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Testing Electronics on Board a Classic Grand Banks

Jason Y. Wood

Get Wired

Pack your bags with a bunch of hot new electronics and gear, and then get a pile more sent directly to the boat, add three editors, a seasoned craft and skipper, and serve it up on Florida Bay and beyond—here’s what you get.

If you’ve ever been a procrastinator, you know the woeful dangers that lurk for those of us with a tenuous grip on time management. The idea of putting off till tomorrow something best done, or even just begun, today can be a strong temptation. But toss that concept into your seabag and bring it along on a weeklong voyage with colleagues, and I can assure you, you will be well on your way to curing the illness.

Arawak crew nembers

And so it was that I found myself transiting Florida Bay, at the southern tip of the Sunshine State, on the flying bridge of Arawak, our Grand Banks 42 project boat. This seemed as good a time as any to get started with a little video, since my colleague Senior Editor Dan Harding was in the saloon dashing off a blog post.

While Capt. Tommy McCoy drove the boat, Power & Motoryacht’s Digital Editor John Turner placed the lens of a digital-video camera impossibly close to my face and gave me an accusatory point of his trigger finger to signify Action! I turned to the jury-rigged Garmin EchoMAP Chirp 74sv—the mounting bracket bungee-corded to a grabrail on the helm dash, wires dangling from a dismantled 12-volt outlet—zoomed in its chart and began to speak haltingly.

Turner immediately interrupted with his “Look towards the camera … please.” (This would become his catchphrase for the entire cruise.) And without one word of complaint (at least I get to tell this version of the story) I began anew as he shifted his tripod angle so I could see the controls and the display at least in my peripheral vision. I talked about the numerous features the device had to offer, finding more and more to point out as I dug into the menus. And cut!

Say what you will about marine journalists, this was work. And while it was not exactly breaking-big-rocks-into-little-rocks hard labor, there was a lot to think about, and a lot of factors came into play in the process of rigging and testing this gear.

After all, the goal of the cruise was to get the best hands-on feel for how the latest equipment can fit into your boating goals. Technology has been evolving quickly on all fronts, from processing power, to touchscreens, to the feel and structure of the user interfaces, to new and better sensors, and back to the processing power, which seemingly has kicked up another notch while you were reading this sentence. But anyway, our mission was to get a picture of how this stuff really works, understanding that we would need to spend some significant time on a boat to do it.

The minute we landed on the idea, it seemed to grow legs and run. Why not go cruising with some equipment and see how it behaves? And not just electronics, but gear too, to help get a sense of how the equipment would hold up through the series of events (and the surprises) that typically make up a real cruise, complete with stops at marinas and gunkholes, stints spent cruising out of sight of land, and jaunts along winding inland waterways. “Why not?” we asked ourselves while comfortably ensconced in plush conference-room chairs. “Why not get out there on the boat as a crew and use this stuff, become familiar with the electronics and the gear, a great old boat, and, yes, see how we did as a team on the water?” Could make for an interesting story.

If you’re not familiar with Arawak, she is the aforementioned 1996 Grand Banks, a cruising boat that had seen better days when the crew from MyBoatWorks extricated her from the mangroves of St. Thomas and repowered her with a pair of new Yanmar diesels with the help of Mastry Engine Center. She then made her way to Florida, where she had a Vetus bowt hruster installed by Florida Bow Thruster, and an integrated joystick system installed from Glendinning. While at American Custom Yachts in Stuart she took on a new Northern Lights genset and a Technicold air conditioning system, and a full helm of Simrad electronics including NSS evo 2 multifunction displays equipped with GPS, chart plotters, 4G Broadband Radar, a sounder, a two-helm VHF system, and more. For fun she’s got an Intellian i5 satellite-TV system, and underwater lights from Aqualuma that project an eye-catching glow dockside and at anchor. And then she made her way to Amityville on New York’s Long Island for a new Awlgrip paint job at Yacht Services Ltd. (Learn more about the entire project at


This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.