This is what comes in the box.  Mine doesn't have the external antenna, and it works great.

The Madman AP-WRC2 Wireless Remote.  I bought one without the antenna, and it works great on my 25′ boat.

Why does anyone need an autopilot remote?  Well, my Raymarine ST2000 tiller pilots are controlled by buttons on the drive unit.  Imagine you’re on a spinnaker reach and it’s time to gybe.  The boat is light, so every step you take on deck alters its balance.  The drill on my boat is to get the boat going dead downwind, put it on auto, go forward and move the pole, then go back to the cockpit, put the pilot on standby, complete the gybe, put it back on auto, and trim everything for the new course.  That’s a lot of deck dancing when you’re alone.  With a remote I can gybe from the foredeck.  Now imagine you’re beating toward a mark in a fresh breeze, sitting on the rail to keep the boat as flat as possible, and the wind shifts.  Leaving the rail to go back and adjust the course unbalances the boat, causing it to round up and the keel to stall.  With a remote I don’t have to leave the rail. Okay, now imagine you’re alone at night and you go overboard.  Your tether caught you, but now you’re dragging alongside a rolling hull doing 6 knots, and you can’t get back on.  With a remote I can push the auto-tack buttons and heave the boat to, which may give me better odds of climbing back on.  Lastly, imagine you’re doing a long delivery for a January race in the Pacific Northwest.  There’s little wind and the current is contrary, so you’re motoring, but it’s cold as hell and raining.  Going out to the cockpit just to steer around a kelp bed or a floating log is a PITA.  With a remote you can dodge that obstacle with the push of a button.

Each of these scenarios–except the MOB situation, which I hope not to test until the water’s a little warmer–is a regular fact of life for me, so I began looking at Raymarine’s remotes for the ST2000.  The S100 remote is $415 at Defender.  The fancier Smart Controller, which can repeat certain NMEA data fields, is $565.  Both are wireless and rechargeable.  I don’t know much more about them, though, because I came across a story about Madman Marine’s new wireless remote and got really interested.  People seem to like it.  The price is under $200 with shipping from Australia, and Neil Finlayson, its inventor, is a making a go of this as a small business.  I really like the idea of supporting underdogs, so the Raymarine products quickly faded from my radar.

Madman’s wireless remote provides all the functionality of the Raymarine S100, but sells for less than half, and comes with two fobs which run on batteries.  I don’t usually like rechargeable electronics, so this appealed to me.  I keep spare batteries on the boat for my various hand-held things, and it just seems easier to me to pop in new batteries than to be caught unable to use something because it has to recharge.  I haven’t given this a lot of thought; maybe I shouldn’t, but I have a bias against small rechargeable electronics. Whenever a charger or cradle is involved, I seem to lose it.  Anyway, I checked out Madman, and the product seemed ligit, so I pulled the trigger.

I bought the Madman Remote thinking that if for some reason it didn’t work, at least at didn’t cost a fortune.  Shipping was quick, even from Australia to Washington State.  I received nice e-mails from Neil inquiring whether I’d received it, and asking for feedback.  He really seems to care that his customers are happy, which is a nice change from some suppliers.  The bottom line is that it works just as advertised.  It’s simple to install–even for me–and it works just as it’s supposed to.  I have about 150 miles on mine now, and the only problem I’ve had is that I think two of the batteries I put in one of the fobs were DOA.  I put that fob in my toolbox and use the other one, but I’m going to replace those batteries and buy a couple of extra fobs anyway.  They’re relatively inexpensive, and I just can’t see not having spares.

When I said installation was simple, I didn’t mean it was easy.  It’s simple because you have one cable with three leads: two for power and one for NMEA data.  The problem for me was Raymarine’s connector.  Neil’s instructions are crystal clear but that connector is a bitch to work with if you have fat fingers, like I do.  It has metal contact barrels on the back.  You insert your wire and hold it in with a tiny–and I mean TINY–set screw.  Maybe you’re better at this than I am, but I think Raymarine should design a connector with real screws so you can attach everything with ring connectors.  You know what?  Nevermind, Raymarine.  I have a spare connector, so I’m going to do it myself and solder all the connections.  My current installation is protected with all kinds of strain relief, but I don’t want to fall off of a wave someday and have the impact knock one of those wires loose.

This is the Raymarine connector.  Those contacts are TINY!  I'm guessing they're about 4mm deep.  Doesn't seem very secure to me.  I lost two set screws before I have the whole thing properly installed.

This is the Raymarine connector. These contacts are TINY! I’m guessing they’re about 4mm deep. Doesn’t seem very secure to me, so I’m going to come up with something better. I lost two set screws before I had the whole thing properly installed.

Okay, back to the Madman Marine AP-WRC2 Wireless Autopilot Remote.  It seems like a solid unit.  The wireless connection is perfect on my boat.  Neil Finlayson seems like a good guy.  I’ve use it now for about 150 miles, and it does everything it’s supposed to do.  The fobs are like the ones you have for your car keys.  There’s an o-ring sealing the whole thing up, and I can attest that after wearing mine on my PFD for hours, in the rain, it seems waterproof.  What’s not to like?  I waited as long as I did to get a remote because Raymarine’s products are expensive.  Now I don’t know how I ever got along without one.  The Madman remote meets my needs, and I would buy it again in a heartbeat.  I’m not sure, but I believe it also works with other Raymarine autopilots.  Send Neil an email and he’ll get right back to you about any questions you have.

If you have any questions for me, please feel free to contact me.