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Electronics

Problem Solver Page 2

Electronics — November 2004
By Ben Ellison

Problem Solver
Part 2: I’m optimistic that a little searching around the world’s waterfronts would uncover a fair number of talented technicians like Pervier.
   
 


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I’d already heard that problem solving was Pervier’s forte, and sure enough, it came up during the Eastbay project. He may have been focused on installing the boat’s remarkably cool communications, entertainment, and navigation systems, but he couldn’t help but wonder why a control board in the washer/dryer had gotten fried during the delivery from Philadelphia, where the boat had arrived from Singapore as deck cargo. The manufacturer fixed the board, but Pervier sniffed around and found a slight discrepancy between the 110V ground and neutral. He traced it down to a missing jumper on an isolator, e-mailed a query to the engineers in Singapore who were responsible for this install, and got back a “you’re right; we made a mistake, thanks!” reply. That’s part of why Stephens fondly refers to him as his “resident nerd” and the Eastbay’s owner is encouraging his buddies to use Yankee.

Pervier explained that he approaches a broken system “by starting in the middle.” I have to admit that at first I didn’t know what the heck he was talking about. But then I understood that because he could visualize most any given system as a flow of power, data, control signals—usually a mix of all the above—he could then identify the middle of these flows, start testing there, and thus hopefully eliminate half the possible problems at a whack. It didn’t hurt that he has also collected quite an array of tools, including a neat signal generator and detector that lets him trace a wire wherever it goes, even if the fellows in Singapore didn’t run it as planned.

It’s telling that while every big project at Yankee has an overall manager who can also serve as the customer contact, Stephens encourages his specialists to work directly with a customer if that’s what the customer wants. John Corey Jr., master of the Eastbay and a man so passionate about his electronics that I’m going to feature him in a future column (after I get a ride with him), notes that Pervier was a valued consultant during the year-long planning of his systems. “He knows about all the regular gear and PC systems, too; plus marine electronics are a hobby for him,” Corey explains. (Before he worked there, Pervier was a Yankee customer, and he still is.) Stephens is wily.

I noted that even a customer who doesn’t care about an onboard computer might benefit from Pervier’s PC skills. For instance, when the Eastbay was being prewired in Asia, he used the CAD program to make suggestions right on the plans, and he’s updating those plans to document the yacht’s completed systems. He’s even used the photo-editing software Photoshop to create a visual mock-up of a proposed installation.

Toward the end of our conversation, Pervier allowed that his mother likes to remind him that at the ripe age of nine he took apart her broken toaster, figured out how it worked, and fixed it. In fact, he admits that a lot of stuff around the house got disassembled while he was growing up, and not all of it was put together again. I’m optimistic that a little searching around the world’s waterfronts would uncover a fair number of talented technicians like Pervier. Their accents might differ radically, but they’d share that ability to comprehend the intense complications of modern marine electronics, enthuse about the possibilities, and solve the problems that (rats!) invariably arise. Look for a supportive work environment and solid credentials, and—if possible—talk to their mom.

Next page > Electronics Q&A > Page 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

This article originally appeared in the October 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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