The most unusual feature of Eliana's helm is ... well ... no wheel! Doesn't sound very helm like you say? It actually works better than a wheel so let me explain. Rudder movement is powered using hydraulics from the main engine and controlled with a follow-up lever at the helm. The result is stop-to-stop in just a few moments versus cranking the wheel a dozen or so times for the same amount of rudder. Centering the rudder with a wheel is somewhat of an acquired skill, whereas the follow-up lever has a detent precisely in the center position. When driving Eliana manually, you leave your hand resting on the lever which gives you a constant 'feel' of where the rudder is at. Notice the lever (with the black knob) in the photo below and how much walk space is now available between console and seats by removing the wheel.
Wheel-less helm frees up clean walk space between console and seats.
Now building on the steering is Eliana's autopilot system. The Simrad AP50
loves the Kobelt as much as we do. It makes complete sense that it would since rudder speed is so responsive. Control latency is reduced to a minimum for rock solid steering in a wide variety of sea conditions.
At each of the three control stations (two wing and one cockpit) we have installed Simrad FU50
follow-up steering levers. They work like the Kobelt except through the autopilot rather than direct. The result is still pretty good although not as responsive.
For redundancy, Eliana has two complete AP50's installed with all cabling and sensors. If one fails at any point, for any reason, the other is ready to go at a moments notice. And in case the console display head should fail, we have a full functioning hand held unit ready to plug in.
Another cornerstone to any modern bridge is a GPS compass. It delivers precise and steady heading information to the autopilot, chart plotter, radar and AIS plus it serves as a back up GPS. We installed the Furuno SC50
to be consistent with our other Furuno choices even though there is better technology available from Simrad and others. Regardless, do not even consider not having this as part of your setup.
For redundancy, the satellite compass is backed up with dual Simrad Fluxgate compasses. Of course, we do also have a magnetic compass on the upper dash.
Eliana's primary GPS source is the Furuno GP37
. Nothing fancy about this receiver, but it is reliable. For redundancy, the SC50 could provide position information if needed.
Now that we have the foundation laid, we can start to build the house. We chose Furuno's NAVnet 3D
primarily because of its network architecture, its seamless ability to deliver information from a variety of sources and the proprietary link to MaxSea which on Eliana is running at the planning desk on a PC. We mounted two of the black box versions of NN3D under Eliana's dash, each driving two 19" Nauticomp glass bridge displays. The graphics from these boxes are quite fast and very clear.
Chart options have been expanded and now include Jeppesen and even allow for satellite images to be overlaid. Chart navigation has been improved by making the zoom and pan transitions smooth so your eye doesn't loose track of where you are at.
Since NN3D is networked, the two black boxes are redundant even though for convenience we have both running at all times. The control console for each black box is located just in front of the its related displays. We have found the controls to be easy except for typing which can be accomplished at the planning desk with a normal keyboard and mouse.
Also networked to the NN3D is an MFD12 on the flybridge and an MFD8 in the galley
. These are always up and running and delivery all of the same functionality at their respective locations that we can get at the helm.
NAVnet 3D control together with AP50 autopilot console
MFD8 display delivers full access to the helm right in the galley
Networked to the NN3D are two ultra high definition (UHD) radar units which can be viewed stand-alone on any of the 4 displays or overlaid on a chart. The long range unit is a 12KW with a 6' array
on top. The shorter range one is a 6KW with a 4' array
. Both are operated directly from any of the NN3D consoles and are delivering outstanding results especially when teamed with the satellite compass. Targets don't seem to jump around and coastal returns match up nearly perfectly. If they don't, you more than likely have a chart error.
We selected the Furuno FA150 AIS
(Automatic Identification System) transponder. Originally, we had specified the FA50 network AIS black box due to its significantly lower cost. It, however, is a Class B transponder which does not have to meet the same standards as the commercial Class A version. Serious questions have arisen regarding the performance of Class B, so we decided not to take any chances.
Also networked to the NN3D is Furuno's DFF1
Sounder. We'll use this advanced dual frequency for depth and bottom information, but it's primary design is as a fish finder. The sounder has a selectable 600W or 1KW output power. You can choose between LF (50kHz) or HF (200kHz) or both simultaneously at the touch of a button.
For short range communication we chose the Icom M-604
VHF Radio. We installed one in the pilot house and one on the flybridge, each with its own cabling and antenna. Should one or the other fail, we have a hand-held command mike that can operate the flybridge unit in the pilot house and vice versa.
For longer range applications we installed the Icom M-802
Single Side Band (SSB) which covers the MF and HF frequency ranges. Honestly, I don't know how much we'll use this radio as we're finding that satellite communications is replacing the older technology. But, we have it just in case. There is no redundancy for the SSB.
The good old fashioned chart desk backs up our electronic versions!
Telephone and Internet
It's important to us to remain in touch with our home and business at all times. So we opted for the KVH V7 Mini VSAT
system. It gives us two telephone lines with Kansas City phone numbers. It also gives us an Internet connection 24/7 for web access and email. The service is not as fast as cable at home, but it is dependable. We can talk and surf as much as we want (within reason) for a monthly fee.
For times when we are in a marina and can connect to high speed WIFI, we have installed a Wave WIFI
amplifier. If we have large files to download, this is a good option.
Each main room and cabin on Eliana has a telephone. When outside the US, we set our cell phones to simply forward to these lines. If we don't answer, a voicemail is taken which we check regularly.
On the port side of the pilot house is the planning desk where you can sit down in front of a large, clear iMac 27" screen and connect right into the NN3D using MaxSea
navigation software. This suite runs on a PC dedicated to MaxSea. It is networked both to the Internet (for weather, etc) and to the NN3D. Route and waypoint planning can take place there and then exported directly to the helm. Conversely, all NN3D information including track, radar, AIS and so forth is displayed on the MaxSea. One of my favorite features of this package is the automated logging feature which allows us to keep track of vital information based on location.
When not serving as the screen for MaxSea, the iMac becomes the ship's primary computer for numerous applications beyond chart plotting. This includes things like the maintenance logs and entertainment.
Backing up the ship's network is a network server with 6TB of data storage on a RAID network drive. All files from all computers are backed up here as well as network storage of everything from charts to movies.
In recent years we have found ourselves less interested in cable television opting more for online sources. So we decided NOT to install satellite television capability or televisions in staterooms. We do, however, have a great television (Samsung 46" LED) in the salon that can be used for movies or TV shows already on the ship's network that have been downloaded. We also have an HD antenna which works pretty well in many places. When at a marina we can often get a cable hookup if we want.
We're finding that guests use their laptops a lot. We accommodate that as best we can with ethernet and wireless connections to the Internet, however, when we only have satellite, its virtually impossible to do television of any kind.
For music we installed SONOS
in five areas which include the Salon, Cockpit, Pilot House, Upper Aft Deck and Flybridge. Using a smart phone as a controller, you can play Internet radio, Pandora or from our onboard iTunes library.
Laptop connected to Ethernet or wireless opens up many entertainment and information options anywhere on the boat.