Better Boat: Completely Connected
You’d expect an example of high-technology boatbuilding like the Alpha 87 to also be packed with the latest electronic systems, and indeed she is. Although she’s available with a choice of electronics according to the owner’s preference, the package on our boat was grounded in Furuno’s NavNet, with data primarily displayed on two Furuno TZT9 black box multifunction touchscreen monitors—one at each helm station—and three KEP repeater monitors—two below and one up top. This boat also has the optional Glass Dash, so there are no bezels; the units sit flush with the mounting surface for a clean, uncluttered look.
On the 87, vessel trim is normally adjusted manually using standard Humphree Interceptor trim tabs, but since our boat had the optional Humphree automatic-trim system, trim could be automatically and continuously optimized at the touch of a button.
Both maneuvering and throttle modulation could be handled by ZF’s Joystick Maneuvering System (JMS), which includes a standard Hold Heading Function that maintains course despite changes in current, wind, or other external forces. Basically, you need not touch the wheel until you want to change course. The 87 I tested also featured JMS control of the optional stern thruster and the JMS iAnchor feature, which employs a dedicated GPS to maintain vessel position and orientation at the touch of a button. The joystick controlling all these functions is conveniently positioned on the helm-chair armrest.
Perhaps the most impressive piece of electronic whizbangery aboard is the alarm, monitoring, and control system. It interfaces with the vessel’s own alarm system and employs color-coded displays that not only alert the crew to a problem but also to the severity of it according to the display’s color. It even offers links to appropriate resolution tools, such as checklists, manuals, and diagrams.
As do most such integrated control systems, this one can display engine data, tank levels, camera inputs, lighting status, maintenance records, climate control conditions, and flood-control information on one of the three lower-helm monitors. But it also can provide the latest information on weather, sea state, anchoring status, and security threats and be a repository for manuals and other important data, including the ship’s log. The system can even track personnel and valuables using small radio frequency identification tags.
All of this information is easily accessible—you’re never more than one click from the menu screen. Since the system is compatible with an iPhone or iPad, you need only touch the app icon on your mobile device from anywhere on the boat (Wi-Fi is also part of the system) or off, and you’re presented with the Situation Screen, which tells you virtually anything you could learn if you were actually standing at the helm.
This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.