I noticed a comment on yesterday’s blog entry that just says “Why was this boat made so complicated?”
That seemed a good topic for today’s blog entry.
First, I should remind people. When posting comments, PLEASE give me a name to respond to, even if it is a made-up name. That particular message shows as having been posted by “unknown”.
Anyway, I’ll begin my response by a comment I hear frequently from Roberta that has nothing to do with boating: “Why is it that I can never figure out how to use the TV?” Our television at our house here in Cabo has multiple video sources; the security cameras, the satellite television, the Kaleidescape video jukebox system, the Lansonic Audio jukebox system, the DVD player, the ipod interface and a bunch more. We have remotes with color screens on them, and you have to begin by deciding what you want to watch, and then selecting the content you want to view. It feels natural to me, but VERY unnatural to Roberta. What she’d like to see is a television that just allows you to flip through the channels to decide what you want to watch. Whenever she wants to watch TV, I have to work the remote.
Even cell phones are getting complicated. I have an iphone and last night at dinner, I was explaining to Roberta that I was rebooting it, because it had hung while checking my email. She looked at me like I was from another planet. “Why can’t you just have a normal phone?”
Simple things are simple to operate and maintain. Complicated things are complicated to operate and maintain. If I wanted a television that would “just allow channel swapping” that would be simple. I wouldn’t have or need any of the other gadgetry. If I wanted a phone that “just calls people” I wouldn’t have one with built-in email, contact manager, web surfing and more.
In other words, it is I who control the level of complexity that I want, by deciding what I want to be able to do. If I want to do more, it comes at a price (purchase cost, effort to use and effort to maintain).
And, to return this discussion to boating…
It is possible to construct a very simple boat. I was on a Nordhavn a few months back where the owner ordered it with only a single engine, no thrusters, no wing (backup) engine, no sat tv, minimal electronics, and no opening windows. You can bet his operating manual is smaller than mine.
My boat is more complex than most, because I ordered it that way. There is very little on my boat that I couldn’t have lived without. Let’s pick one of the more obvious “extravagances” – the hot tub. Something that is nothing more than an “outdoor bathtub” added a layer of complexity to the boat. To have the hot tub, we had to figure out how to heat it. This means wiring for electric heat. In my case it also means a diesel furnace, plumbing and a heat exchanger, all of which have to be maintained.
There are a lot of Nordhavn owners who are on their second or third Nordhavn. One reason is that no matter what equipment you choose, an hour after taking delivery of the boat you start seeing things you would do differently if you “had it to do over again.” Fortunately, Nordhavns have had a good resale market, and have held their values well, so more than one owner has yielded to the temptation to start over with a blank sheet of paper.
Now that we are one year in, and have 10,000 miles on the boat, I am taking a hard look at the boat and asking myself what I would do differently. I absolutely agree with the person who said “Why was this boat made so complicated?” But, the only way to reduce complexity is to reduce features. Would the boat be simpler without the diesel furnace? Sure. Would it be simpler with only one engine? Sure. Would it be simpler without the six ways I have to get to the internet? Sure. Do I need inverters at all? Perhaps not. Could I survive just fine with one generator? Probably. I can play this game for a month, and there’s almost nothing on the boat I can’t eliminate and render the boat simpler. Heck, some boats don’t even have motors, they just hang up a sheet and go where the wind takes them!
So.. the bottom line is that the boat is complex, because when I designed the boat, I took about every optional feature Nordhavn offered, and then added a bunch more that weren’t on the price list. With respect to my particular boat, we had a rational reason for doing this. Over the next decade, we will be circumnavigating, and wanted to be as comfortable, and as safe, as possible.
“We wanted a boat capable of being run by two persons, that was as comfortable as a five star hotel, with full redundancy for every system, and we wanted it to feel at home on every continent.”
Hundreds of people have navigated in simpler boats. Row boats have crossed oceans, but then, so have mega yachts. Each person has to look at their own budget and tolerance for discomfort and decide what is right for them. I look at someone traveling around the world in a 200+ foot motor yacht, with a crew of 20, and raise my eyebrow, the exact same way many sail boaters raise an eyebrow when they see us come rambling into a marina.
And.. to return to the inverter topic… which dominated the last few days postings…
Although there is not 100% agreement, I have decided that I am positive that Mr. Jones was (and is) wrong, and I do in fact have 14kw of inverter capacity, at 240 volts. I’m currently in Cabo, and the boat is in Seattle, or I would do some testing to prove this. As a few of the comments on the message board said, my 240 volts is split into two 120 volt legs, which can be used independently, or combined, to get 240 volts. I have something called a “balancing transformer” that monitors the electricity on the two legs, and helps distribute the load between the two legs evenly.
There are still things about the inverters that confuse me, and my hope is that my recent education in electricity has given me the foundation for studying the plans and making sense of them. I operated my Nordhavn 62 for nine years with almost no understanding of any of this, so I’m hoping that people reading this aren’t saying to themselves “Owning a boat sounds complicated!” That’s not really true. I just made the decision that if we were going to circumnavigate, then I wanted to know how every system on the boat works, because calling a repairman, when anchored off an Indonesian island, isn’t always easy.