By Ben Ellison
|Part 2: Blanchard’s phone system is equally over the top.|
But the trip to Newport was all about trying out Blanchard’s systems, not shuttering them discretely behind teak. The Sony 42-inch plasma TV, driven by a KVH Tracvision 4 satellite system and a DirectTV receiver, was popped up and running all day. Despite the speed and occasional wave hits and hard turns, the picture was always rock solid—in fact, extraordinarily vivid. (And that was without KVH’s just-announced add-on converter, able to decode DirectTV’s new high-definition programming.) The IBM, equipped with a TV-tuner card, is also plugged into the KVH system, and one of Pervier’s tasks was teaching Corey the software that can put CNN, etc. on Blanchard’s monitors, either full screen or in a little window over, say, his Nobeltec charting software. Some might think television at the helm’s a little over the top, especially given the three additional flat-panel TVs in the sleeping cabins, but maximum flexibility is another Corey hallmark.
Blanchard’s phone system is equally over the top. VTech four-line cordless handsets are scattered around the yacht, including the engine room. Line one accesses a fixed Telular cell set (also under that busy settee), line two goes to the KVH Tracphone F33 satellite system, line three can be connected to a landline when docked, and line four is available for future developments. Moreover, the Telular wirelessly gets maximum performance via a Digital Antenna cellular amplifier/repeater (under you know what) and high-gain antenna, whose boost helps any cellphone (except Nextel) in the saloon and cabin area. In fact, guests will find Blanchard not only cell- but laptop-friendly, offering network access via built-in Ethernet ports or wirelessly via WiFi.
Such a connected guest could use not only the printer/fax, but also either of the F33’s Internet modes. You can dial in like an old-fashioned phone modem or stay online indefinitely using Mobile Packet Data Service (MPDS), and thus choose fee schemes either by time spent or data passed. Pervier and Corey successfully tested both modes underway, also installing KVH’s Velocity compression software to speed up the Web browsing. Corey was even able to access his company’s internal network and download the prior day’s sales data, a process which he says will be particularly comforting during some long-distance cruises he plans on making to the Caribbean and Canadian Maritimes.
Naturally there were also double checks of Blanchard’s navigation systems. They’re set up so that the AP25 autopilot can be directed by the chartplotter, main PC, or the laptop, giving Corey redundancy and a choice of electronic charts to build routes on. Testing this, and thus momentarily swiping helm control from the guys on the flying bridge, caused some foot stomping—as had zooming a CNN window over their chart earlier—but we were in open water, and everyone aboard was inspired by Corey’s infectious enthusiasm. He may not be a typical boat owner, but I’m beginning to wonder if there’s any such thing.
The whole Blanchard experience reminded me that some honchos in the yacht industry think their products are way too complicated—that, for instance, a new vessel’s electronics should come as complete and seamlessly integrated as the dashboard of a fine automobile. There’s no doubt that some owners would much prefer a boat that’s truly ready to go instead of a “project in progress,” and I look forward to seeing systems evolve in this direction. But the industry shouldn’t ignore enthusiasts like Corey, who revel in the challenge of putting together great systems. Neither should you. A good way to learn about what’s possible these days is to find the Corey in your marina and ask him to show off his “crazy” electronics. Just plan to be there for a while.
This article originally appeared in the January 2005 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.