By Ben Ellison
|Electronics ups and downs on a new, fast (and cool) jet boat.|
I jumped at the chance to accompany the owner of a newly built 36-foot waterjet-powered boat on a quick delivery from Maine to Connecticut. The trip would be an excellent opportunity to see some contemporary electronics at work offshore, including how well they interfaced with a more typical user than me. I was also up for a ride on this particular vessel.
Jambo is the second of a semicustom line called the FX 36 constructed by an up-and-coming Maine builder, Mike York, and designed by another able down-homey, Mark Fitzgerald. The pair have made up for thin development and marketing budgets with heart, hard work, and attitude. I'd seen Jambo during her sea trials last fall and was smitten.
Given the endless procession of lows that marched across New England this spring, I guess we were lucky to have a cold front blast through the night before the trip. We got to corkscrew across the Gulf of Maine with frisky seas on our quarter instead of pounding directly into them. At first the conditions made me nervous. I'd heard some grumbling about jet-boat handling in following seas, and I knew the strange yet exhilarating, feathery feel of Jambo at her WOT of 32 knots. But we settled for an rpm slightly below cruise, and, jump about as she might, Jambo always felt like she had both feet (jets) on the ground, never showing a tendency to bow steer or spin out. Even with a little sightseeing en route, we averaged about 20 knots for the 11 hours that elapsed before we tied up at Fairhaven Shipyard.
And didn't we get the once-over from the crowd of slip dwellers gathered for a Memorial Day weekend barbecue! Jambo, which means hello in Swahili, always draws attention with her exceptionally clean and modern look, especially so when caked with salt and piloted by a wide-eyed crew. We were treated kindly, got a good rest, and, despite sharp seas from the south, cracked off the remaining 80 miles to Noank in a little over three hours the next morning. After nearly 300 miles of mostly bumpy road, I was still smitten.
So what about those electronics? As I suspected, we needed a lot of them. Laying down course lines with a pencil would have been nearly impossible in the bumps. As it was, punching in commands on the Northstar 951 demanded fair dexterity, and we were ergonomically glad that we could easily reach it and the other devices while standing braced behind the wheel. The 951 ran flawlessly, though I found myself wanting more plotter display area. Moving fast, particularly in a complex area like Buzzard's Bay, we were constantly zooming the Navionics charts in and out on the 53⁄4-inch screen, trading between detail and big picture, sometimes lacking enough of either.
The Raymarine ST7000 autopilot also worked well--extraordinarily well considering that it had an installation problem and had never been put through its initial setup. Like so many custom builds, Jambo's was rushed at the end. I'd offered to do the user setup underway but got an error message, probably because the electronic compass was in backwards--deduced when the unit's displayed course came up opposite to our actual heading. I engaged the autopilot anyway, my finger close to the standby button until I was convinced it wouldn't suddenly do a 180, and darn if it couldn't steer better than I could in the tough conditions, even on its default settings. Equally impressive was the Simrad RA41 radar. It showed a remarkable ability to resolve nearby targets while auto-eliminating clutter even as we danced the Jambo jump, plus its double-speed scanner gave us the choice of rapid display updates or dual ranges, both valuable.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.