Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Thinking ahea

I'm sure the marketing department felt they had a winner. I can just imagine the presentation. "In conclusion, Magnifico Yacht customers polled liked the idea, and it's becoming common in many luxury autos. We can also point out the safety aspects of not having to take your hands off the helm to change the stereo volume, or channel." "Good presentation Bob, and I like the idea. It's a lot better than that Grey Poupon mustard cockpit holder you pitched us on last week. We'll go with." 

It was almost a well thought out idea. The little pads are reasonably waterproof, the helm was a special order run, and the stereo manufacturer created a special interface to their remote control to let it happen. What they didn't do was think ahead.

The year the boat was built the stereo manufacturer was getting ready to phase out the stereo this boat has, and introduce a new model. I'm sure everyone felt comfortable with the fact that the new stereo would be compatible with the old system, and would be in production for a long time.

The progression from generation to generation was slow in modern terms. In the five years the boat has lived, the Clarion CMD4 was discontinued before the boat had its first birthday. The CMD5 was a plug and play replacement for the next couple years, and then it was sent to the manufacturing graveyard. The CMD6 was theoretically compatible with an adapter interface, and some gyrations, and has also been discontinued. Now nothing will work with these custom designed switches. Their current purpose is to remind all of us about the all too short life span of our toys.

In reality this is all a bit of everyone's fault. The manufacturer who doesn't consider the long term supportability of what they put in their boats. Their marketing departments who are offering the high tech candy in the hopes someone will buy into it. The salesman who will point out how cool the tech candy is.  Then the buyer who willingly suspends disbelief and believes the manufacturer would never install something they couldn't support. It's an unholy alliance that I'm always on the back end of.

I know I harp on this subject, but I see it so often, and spend a lot of time trying to make these problems disappear, mostly on boats that are going to be sold. Pondering what to do with these switches an epiphany occurred. I could rig these switches to a relay board that would beep, and light an LED on a panel in the galley to tell Kate what drink I wanted her to deliver to me. I suspect it would result in hearing the screech of tortured plastic, followed by a splash.  I'll keep thinking about an alternative.

You know the worst thing about this was? The stereo's remote control was installed right next to the helm. D'oh.


  1. This strikes me as the type of enhancement that is installed on 22' boats with both bow AND stern thrusters, because docking is sooo hard.

  2. Hey Bill.

    I'm always thinking of thinking ahead. Could you do a blog entry someday on your top 10 (or more) design details that make the installers life easier? Dunno if you've seen my blog but I'm building a boat and though I'm not at the point of installing any wires it'd be nice to know what tips or tricks would make life easier when that part comes. Thanks.


  3. Rick, good idea, I'll do in in the next couple of weeks. I do, and have been reading you for the past few years.


    It's a good read, and along with yourself and several others I will update my link list.

  4. Ever-faster product cycles. Yecch.

    I'll probably sound like some kind of yuppie scum here, but it used to be that I could depend on LL Bean because they had the same exact clothes available to buy, year after year, this making them my apparel vendor of choice. Shopping for clothes is no more a preferred experience for me than buying any particular kind of graded bolt; I want bolts and shirts to be the same each time I make a purchase, with no mysteries, no stress, no wasted time.

    Maybe someday the niche of people who don't enjoy shopping or being churned by marketers will become large enough to be a market in themselves?

  5. Rick's question caught my attention. I've pulled a lot of wire on boats usually built before electronics became an issue for the average boater. I've also been involved in wiring older buildings for newer networks; replacing old phone type computer terminal connections with Cat 5 and fiber-optics. I have come to form some firm opinions on the subject(s).
    A forward thinking facility or boat designer should accept the fact that things will continue to change and all things bright and shiny today will need to be trashed tomorrow, just as you point out in the original article. All too often the installer will have to leave the original wires in place because he can't bid the time to pull the old stuff and stay competitive with other less scrupulous bidders. After a couple of generations of electronics (say three years in the life of a boat that will live for thirty years), all the wiring channels are clogged with the P/D&E (detritus and effluvia of progress) resulting in diminishing returns on investments and much harder work for the poor installer.
    I believe there should be a minimum standard of accessibility in ABYC's commandments. For example, there should be NO blind corners, a minimum of 4 square inches of wiring chase cross section, and accessible openings at every conceivable need. Power cables should stay on one side of the vessel, and data on the other. Every inch of cable run should be supported and protected from wandering feet, curious fingers, hungry ferrets, and the shock loads of an ocean racer. Every opening in the chase (preferably from the top) should be within the reach of the average installer _with both hands_ and visible with at least one eye at the same time. Every switch panel should have twice the required number of switch positions, and every special cable from the instrument manufacturer shall terminate at a shielded terminal box. Every such box shall be located under the gunnels or at least well out of slash range of the bilge wherever possible, and those that must live in the bilge shall be contained in a dialectric-gel-filled watertight container. There shall be no more soldered connections than there are antennas on the vessel. And last of all, every wire, cable, hose, fiber-optic, pneumatic, or bio-engineered artificial nerve that is disconnected shall be taken out of its wiring chase within the vessel, or it will be removed and wrapped tightly around the neck of said installer. On the second offense its shall be wrapped very tightly around his favorite appendages. You know; fingers, toes, noses or stuff like that...


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