Passage Maker - - The Electronic Path -

used to be so sim­ple. My first boat was a 21-footer pow­ered by a wheezy McCul­loch out­board, and the sum to­tal of my an­cil­lary gear was a “flasher.” For you younger boaters, that was not some­one that liked to ex­pose him­self, but an elec­tronic de­vice for dis­play­ing depth.

I had ex­actly two man­u­als, which I kept in a plas­tic bag, and my sole main­te­nance re­spon­si­bil­i­ties were en­sur­ing the cor­rect proportions of fuel and oil for the out­board and paint­ing the bot­tom once a year. Those days are gone.

To­day even the lowli­est cen­ter con­sole has a half-dozen elec­tronic giz­mos and a fully elec­tronic out­board, and ves­sels en­gaged in se­ri­ous cruis­ing are only slightly less com­plex than an F-18. The re­spon­si­ble boater who wants to have all the rel­e­vant man­u­als aboard must give up some se­ri­ous locker space. And of course much of that gear re­quires some sort of pe­ri­odic main­te­nance, which you ig­nore at your peril.

But there is a so­lu­tion, one that can sort out the myr­iad re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and alert you when some­thing needs to be done so you can en­joy your time on the boat. It’s ba­si­cally a com­puter pro­gram that man­ages your boat’s main­te­nance needs, con­tains your man­u­als in elec­tronic form, and gen­er­ally sim­pli­fies your life afloat. There are three such ser­vices, and each takes a dif­fer­ent ap­proach to achiev­ing this goal.

BOThe Boat Vil­lage by My-Vil­lages (


con­sists of a free ba­sic ser­vice and a fee-based Pre­mium ser­vice. As the name im­plies, The Boat Vil­lage brings to­gether boaters, marine busi­nesses, and in­dus­try ex­perts in a common fo­rum. The ser­vice pur­ports to have ac­cess to more than 30,000 ser­vice sched­ules and rec­om­men­da­tions for marine equip­ment, a num­ber that will grow as man­u­fac­tur­ers, ser­vice techs and own­ers—user com­mu­ni­ties—add op­er­a­tional sug­ges­tions, videos, and ar­ti­cles aimed at the do-it-your­selfer. You also may start your own com­mu­nity based around a par­tic­u­lar topic—say, McCul­loch out­boards. In­ter­fac­ing with par­tic­i­pat­ing man­u­fac­tur­ers and ser­vice out­lets of­fers ap­pro­pri­ate main­te­nance sug­ges­tions and lets you view the sta­tus of work in progress.

Pre­mium ser­vice in­cludes this plus the abil­ity to cus­tombuild a “vil­lage” of ev­ery­one you work with to man­age your boat. This could in­clude par­tic­i­pat­ing con­trac­tors or fel­low boaters, etc., and is an ex­ten­sion of the ba­sic fea­tures in the free of­fer­ing. You can also cre­ate a unique boat pro­file that ap­pears on your “cus­tom dash­board” and in­cludes the make and model of all equip­ment aboard; you can view op­er­at­ing man­u­als for that equip­ment as well.

The “My Main­te­nance Plan” fea­ture also in­cludes man­u­fac­tur­ers’ rec­om­men­da­tions for each piece of equip­ment in ad­di­tion to ser­vice ad­vice and sug­ges­tions. Uti­liz­ing this in­for­ma­tion The Boat Vil­lage will send you au­to­mated re­minders when ser­vice is due and al­low you to mod­ify the plan to in­clude ad­di­tional main­te­nance.

You trans­mit a ser­vice re­quest to any par­tic­i­pat­ing ser­vice provider via this ser­vice, in­clud­ing images and video

ex­plain­ing it. So if you have an oil leak, for in­stance, you can show ex­actly where it is. (Support for rich me­dia is a key com­po­nent of the ser­vice.)

One of the most at­trac­tive com­po­nents of Pre­mium ser­vice for space-con­scious boaters is a dig­i­tal ar­chive of in­surance pa­pers, doc­u­men­ta­tion/reg­is­tra­tion records, war­ranties and other im­por­tant doc­u­ments. Pre­mium also lets you grant ac­cess to other in­di­vid­u­als who you want to as­sume re­spon­si­bil­ity for per­form­ing cer­tain tasks. Other handy fea­tures in­clude the abil­ity to cre­ate cus­tom lists for ev­ery­thing from spare parts to pro­vi­sions to tasks.

My-Vil­lages will soon an­nounce an iPad app by which Pre­mium users can work off­line to cre­ate ser­vice re­quests with sup­port­ing im­agery and ac­cess op­er­at­ing man­u­als, how-to videos, and ser­vice his­to­ries. If you’re dis­con­nected from the In­ter­net pre­ma­turely, all in­for­ma­tion will be queued up and sent to the ser­vice provider when con­nec­tiv­ity re­sumes.

