Electronics installation … the biggie!

It’s taken us a month to complete the installation of the electronics from start to finish of course with lots of other jobs in between as it made sense doing several things at once while we had bits of the boat open.  Some of the items had not arrived when they should have – for example the Bullet WiFi booster had been shipped from the US to our office in France and for some reason UPS had decided to send it back to the supplier as duty and VAT was due to be paid, rather than delivering it to us and asking for payment.  With a lot of backwards and forwards, the unit was re-delivered eventually – but too late to be sent to Slovenia to be cabled through the mast before it was stepped.  The radar was also late arriving – having taken longer in the re-programming centre in Germany than anticipated.  The other items were one big pile of boxes, cables and electronic thing-a-me-jigs and at that time I had NO idea what was for what!

The boat had been delivered with a basic NMEA backbone installed – the triducer (depth sounder, log wheel for speed and distance and sea temperature monitor) was installed in commissioning with a through-hull in the forward cabin, the Garmin auto-pilot had been installed (but didn’t work initially) with one control unit at the starboard helm, the Quick chain counter had been installed on the bow with the control unit in the anchor locker, the one standard Garmin GMi10 units had been installed at the helm in the cockpit table fascia and on the top of the mast was the anenometer for wind speed and direction, the TV aerial and a VHF aerial.  The gyro-compass used by the auto-pilot and the standard GPS unit had also been installed.

In Isola, Ed had also done as much of the pre-preparation as he could – having run cables through the mast for the radar, the splitter and cables for the AIS and he had done the basic installation of the Furuno TZT MFD in the Scanstrut pod at the helm.  He had also made the additional through-hull fitting for the forward looking sonar transponder while the boat was still out of the water.

For many people, this would probably have constituted a pretty complete boat already – however, we still had that mountain of boxes on the bed that had to go somewhere!  We had to add:

  • TCP/IP LAN with 4G Huawei router – to create a permanent internet connection via 4G or by connecting to a nearby WiFi connection and then creating our own internal WiFi and wired network for the PC’s, laptops, iPhones and other devices
  • NavNet network with Furuno hub – to connect the Furuno devices together, as Furuno will only work with it’s own network
  • Extension to the NMEA2000 network for the additional marine devices – for those who don’t know NMEA2000 is the new standard network for boat instruments, the network can also carry the older type NMEA0183 signals if necessary
  • An additional control unit for the auto-pilot at the portside helm – with two wheels and steering points, we thought it was stupid that you could only control the auto-pilot from one side
  • Two additional Garmin GMi10 unit at the cockpit table – just because there is a space and the more information we can see without having to switch the screens the better so we have the wind analogue (speed and direction) on one, depth meter on another and speed and log data on the third.
  • VHF radio at the chart table with additional handset at the helm – so we can hear the VHF transmissions at any time underway and communicate with nearby boats without needing to go below
  • EchoPilot forward looking sonar (FLS) – an FLS sends sonar signals out in FRONT of the boat and is an amazing tool when you are navigating in shallow waters as you can scan the seabed for up to 200m in front of you to choose the right course, rather than only finding out there is a rock or shallow patch when it’s under the bow and too late!
  • Furuno radar dome and levelling bracket – the levelling bracket means the radar swings as the boat heels, and therefore always remains vertical for accuracy of the radar scan
  • Bullet in-line marine WiFi system from Island Time with POE (power over ethernet) to boost power to the top of the mast – this system picks up WiFi signals from several kilometres away in theory – so when we are laying in a bay and have the WiFi code from the nearby bar, we should be able to log on from the boat for free WiFi connections
  • Solwise 3G/4G antenna – this will be the main permanent internet connection, connected to the 3G/4G router it boosts the mobile data signals to improve signal strength by being high up on the mast
  • Echomax Active Radar reflector – this little device boosts our radar footprint and makes us look like a big ferry to any nearby boat with radar in the hope that it makes us more visible on the water
  • Intense PC system with Maxsea
  • Actisense NMEA2000 to USB interface – this little gadget allows the PC to connect to the NMEA network and pick up all the data which is output by the marine instruments
  • Digital Yacht AIS transponder (sends and receives AIS signals) with VHF splitter
  • Second GPS receiver for the AIS
  • 2 x flat screen TV’s
  • VoIP telephone system
  • Printer

Ed has spent almost all of the last winter researching all the different instruments we had agreed on to find the best unit for our needs, and then looking globally to find the best price deals.  Our do-it-yourself approach saved us about 50% of the instrument cost when compared to quotes received from installers – as well, of course, as saving the cost of labour.  The majority of the standard equipment was purchased at Cactus Navigation in the UK who were able to invoice to our boat in Croatia, thereby saving us the UK VAT so we could include the electronics in our total boat price for import and VAT in Croatia.

