Take the Helm
A lot of trawler owners call the engine room "the holy place." I'm hoping the engines and and all the components in that room hum along happily for many, many, years. I'll give them the care they require, but there are other places I'd rather be.
Like the helm, exploring the beautiful PNW!
20 years ago a yacht helm was incredibly cluttered with so much equipment and gauges. Nowadays with electronic displays, much less. This shot is from an existing Hampton Endurance 658.
The heart of today's helm are the displays. They display the charting, radar, sonar, cameras mounted around the boat, monitoring systems and even more. I want four of them, two Garmin MFD's (Multi Function Displays) and two displays driven by a PC for cameras, monitoring the boat's systems, and a backup charting software that isn't dependent on the Garmin electronics.
So that meant relocating all of the units you see on the upper portion of this display, besides the three monitors. As far as the horizontal area, pretty much most builders take the remaining components and space them out equally around the area available.
I however wanted some flat space that wasn't used up. Sometimes you have to eat while driving, would be nice to have a place to set a plate down. Or put a laptop or tablet. Many people are doing a lot of their charting on tablets these days (or as a backup to the other systems). Or maybe down the road you want to add a new component, and you don't want to have to redo the entire helm area.
Also, having two computer displays means you'll want at least a mouse, sometimes even a small keyboard. So they can be placed here too.
Hull #11 (which was available for us to view while we were in Shanghai) has one foot more beam than Mahalo. They made the helm area wider. I used a picture of that helm, and it's components, and built my own mockup in PowerPoint, which you see above.
Subsequent to this design, we relocated the "ship's lights" and "tank tender" monitors to the electrical panel area to the right of the helm (not shown). We also specified moving the switch/USB charger (under the port CAT display) to the side of the display panel area. Then Scott Hauck of HYG printed my drawing to scale, and we placed it on the helm of one of the existing boats in Seattle. We "simulated" actually driving the boat, viewing the displays, and handling the controls. I was happy with the layout, and HYG in Shanghai turned my basic work into this scale drawing.
One of the things I did was flip the location of engine controls and thrusters. (i.e. on Mahalo the thrusters are to the right.) My reasoning is that you spend much more time adjusting throttles/transmission than you do with thrusters, and I wanted them to just fall in to our hands as we hold the wheel. I ran this idea past a couple of other owners and they were favorable.
We will have two VHF radios as in my mockup, although only one is shown in this drawing.
I also felt that the engine start keys took up unnecessary room and are just used for a few seconds of any cruising day. (They are shown in the picture above to the left and right of the black horn button in the center.) HYG agreed to build a small drawer at the left and locate the keys there. That's right in front of where it says "14 7/8."
So here we are as of today, March 23, 2018. She's looking good! It's pretty de-cluttered as boats go these days, yet the most important controls and information are readily available. (Note the binocular well to the right which was discussed in a previous blog post.)
You can see the key drawer area, lower left. To comply with ABYC standards, engine kill switches must be readily available, so Hampton agreed to remote these to the top area. There's one in red you can see, and the other is under the tape. The black button to the right is the horn. These buttons are really out of the way, the wheel will be in front of them.
The other items, roughly left to right are:
Speaking of the CAT engine displays, here is one powered up. Although you can see that the engine isn't running. But take a look there, how many old fashioned gauges would it take to display all this info? A ton! And this is just one page. You can configure any number of pages to display any amount of information.
We were fortunate that CAT came out with these color displays just in time for us to take advantage of them. I believe hull #11 (where I shot this picture) was the first one with the new color displays, previous to that they were very basic monochrome. Might sound like a bit of fluff, but just the idea that glancing down and seeing everything "green" means more time looking outside. If there's a problem, that part of the display will go red and there is an audible warning.
Three months from now Mahalo's engine displays will be showing our purring CATs cruising Puget Sound!
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