|The Extra Mile|
2: $13,000 on Shipping
By Capt. Bill Pike — June 2000
All this can take up to six hours, depending on vessel size, but the job's not done yet. Returning dockside, the tester examines the boat thoroughly, inside and out, noting features, layouts, and construction details. Once the engines cool (as if they ever do), he must return to the machinery space and remove all the test gear--and clean up the fuel that inevitably spilled in the process. And in some cases he may top off the day with a tour of the facility where the boat was manufactured.
While fixed procedures impart an aura of science and control to the task of testing boats, they camouflage another, less governable aspect of it. For starters, unpredictably large amounts of money are involved. Last year PMY spent more than $13,000 on shipping test gear around the country and overseas via Fed Ex and another $22,000 on plane tickets to get its primary boat testers where they needed to go. Moreover, the test gear itself is expensive to buy and maintain. Weighing in at 75 pounds and housed in two suitcase-size, O-ring-sealed, rugged-plastic Pelican cases, each of PMY's seven test-gear kits contains a computer/transducer component valued at approximately $7,000, Craftsman tools valued at $150, a Stalker ATS radar gun with laptop-computer connection valued at $2,600, a $60 sound meter, a couple hundred dollars' worth of Coast Guard-approved rubber and Aeroquip hose, and another few hundred dollars' worth of solid brass SAE, JIC, and other adapter-type fittings for transducer hookups. In addition to all these components, two of the kits include OceanPC laptop computers designed to process instantaneous acceleration data recorded by the radar guns. High-end, military-spec versions of the OceanPC marinized laptops typically found on boats and yachts, the PMY computers are specially designed to withstand harsh, long-term saltwater test conditions that would quickly destroy off-the-shelf products. With splash-resistant keyboards, High-Bright screens, shock-mounted hard drives, and magnesium-alloy cases, each of these computers retails for approximately $5,500.
Then there's that unpredictable aspect of boat testing that falls under the heading "technical difficulties." Mention "fittings" to anyone who's been working in the field very long, and you'll invariably elicit some long tale of woe that starts with, "Well, I didn't have the right ones for that particular engine model, so I had to drive 30 miles to Joe's Plumbing Emporium and..." The story will usually go on to describe additional, increasingly desperate visits to other emporia and establishments and wind up with the installation of a Rube Goldberg contraption featuring stopgap elements like garden hose, tie-wraps, and duct tape.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.