillermaster that has taken me about 30000 miles around the Pacific, and I'm hoping to get one last cruise out of it this summer. It is having intermittent sensitivity problems, and I'm hoping for some insight. When I first turn it on, it runs well, but after some time...perhaps 30 minutes to an hour, but variable...it loses sensitivity and requires ever increasing course deviations before it kicks in.

I had a similar problem years ago, and the factory fixed it for me (for free, which is one of the reasons I admired them so much), but I don't know how. I've always suspected that the trouble is in the compass, either mechanically or perhaps optically, since I suspect that the sensing may involve a light bulb and a balancing system. There is a large sealed (?) setscrew in the base of the compass, which I have never been able to free, and I don't know if the compass is dry or fluid filled. Since I've had steering compasses slowly lose fluid, especially in the tropics, I've wondered if that could be the problem.

Does anyone have any information or insight that could help? I've started trying to construct a circut diagram, but it just doesn't feel like an electronic problem to me.

Thanks,

Hugh Stout
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: Admin

Post Number: 42
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Friday, March 04, 2005 - 08:28 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2005 11:30:56 -0800

Subject: Tillermaster query

Hello David,

Three weeks ago I sent you a query about Tillermaster repairs and said
I
was going to be away from my computer. You replied asking if you could
post it to the web site, and I agreed eagerly. Now I'm back and don't
find it...I note that this address is different from the one to which I
replied. Did you not get my response? At any rate I'm eager for some
info.

Thanks,

Hugh Stout

David replies: Sorry, I have been essentially immobilized by family issues.
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: David

Post Number: 158
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Friday, March 04, 2005 - 07:54 am:   Edit Post Print Post

" Sat, 26 Feb 2005 09:56:55 -0600
Hello, I'm not able to get my Tillermaster working. It's getting power at the plug in the boat, and then
to the circuit board. It was dunked in the hurricane. I've washed it out with FRESH water and then
sprayed it lightly with WD40(after it dried of course) LIke I said, it is getting power, but it seems
like one of the ?diodes? on the circuit board is heating up. There are 4 in a row that are identical
and they stick up off the circuit board if you are looking down into the open unit. The 2nd one from the
left is heating up when the power switch is turned on and I've tested the each wire coming into the circuit
board and am getting 9.70 volts on each one, so it's got power. Could the electric motor be "locked up"
from saltwater? It's not buzzing or anything like it's trying to work.


any ideas or help???? Please! Would like to get it working again!!!!


Shawn and Natalie"
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: David

Post Number: 157
Registered: 10-2002
Posted on Friday, March 04, 2005 - 07:52 am:   Edit Post Print Post

since I posted the Tiller Master manual on the web site, I get periodic requests for help from beleaguered Tiller Master owners. I don't fix Tiller Masters, at least not at this point. I have decided to post all of the requests for help on this board in hopes that users and fixers may connect.

because some people may object to the posting of their e-mail address, I have decided to strip the addresses from their messages. It should be easy enough to communicate through this board.
 

david (david)
Posted on Friday, March 14, 2003 - 10:22 am:   Edit Post Print Post

From my inbox (identity shielded)

"Hi,
I am looking for a circuit board for a 20 year old tillermaster, or possibly a more modern desing.
Can you help?
Regards,"

No, but someday I might. A strategy with a higher probability of success is to fix the board you have. Somewhere on my desk are high-resolution photos of the circuit board for use in creating a schematic. By all means don't throw away the parts you have, and stay tuned.
 

david (david)
Posted on Wednesday, January 15, 2003 - 10:26 pm:   Edit Post Print Post

About a month ago I made a PDF from a Tillermaster manual that came across my desk. I posted it on this web site because there appears to be no information generally available on this wonderful old product.

No one seems to fix Tillermasters anymore and no one except users of this classic autopilot seems to have any interest in the product at all.

I have a few Tillermasters in my shop that I plan to repair at some point. I'll post more documentation as I develop it.

If you have a Tillermaster and do not want it anymore, send it to me. If I can accumulate some parts and look at enough Tillermaster variations I might be able to offer Tillermaster repair as a service.

I know there is interest in the Tillermaster because I received my first fan call regarding information on the Electric Marine web site the other day. It was from a boater in Marina Del Rey. He successfully restrung his Tillermaster from the documentation I published. For him, fixing his Tillermaster was the difference between having an autopilot and not.

He didn't have the money to buy a new autopilot, so I don't think dabbling in Tillermasters is going to deprive any of the current autopilot manufacturers of any significant revenue. It may, however, preserve a bit of historical sailing technology which, even today, is remarkable enough to deserve to live on.
 