And while we had the boat in bits and were creating the cable looms, we also added additional power sockets for both 220v and 12v throughout the boat – a total of about 30 x 220v sockets and 10 x 12v sockets.  While this may seem like a lot, you can never have too many power sockets and the boat only came with 3 x 220v and 1 x 12v, all in inconvenient places!  We have installed both 220v and 12v sockets in both cabins, loads of them in the galley, the saloon, loads at the chart table, and several in the cockpit table outside, protected inside the table – all of which will run from both the mains circuit and the invertor circuit.

We started out by planning – thinking about what cables we needed to run and exploring where we could create the necessary cable looms to hide them all away – there is no single visible cable in our boat!  We also need to plan the power supplies – which units needed switches, what fuses were needed, were they in-line fuses or blades, which units needed permanent live and how we wanted to group items together on the electrical control panels for both 220v and 12v.  We decided that we needed to create fuse boxes in two places – at the forward cabin and in the stern – so we could minimise the amount of power cables running the length of the boat and have easy access to a 12v supply at each place.

We sacrificed part of the hanging locker in the forward cabin to create a “comms cabinet” and decided to locate the units there which had connections to the mast – to minimise the cable run.  The Furuno NAVNET Hub 101 was installed there – which was connected to the radar, the PC and the Furuno TZT.  We also installed the Digital Yacht AIS transponder there – which normally requires an additional VHF aerial for dedicated use.  However, our installation uses the normal VHF aerial to transmit and receive AIS signals, but via a splitter – so we didn’t lose connection when the VHF radio was in use or turned off.  The AIS unit has a USB cable which connects to the PC for programming and configuration purposes.

Many of the other units needed to be in a different location for proximity to the cockpit – such as the FLS which had a relatively short cable, which could not be extended, to connect the “black box” control unit to the helm remote station – but the transponder is forward of the keel (obviously – so the sonar beams sent forward, don’t bounce back from the keel), so that cable needed to be extended and run from bow to stern!  In addition, the TZT, additional auto-pilot control unit and additional GMi10 needed connections to the NMEA2000 backbone.  We installed a second 12v fuse box in the “cubbyhole” under the helm station along with the FLS black box unit.  Power cables were also run via the cubbyhole to provide 12v and 220v power supply to the lazarette for the washing machine, freezer, ice machine and jet-wash as well as additional lighting.

The “cubbyhole” is too small for Ed to get in – as you need to squeeze past the steering column in the middle and pray you don’t stick yourself with any of the mechanical gubbins that are located in the hole or damage any of the hoses, water pipes and fuel lines that run through there as well.  There are three stringers in there too – so it is a very uncomfortable journey to slither on your belly into the corners you need to get to.  Turning around is another challenge – but luckily I have short legs and am pretty small (height wise!) so squeezing in there is my job!

Whilst in the cubby hole, we also used a massive amount of cable ties to make everything neat and tidy – taking off the multiple ones which had been added by Bavaria and Keto, one on top of the other and replacing them with one tie over the whole loom.

Still in the aft cabin, the next part of the cable loom was in the roof which would supply all the network and power to the cockpit for the TZT and other helm instruments.  For the cables to get to the outside, we had to bore a hole through the deck at exactly the right place INSIDE the cockpit table leg in order for the loom to pass up there without being visible.  The core we removed was quite an impressive display of the surprising quality of the Bavaria boat – with multiple strong layers.  The loom was passed through the ceiling and up into the cockpit table and the hole was sealed with copious volume of Sikaflex to create a permanent water-tight seal.

