Mega-yachts, Big Money, Cool Toys and Technology… part 2

Evolution of tech in the private yachting community.

I couldn’t go back to crewing on the yachts anytime soon, as my shoulder required surgery, so I started a computer service business in Fort Lauderdale, Cutting Edge Solutions. (Fort Lauderdale is also known as the yachting capital of the world, as there are many dry docks and service marinas.) I was working for 2 different architects doing CAD work 4 days a week. I was also working for a company, which my buddy Moondog owned at the time, called Nautilus Underwater Systems. He sold scuba equipment to the megayachts. I was asked to draw up scuba diving rooms on new yachts being built that were 120-414’ in length.

One of the rooms I designed was for Paul Allen’s new yacht, Octopus. Nautilus Underwater Systems was designing a 30’ submarine for the yacht, and also building a scuba tank air filling system. I was drawing the floor plans to do an organized layout of the wetsuit lockers, equipment drawers, tank filling stations, etc. I was also asked to draw up the scuba tank air filling pump in 3D, as a few yachts had such little room for the air pumps, that we had to do 3D drawings to make sure that they would fit.

Motor-yacht Octopus

Another client asked me to upgrade the computer systems on their 140’ yacht, and add a computer network, so that the engine room computer, in the aft of the yacht, could communicate with the captain’s cabin and the computer in the wheelhouse. This definitely had to be the most interesting wire pull as I had to pull down every other ceiling panel, and find my way through a 60’ maze of aluminum bulkheads. I had to use shielded network cable, as all of the fluorescent lighting system and communications systems would interfere with the networking signal.

It was about this time that I had an epiphone. The captain of this yacht was using a crappy accounting program to keep track of the millions of dollars that were being spent to keep this yacht in perfect shape. The engineer had to keep written logs of ships maintenance by maritime law. He didn’t have any sort of system that catalogued parts, alerted him to maintenance on the many ship systems, or kept track of engine performance statistics. The chef needed a food inventory system for the 2-4 month voyages at sea. The 1st mate needed to keep track of ship and tender maintenance schedules. The chief stewardess needed to create menu’s and DVD collection lists. An all-encompassing software system was needed.

A friend of mine, Scott, who had also worked on many yachts, just happened to be creating a simple customized accounting program for his captain, so I suggested the idea that we build an elaborate system that could help all crew members of the yacht. It would have an inventory system, maintenance system, ships logs, accounting, contacts and email communication tracking. Scott was tight with another captain that was interested in his accounting software, so we suggested that we build this whole new piece of software for him.

$10,000 seemed like a great selling price at the time, considering the software hadn’t even been built yet. In hindsight, the new computer and printer we had to buy, and the amount of time that was required to create the software, made that price seem very low. I was marketing the idea like crazy, and had a few other yachts and a yachting supplies store lined up to buy the software. I connected with an angel investor, and he met with Scott and I, and agreed to set us up with an office on the water. Since Scott was doing most of the programming, he was a bit nervous that we wouldn’t be able to give the investor his money back over time, so we had to pass. It took a lot longer than we thought, and eventually the captain asked Scott to fly over to Holland and finish the programming there. I wasn’t invited and I didn’t have any contracts with Scott, so I was left with the computer, but no business. Scott is still operating this company today. Kudos!!!

This new 205’ yacht, being built by Feadship in Holland, was installing the latest computer, networking, navigation, steering and communication electronic systems. I’m still not sure why they installed the 2 large computer server racks toward the bow of the boat, as the stern usually had considerably less motion when in rough seas. They had two 22’+ tenders on board. Each tender had an advanced depth finding and navigation system, so that the depth under the tender, at that moment, could be transmitted back to a mapping screen in the yachts wheelhouse. If the yacht had to cruise through waters of questionable depth, they would just send both of the tenders out ahead of them to check for deep water. This yacht also had one of the first systems that included the NOAA navigation charts overlaid with GPS location and now with the radar system also overlaid, so you could actually pinpoint on the chart where the other radar targets were located. Three electronic systems/equipment combined  into one.

I enjoyed my yachting days immensely, even though many of the captain’s thought that US labor laws didn’t apply to them (that’s another story). I took a job with MicroAge computer systems, repairing laptops and printers (see this blog post). I had a great time in Florida, but it was about this time, that the large Plasma TV’s costing $30,000, were being installed on many of the motor yachts. The advanced audio/video control systems, like Crestron, were now being sold to the private yachts as well. I decided to take my architecture degree and my considerable amount of computer experience, and move to California to pursue a career in Home Automation.

Thanks again for reading and stay tuned for my weekly blog posts, about my many years with the evolution of technology.

Cheers, Steve.

Disclaimer: All posts are based upon my perceptions. If any of the parties in the post have a different viewpoint, please contact me or comment below. These are just my thought and memories.



About steve@genzplay

Based in Sonoma Valley, California, GenZplay was founded in August 2011 by Steve Calhoun to make video games a physically active part of his son’s outdoor life. The company is focused on integrating gaming mechanics with everyday activities, especially those that need a mixture of fun and adventure to motivate and inspire. Follow GenZPlay at or Twitter @genzplay.

Posted on November 29, 2012, in Personal. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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