Tactical Systems Design - A State of the Art, Locally Built Cruiser gets the Latest Tech

January 2019 – Tech Talk – Tactical Systems Design

Every now and then a boat comes along and you know it is different.  We had the distinct honour of being invited to collaborate on the Tactical T-40 Express Yacht featured in last month’s Pacific Yachting Magazine and we wanted to share some of the cool technology that was installed.

This was a new build so we had an opportunity to work with the manufacturer to create a plan that incorporated a number of different integrated systems.  The boat was designed as a “rugged luxury yacht” so the owners could “go adventuring comfortably anywhere on the coast in any weather.”*1  This meant that the electrical had to be extremely durable and the navigation equipment had to be top of mind, easy to access and provide situational data at a moment’s notice. We also had to keep in mind that it was to include high-end finishes, so it had to look the part.  In essence it was a 12 metre boat with all of the amenities of a 17 metre yacht.  Everything had to be light weight, compact and work together.  All of us were up for the challenge.

Integration is Key

In a design like this, integration is key.  A lot of new boats are using multiplexing or digital switching as a way of simplifying wiring and providing far easier monitoring and control.  A New Zealand company, BEP Marine, has a product called CZone, a digital networked power control and monitoring system, using a common NMEA 2000 CAN bus. By decentralizing the DC power distribution system and moving circuit control and protection devices closer to loads, CZone enables shorter cable runs and reduces the size of conductors. The benefits are a reduction in cable usage, harness weights and installation times. 

CZone allows for a number of zones, or modes, such as day cruising, night cruising, at anchor, dock attended or dock unattended.  Each mode may contain over a 100 electrical devices and 20 to 30 switches that are all controlled by the flick of a single switch.  For example, when you leave the boat, the sunroof automatically closes, the windows close and lock, the lights dim and then turn off.

When you return to the boat for a day of cruising, the boat unlocks, the lights come on, and the navigation system turns on.  And these modes are all completely customizable.  You may be thinking, “what happens if a CZone module fails, am I stranded?”  CZone has built-in redundancy, which means that there is still a tried and true physical switch, so you can bypass the circuit and be on your way.

Situational Awareness

The boat was designed to go fast so the navigation system had to have all the information at the owners’ fingertips.  A NMEA 2000 bus was deployed and interconnected to most electrical and electronics devices throughout the boat. Everything from the navigation data to DC/AC metering, and the engines are interconnected so the NMEA 2000 data can be shared all over the boat.

Situational awareness at this speed is paramount so the owners chose four Garmin GPSMAP 8617 large format 17-inch full HD multi-function displays with touch control.  Each screen is sunlight-readable, anti-glare and includes auto-dimming for use in low light or at night.  The GPSMAP 8617 also includes presets for sonar, radar, cameras, media and digital switching, which can be independent or incorporated into SmartMode. With SmartMode control, the owner can quickly change all the screens at a helm in sync to a preset mode, for example, fishing, docking, night cruising, etc.  One-touch access allows the owner to switch all monitors in sync from one mode to another without manually switching each monitor separately. Fully customizable layouts, data and gauges allow the owners to place the information they need exactly where they want it.

For the sounder, we recommended the Garmin GSD25 Premium Sonar Module which includes true dual-channel 1kW CHIRP plus SideVü and ClearVü scanning sonar for the clearest images on the water.  We  paired this  with an Airmar SS164 transducer with a 20 degree tilt.  This low profile, thru-hull transducer is designed for fast boats as the ceramic arrays are tilted inside the housing giving the perfect vertical beam with maximum energy to see what is below your boat.   Thanks to the easy connectivity of the Garmin Marine Network, the sonar data can be shared on all of the chartplotters on the network.  Another benefit of the network’s high-speed connection is ultra-fast screen updates with minimal delay. 

The owners wanted to add AIS, so we installed the Garmin AIS 600 blackbox transceiver which allows them to receive AIS target data as well as transmit their own vessel information to other AIS receivers in the area.  This particular model uses ClearTrack technology to ensure that there is no interruption of AIS traffic position while the VHF radio is in use.  It integrates with the Garmin chartplotter and VHF radio via NMEA 2000, giving the owner the ability to call any MMSI target directly from the chartplotter using the “call with radio” function.

This boat was designed to go fast in any weather so it was important to have radar onboard.  The owners chose the GMR Fantom 4 Open Array system.  It is a 4-foot 40kW radar that fully integrates with Garmin chartplotters and provides data overlay onto charts.  Two additional options include dynamic auto gain and sea filter to automatically adjust to the boat’s surroundings for optimal performance in all conditions. 

In order to keep the look of the helm consistent, the owners chose the Garmin VHF 300 AIS fixed-mount marine radio with a GHS 10 wired VHF handset.  This handset allows operation of the VHF radio from a remote location.  They also included a Garmin GXM 53 Sirius weather receiver and antenna so they have access to the most current weather conditions and forecasts delivered directly to the chartplotters.

The Garmin GPSMAP 8617 chartplotters also integrate with the CZone digital switching system.  This allows the owners to control circuits such as lighting, power monitoring, tank monitoring, bilges, and hatch or porthole status, either through the helm or programmed into a remote key fob, or an app on a smartphone or tablet.  The owners actually installed a CZone display panel in the front stateroom so there was no need to go to the helm or look for a phone to check the status of any system.

One of the key benefits of having Garmin and CZone work together is that you can trouble-shoot alarms from the helm.  This is extremely convenient in inclement weather when you simply can’t pull over to take a look.

Lithium Batteries 

In keeping with the light-weight theme, a 9KW generator installed  on this boat. With cruising in mind, and commonly being away from shorepower, the AC generator provides power to run the stabilizer, induction cooktop and battery charger. To run some of those loads off an inverter, lithium batteries were chosen as they offer the most energy density for the least amount of weight. Two Lithionics 12VDC, 405 Amp-hour batteries provide the necessary capacity.

In order to charge these batteries we installed the Victron Quattro 12 VDC 5000W 220A inverter/charger.  The batteries can be charged in less than 2-3 hours but the really unique quality about this inverter/charger is that it has PowerAssist which will prevent the overload of a limited AC source, such as a generator or shore power.  First, the battery charging will automatically be reduced and the second level will boost the output of the generator or shore side supply with power taken from the battery.  For an amenities-rich boat on 30 Amp shore power connection, that means less chance of blowing a circuit-breaker onboard or tripping shore power at the dock. 

To monitor the batteries, a Victron Colour Control GX monitor was installed onboard.  With a single touch, the owners can see an instant overview of the system, battery state of charge and power consumption.  It can also be programmed to auto-start the generator when triggered by low-voltage, high-demand or battery state of charge.

The owners intend on boating year round so the Hurricane hydronic heating system was outfitted to this boat. We have written about system before and highly recommend it as a compact all-in-one heater that provides space heating and on-demand potable hot water.  This saved a huge amount of space as we did not have to install a AC powered hot water heater on the boat.

We are often asked for our product recommendations or design ideas and we always respond, “how do you use your boat?”  The owners of this boat knew exactly what they wanted to do with the boat.  To accomplish this, the boat had to be light-weight and clutter-free which meant the components had to be compact, integrated and multi-functional.  This boat really took advantage of the latest technology to make all possible.

*1 – Tim Charles – Pacific Yachting Magazine (December 2018), page 70

About the author: Jeff Cote is the owner of Pacific Yacht Systems, a full service shop delivering marine electrical and navigation solutions for recreational boats. Visit their website and blog for info and articles on marine electrical systems, projects and more: www.pysystems.ca.