The final part of the installation was to go up the mast, fit the radar dome with it’s leveling bracket and the other instruments which had arrived too late.  We also had to drop an additional cable THROUGH the mast from the top for the Bullet which had arrived late as the cable was an integral part of the unit and not one that could be run separately beforehand.  Ed donned the Crewsaver Bosun’s Chair – tied himself on securely and I winched him up the mast for the first time – one of the scariest things of my life, as a novice sailor, was to have the responsibility for his life relying on my skills in using a winch and a clutch ….

We had a lot of difficulty getting the cables through – there was by this time an awful lot of stuff running through the cable trunk inside.  He ended up being up there for more than four hours – and took several trips up and down – and we were still busy with it when it got dark.  Finally we managed to get the cable through to the foot of the mast by attaching fishing twine laden with metal nuts which gave it enough weight to fall through the mast – it then took us some time to manoever the cable at the foot of the mast to the right exit and through a deck gland (special rubber bung type thing which is designed to create a waterproof seal for cables to go through from outside to inside).

At the chart table, we set up the Intense PC and installed Windows 7, Microsoft Office Suite, all our other “work” software applications and Maxsea for navigation.  The Intense PC is an amazing piece of kit!  Small and light, it has incredible power with an i7 processor – there are no fans as cooling is via the “fin” structure of the case and although it will take any laptop size hard drive, we chose to splash out and install a solid state disk due to the boat environment to create a more rugged PC.  This is NOT a cheap solution by any stretch of the imagination – but the ability to run the navigation system, radar and office applications on the same PC required a powerful unit and space on our boat is at a premium.  The PC is hidden away under the chart table together with the Huawei modem/router and some small, powerful external speakers which are mainly for the purpose of the navigation alarms and our invaluable anchor alarm.  The PC monitor is a cheap off-the-shelf HP2011 20″ LCD monitor – but we spent hours in PC World looking at the electrical consumption labels of all the monitors to find one that operated at 12v – so we could remove the transformer pack that traditionally comes with electronic devices and hard wire it into the boat 12v system.  The setup is completed with a standard wireless keyboard and mouse which can be stowed in the chart table if necessary, a HP LaserJet P1102W printer – which is the smallest laser printer we could find and a LinkSys SPA942 VoIP phone which is connected to our telephone server in the UK – making Liberation just another remote office of the business.

In the cockpit the remote control for the FLS was connected up and the “black box” unit was connected to the TZT as a “camera” input device – this means that we can split the screen of the TZT and view the navigation on one side and the sonar trace of the FLS in the other side.  We had some issues with the quality of the FLS output – basically because the resolution of the TZT is far too GOOD – the FLS is designed to output to a small, low resolution dedicated screen so when sent to the high-res TZT the output was pixelated and almost impossible to see.  After a lot of fiddling and discussion with Echopilot we managed to configure it to an acceptable standard – although if we did this again, we would probably use a dedicated screen another time.  The inputs from the NMEA network and from the Furuno NavNet were connected to the TZT and all worked just fine – so now we had navigation data, radar overlay and the FLS all on one touch screen.

As I mentioned before in a previous blog, we did have an issue with the TZT screen …. during our quick trip to Umag in April we noticed that there was a small amount of delamination on the left side of the screen.  In the last weeks, this delamination has worsened significantly to the point that the left quarter of the screen is almost unusable and looks like the pattern of a saw blade.  We are having lengthy discussions with Furuno to negotiate for a replacement unit.

In terms of electrical installations in the cockpit, we added some small downward facing lights into the back of the Scanstrut pod which gives us lighting at the cockpit table as well as some small lights in the forward and aft fascia of the table to give low level cockpit lighting.  Inside the table, we fitted 2 outdoor 220v sockets which we intend to use for our electric grill plate (BBQ replacement!) and for laptop charging when sitting outside.  We installed a high-power outdoor use 12V socket at the aft side of the table – especially designed for the dive compressor (which we’ll talk about in a later blog when we install it!) – and two standard 12v sockets and a cigarette lighter at the forward end of the table.

All that remained was to tidy everything up, cable tie everything properly, put the lockers and cupboards all back together and breathe a sigh of relief 🙂 – this was a very ambitious project for us to take on, and we have an amazing sense of achievement that the complex integrated system the experts said was impossible is now working.  Yay!!!!!

We have more information about the electronics equipment we have on Our Boat pages where we will update things as we add new gadgets (which I’m sure we will do!).

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