Once you leave the dock, you can use Pre­mium to log trips, record­ing things like fuel and oil con­sump­tion and main­te­nance tasks you per­formed. With the app you’ll be able to do this with­out In­ter­net ac­cess. If you need to con­tact some­one—any­one from a me­chanic to a ma­tre’d—you can re­fer to the sys­tem’s con­tact list. And when you trade up, you can trans­fer the en­tirety of this in­for­ma­tion to the new owner.

An­nual fees for Prime are pred­i­cated on boat length. Be­low 30 feet it’s $149; 30 to 59 feet is $299; 60 to 89 feet is $399 and 90 feet and above is $499. There is no startup/ac­ti­va­tion fee and no charge to up­grade to Pre­mium.

Ves­sel­Van­guard ( www.ves­sel­van­ starts with the Main­te­nance Dash­board, which is based on the owner-sup­plied list of the boat’s equip­ment and in­cludes the man­u­fac­turer’s re­quired and sug­gested main­te­nance. Each time you log on, your land­ing page shows cur­rent sta­tus and con­sol­i­dates cur­rent and past-due ac­tion items. From here you can sched­ule, de­fer, or reschedule ser­vice, as well as get in­struc­tions and other in­for­ma­tion from dig­i­tized man­u­als that are part of your boat pro­file. Each time work is com­pleted the master cal­en­dar au­to­mat­i­cally re­cal­i­brates the sched­ule to the next event based on the rec­om­mended in­ter­vals.

After cal­cu­lat­ing the up­com­ing work sched­ule, the sys­tem will send no­ti­fi­ca­tions to you via email or text. Each task alert is pre­ceded by a text mes­sage alert­ing you and your con­trac­tor that a task alert has been is­sued. This is the essence of Ves­sel­Van­guard’s Au­ton­o­mous Life­cy­cle Man­age­ment.

Ves­sel­Van­guard loads all man­u­als and cre­ates all pro­files based on in­for­ma­tion pro­vided, so the owner does not have to do it or worry about sub­tle dif­fer­ences in equip­ment. This ap­pli­ca­tion and the Dig­i­tal Boat Pro­file are view­able on any smart­phone, iPad, tablet, or com­puter. You can search all man­u­als via key­words, so you or your con­trac­tor can quickly lo­cate the de­sired sec­tion.

If you pur­chase new equip­ment, just click on the “Add Equip­ment” icon un­der your boat’s pro­file and choose the make and model from a pick list; Ves­sel Van­guard will add all of the nec­es­sary in­for­ma­tion, in­clud­ing war­ranty and ser­vice data. You can add per­sonal main­te­nance tasks not in­cluded in the man­u­fac­tur­ers’ rec­om­men­da­tions—say, when you want to wax your hull or check on your win­ter­ized boat. Re­minders are even is­sued for reg­is­tra­tion/doc­u­men­ta­tion and in­surance re­newals.

Those of you who are not do-it-your­selfers can give des­ig­nated con­trac­tors ac­cess to your main­te­nance sched­ule so they re­ceive alerts at the same time you do. (Con­trac­tors do not need to down­load soft­ware to par­tic­i­pate.) This log, which is stored in the cloud, can in­clude nearly any­thing you des­ig­nate and is read­ily ac­ces­si­ble on vir­tu­ally any de­vice; it can also be out­put in print or elec­tronic form for pre­sen­ta­tion to a new owner when you sell your boat.

Au­to­matic no­ti­fi­ca­tion of any man­u­fac­turer-gen­er­ated bul­letins is sent to Ves­sel­Van­guard and then re­layed to you. Re­calls and ser­vice bul­letins au­to­mat­i­cally get pri­or­ity sta­tus in the Task Alert sec­tion, which makes them read­ily vis­i­ble when you log in. The other fea­ture is an on­line reg­is­ter by which you can record and track the inventory of gear aboard, any­thing from spare parts to pro­vi­sions. As­sum­ing that you’ve kept the inventory cur­rent, you can log in and check the sta­tus and be alerted to any nec­es­sary re­stock­ing at any time from your com­puter or mo­bile de­vice.

Ves­sel­Van­guard’s pric­ing is bro­ken down into three cat­e­gories. Sil­ver level is de­signed for boats of less than 30 feet LOA and costs $299 for the ini­tial setup and first year and $99 a year there­after. Gold level is aimed at mid-size boats, those from about 30 to 65 feet, and runs $599 for the ini­tial setup and first year and $199 for each year there­after. Plat­inum level is for yachts of 65 feet and above, in­clud­ing su­pery­achts; pric­ing is quoted in­di­vid­u­ally based on full sys­tem con­fig­u­ra­tion.

from small cruis­ers to megay­achts. Although the range of data that can be cov­ered is ex­ten­sive, pre­sen­ta­tion is bro­ken down into easy-to-use pages with all crit­i­cal ves­sel data avail­able on the home page. Demos are avail­able on the company’s web­site.

