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Yacht instrumentation systems

Nov 17, 2009

When I worked as a ship's electronics technician aboard government replenishment tankers for the Military Sealift Command, my main job was keeping their automated engine rooms up to par so the vessels could keep their ACCU certificate of inspection designation. With such a certificate, the ships were legal to operate a minimally-manned engine room or even unmanned engine room. This cut down considerably on the number of crew required by USCG regulations, thus saving Uncle Sam money. 

Since most yachts are limited in crew size and the crew is thus required to perform double and triple duty, it was only a natural outcome of technical advancement and practical necessity that computerized monitoring and alarm systems should be developed for the modern yacht.

This installment of the Marine Electronics newsletter will take a look at the Krill Systems yacht instrumentation system. I have chosen this company because quite simply, I am impressed with their product and it is a good extension of my last column about the importance of your yacht's digital plumbing. If you think that one of these systems is too costly then be advised that their starting package, the SoftDisplay Gen3 is only $9,770 MSRP, and comes with everything you need to get started monitoring the basic system functions of a typical 45-foot vessel. If your yacht has an Internet connection and your home PC has SoftDisplay software downloaded, then you can instantly connect to your yacht 24/7 while at home and monitor its systems remotely. You can't do that with your old analog instrumentation system!

The thing I like about the Krill System is its modular approach. It is made up of the following basic modules: sensors, sensor pods, Ethernet switch, black box processor, soft display, and cabling or digital plumbing. Depending on your needs you can add additional PCs and a wireless router for an Internet connection. If your yacht has a NMEA 2000 bus then you will also need a USB gateway and a J1939 gateway. The Gen3 starting package comes with an electrical system sensor pod for monitoring AC sources, battery banks, DC current loads and switched devices such as bilge pumps, and contact alarms. Also included is a tank and switch sensor pod for monitoring tank levels. 

  If you have a megayacht then the Krill System has growth potential to support up to five pages of sensor data to include the following categories: electrical, tankage, heads up navigation, alarms and switch, and engines page which monitors and displays various temperatures, pressures, and rpm. The digital plumbing for the Krill System consists of sensor cabling, VGA/DVI video cabling, audio cabling, Ethernet category 5 cabling, USB cabling, and NMEA 0183/2000 cabling. The result of all of this equipment and cabling is an integrated, computerized digital navigational monitoring and alarm system. All of this vital information is right there in the pilothouse where you need it, but can also be displayed on any PC hooked up to one of the Ethernet switches so you can also have these important parameters down in the engineering space, your state room or even topside. 

  An important application of the switch sensor pods is to use them to sense various hatch and door switches in a custom intrusion alarm system. Such a system is increasingly important in certain pirate-infested waters and when in certain foreign ports, or for that matter while in your home port. A yacht is an expensive and valuable asset and deserves to be protected from any of the bad guys wherever they are. The frosting on the cake is being able to keep tabs on your yacht's security from home even if home is half way around the world because you're using the Internet to connect to your vessel. 

  In addition to eased workload and increased safety and security, such a monitoring and alarm system helps bring your yacht into the 21st century and greatly increases its monetary value, if you decide to sell her. I'm sure that once you have upgraded your old analog monitoring system and start enjoying the convenience and utility of a digital system that you will wonder how you did without it for all these years. For you "Boomers" out there it's sorta like going from black-and-white TV to a color TV!

Krill Systems recommends that you have a NMEA Certified Marine Electronics Technician install their system on your boat. It's up to you, of course, but unless you are real handy in the electrical and electronics department, it makes sense to seek professional help. Speaking about professional help, we will discuss what type of electronic repairs are legal for owners and crew to perform on various electronic equipment without a Federal Communications Commission license in our next newsletter. Sail on!  


About the author:

Fredrick Gary Hareland holds an AAS degree in rescue and survival operations and in avionic systems technology and is a certified marine electronics technician and NARTE certified telecommunications technician. He has served in the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, the Military Sealift Command-Pacific and has worked for Maersk Line Limited and Norwegian Cruise Line. Hareland currently works at China Lake Naval Air Warfare Station as a microwave-communications technician. He lives in Ridgecrest, Calif.

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