John H Burton
New member
Username: john_burton

Post Number: 1
Registered: 03-2007
Posted on Tuesday, April 10, 2007 - 11:08 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I recently bought a PS25 (Pacific Seacraft)and found aboard a Tiller Master. The company seems to be out of business. Is there a successor company? Is there a place for spare parts? How can I test this thing without mounting it?
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 104
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Friday, April 13, 2007 - 11:19 am:   Edit Post Print Post

If you can plug it into a source of 12 volts and turn it on, the motor should run and either extend or retract the arm without binding. Don't worry about running it off the end, it only goes so far.

If you slowly rotate the compass dial (keeping the body of the device fixed) you should find points where the motor will reverse direction and reverse the direction of the arm. If you have run the arm off the end of the leadscrew, you will have to help it engage again. The compass is fluid damped and if you turn it too fast everything will seem out of control.

At some particular setting the device should shut off the motor. This corresponds to "on course."

Rotating the entire device a few degrees back and forth no faster than your boat would turn should extend and retract the arm on either side of the "on course" point.

If you get this far, put it on your boat and see how it works. The compass dial is only approximate. Set the boat on a straight course and adjust the dial of the Tiller master unit it is in the "on course" position with the arm in mid stroke. Attach to the tiller and away you go. Small corrections in the compass dial should change the boat heading. Adjustments to the compass for course changes seen counterintuitive for me and they may for you. If you want to go more to the right you turn the dial to the left.

With all autopilot testing, you should be in an area where you aren't going to hit anything if unexpected things happen. This generally means NOT in the harbor.

The company of out of business as are all the sources I know for parts and service. I have not proved to be a reliable source of service even though I have a half-dozen of the beasts and use one on my Islander 28. Its not possible to charge enough money to make up for the time it takes to futz around with them. That said, the beast works pretty well and is make stronger than brand new tiller pilots you can buy, IMHO.
 

John H Burton
New member
Username: john_burton

Post Number: 2
Registered: 03-2007
Posted on Saturday, April 14, 2007 - 10:45 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I'll give it a try. Meantime, I need something a little less exotic to control the tiller for a minute or two while I do things on deck. I used a Tiller Tamer on my Potter 15 but that doesn't seem sturdy enough for my PS25. Any suggestions?
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 108
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Sunday, April 22, 2007 - 10:02 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I use a tiller tamer on my Islander 28 with good results. You have to get it far enough forward so it has enough leverage on the tiller. This may mean putting in a longer piece of control line that the device came with.
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 109
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Sunday, April 22, 2007 - 10:29 am:   Edit Post Print Post

Actually, I'd say the Tiller Tamer or something like it is almost a necessity. I single-hand almost exclusively and you can't have the tiller banging around when you're tacking, reefing or some such. Boats set up with a wind vane have control lines that can do something similar, but I like the fact that I can set the tension on the Tiller tamer so it will hold position yet I can easily overpower it if I need to steer quickly.

I have experimented with various lines to tie down the tiller, but they have the big disadvantage of needing to be untied again. I'm sure there is a line and knot system that has been around since antiquity to do the same thing as the Tiller Tamer. I just bought my copy of Ashley (the ultimate source book of knots) but I haven't run across the right knot on a quick skim through. Perhaps it would be some variant of a rolling hitch made fast to the tiller and sliding along a line to the quarters.

All you marlinspike people, this is the time to chime in!
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 110
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Sunday, April 22, 2007 - 11:08 am:   Edit Post Print Post

here I am having another conversation with myself.. . .

A brief Google search turned up a good page on self-steering
 

Paul B. FitzGerald
New member
Username: fitzgp

Post Number: 1
Registered: 09-2007
Posted on Monday, September 24, 2007 - 06:14 am:   Edit Post Print Post

I have a 32' Dreadnought, just purchased, it came with an unused, uninstalled ' Tiller Master' I have the power cord, a receptacle to receive it in the cockpit and the metal rectangular box about 14 x 4 " with a stainless piston about 3/4 ' in diameter sticking out of it. But no other parts and no MANUAL does anyone out there have any info on this??? Boat went in the water in '83 no idea how old the 'Tiller Master' or when it was purchased.

Thanks for any help.
Paul
 

David Sheriff
Board Administrator
Username: admin

Post Number: 121
Registered: 01-2004
Posted on Thursday, September 27, 2007 - 09:19 am:   Edit Post Print Post

the manual:

http://www.electricmarine.com/web/images/PDF/tillermaster%20manual.pdf

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