The pro­gram can be bro­ken down into dis­crete seg­ments from which you can choose. The Sys­tem and Equip­ment List records the make, model and se­rial num­ber of each piece of equip­ment aboard along with war­ranty in­for­ma­tion and man­u­fac­turer con­tact in­for­ma­tion. It is sup­ple­mented by the Man­u­fac­turer’s Doc­u­men­ta­tion sec­tion, which in­cludes ma­jor and an­cil­lary doc­u­ments. Be­ing adapt­able for use on larger ves­sels, the Spare Parts Man­age­ment and Main­te­nance Man­age­ment sec­tions are com­pre­hen­sive. The for­mer in­cludes part names, num­bers and lo­ca­tion on board, as well as rec­om­men­da­tions and inventory man­age­ment. It also pro­vides for on­line parts or­der­ing.

Main­te­nance Man­age­ment de­fines both planned and one­time main­te­nance tasks, as­signs tools, groups and parts, of­fers rec­om­men­da­tion for pre­ven­ta­tive main­te­nance, forecasts fu­ture main­te­nance needs and pos­si­ble is­sues, and of course, pro­vides a com­plete main­te­nance his­tory. All of this in­for­ma­tion is in­cluded in the stan­dard pack­age re­gard­less of ves­sel size, be­cause the company feels that the spare parts guide­lines and main­te­nance rec­om­men­da­tions are im­por­tant for ves­sels of all sizes.

A sep­a­rate Log Man­ager sec­tion can ei­ther sup­ple­ment or re­place a writ­ten log and can record data, such as run­ning time and fuel and lube oil con­sump­tion; it is also a sys­tem log to track all user changes. There is also a sec­tion de­signed to cre­ate, as­sign and track work or­ders, as well as com­bine tasks for greater ef­fi­ciency. This sec­tion also hass a list of ser­vice providers, and its out­put can be in the form of print or email. Parts can be or­dered through the sys­tem at any time, and once or­dered are au­to­mat­i­cally in­put into the ves­sel’s inventory.

Two fea­tures aimed at large and char­ter yachts are the Com­pli­ance sec­tion, which en­sures that the ves­sel is fol­low­ing all ap­pli­ca­ble ISM, SMS and U.S. Coast Guard re­quire­ments, and Crew Man­age­ment, which in­cludes mon­i­tor­ing of all li­cens­ing re­quire­ments.

All re­ports are avail­able in on-screen and print for­mats, and they can also be ex­ported as MS Ex­cel files. Main­te­nance task com­ple­tion in­for­ma­tion can be trans­mit­ted and dis­played on any iPhone, An­droid, Black­berry, or other smart­phone, as well as iPad. Th­ese de­vices can also re­ceive one-time or pe­ri­odic email alerts. Man­u­fac­tur­ers’ doc­u­men­ta­tion is avail­able in nearly any for­mat. A mo­bile web page al­lows the user to up­date run­ning time and task com­ple­tion. A user can pull any or all data from the pro­gram for off­line ref­er­ence.

There are no lim­its to ac­cess, data stor­age or the num­ber of users, and Wheel­house pro­vides un­lim­ited phone support, free up­dates, and ei­ther web or phone train­ing as part of all pack­ages. Ev­ery owner re­ceives a min­i­mum of one hour of hands-on we­bi­nar train­ing with the tech­ni­cian who cre­ated his or her Turnkey Im­ple­men­ta­tion, which in­cludes a com­pre­hen­sive as­built list of all op­tional equip­ment (even ten­ders), doc­u­men­ta­tion of man­u­als and parts spec­i­fi­ca­tions, spare parts rec­om­men­da­tions for both coastal and off­shore ap­pli­ca­tions, and rec­om­mended main­te­nance.

Be­cause Wheel­house be­lieves this is the cru­cial com­po­nent in max­i­miz­ing the util­ity of the sys­tem it does not leave this step to the owner.

Wheel­house’s fee struc­ture is bro­ken down into eight length classes rang­ing from less than 40 feet to 129 feet. Each class has a Turnkey Im­ple­men­ta­tion fee rang­ing from $1,200 to $5,500. An­nual fees run from $395 to $795.

Ves­sel­Van­guard’s iPad app does a fan­tas­tic job of track­ing all of your past and fu­ture main­te­nance tasks.

A boater’s pro­file as it ap­pears on the boat vil­lage web­site.

Wheel­house Tech­nolo­gies is avail­able on nearly any dig­i­tal medium and goes where you go.

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