THE BOAT VILLAGE
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.vesselvanguard.com) 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.