By Ben Ellison
Voyage of Ava T.
|Part 2: That’s when Thiel’s sunny disposition—and confidence in the machine—also crashed.|
But when the C120 was good, it was very good. In that opening photo the machine had been working fine for many hours, despite my Curious George tendency to push buttons until all possibilities are exhausted. I particularly liked how I could set up two differently zoomed scrolling chart windows, course up to match the radar, with the boat two-thirds toward the bottom for maximum look-ahead. Thus I almost always had all the local detail and big picture information I wanted without ever needing to zoom or pan. I was also impressed with the C120’s comprehensible menu system and powerful route-making routines.
Meanwhile, various older boat issues were cropping up. The sounder’s transducer saw bottom intermittently, and the info coming from the fuel tank senders was flaky. We did make our planned diesel stop in the Canal, but later felt the signs of a clogged fuel filter, not unanticipated given how long the fuel in her tanks had been sitting. While we had the spare filters and tools, unplanned pit-stop number three into Pt. Judith, Rhode Island, was required for calm conditions and a borrowed bucket.
We made it well into Long Island Sound before the C120 started seriously acting up again. That’s when Thiel’s sunny disposition—and confidence in the machine—also crashed. Words were spoken, and for an instant I pictured him chucking the MFD right over the stern. Now, truth be told, what really darkened the mood was not so much the C120 as hitting some unidentified object that felt like it had bent the prop and/or rudder. We did a slow shimmy into Clinton, Connecticut, where we at least got to grumble over good food and drink. We lamented the “between a rock and a hard place” state of marine electronics. While the Furuno and Garmin had performed solidly, each was indeed limited in various ways. For instance, both were too bright at night (whereas the C120 has sterling brightness control). And neither of us was surprised that various older sensors like the depth transducer were worse than limited. On the other hand, the “latest and greatest” didn’t inspire confidence, either, seeming to suffer from the same Version 1.0 unreliability we became all too familiar with during the evolution of PCs.
In fact, we later learned that Raymarine had already fixed the reset problem, attributed to a PC-sounding “too many polygons” issue and largely limited to machines running the New England XL3 card. Thiel received an updated card and made friends again with his MFD, which got properly mounted front and center, eventually to be inset in cherry. The Garmin’s already been eBay-ed to a guy in Alaska, and while Thiel will likely let the C Series mature a bit before superceding the Furuno toaster oven (which performs flawlessly), I’m sure that a strikingly neat and functional helm will ultimately be achieved.
But back in Clinton it was a couple of mopey guys who watched Ava T. get hauled that last morning, only to discover that whatever had caught in the running gear was gone, no great damage done. Spirits lifted, bodies finally rested, the last leg to Stratford was gleeful, even as the Cummins hinted at more filter problems. When Ava T. conked out just 300 yards from her slip, it seemed the perfectly ironic conclusion to a voyage that had been challenging and instructive, yet somehow a boatload of fun. When the yard guys showed up in their towing skiff, we were laughing so hard we had a hard time handling our lines.
This article originally appeared in the August 2004 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.