When Luxury Yachting Meets Pro AV
Challenge: Install $300,000 worth of residential AV equipment in the scarce storage space of a 94-foot yacht built and wired in Taiwan.
The salon is the main entertainment hub of the Endless Summer II, with a plasma flat-panel on an automated lift and complete Crestron control.
Credit: M. Loren Hernandez/Digital Diversity
CHALLENGE: Install $300,000 worth of residential AV equipment in the scarce storage space of a 94-foot yacht built and wired in Taiwan.
SOLUTION: Utilize the pilot house headliner for a racking unit and color-code the wires to overcome the language barrier.
PLENTY OF HOMES HAVE $300,000 AV systems, but few of these homes float. About five years ago, Tom Farinola of Costa Mesa, Calif.–based Atlantic Stereo met First Capital CEO Bob Haggstrom when he was hired to do some technical upgrades to Haggstrom's home control system. Haggstrom was so pleased with the results that he called on Farinola to install upgrades on his yacht, the Endless Summer I, and again in 2005 to install a similar home control system on his new 94-foot yacht, the Endless Summer II. But getting a system designed for a home to function on a boat wasn't easy.
Haggstrom wanted a Crestron integration system because he was happy with the one Farinola installed on the Endless Summer I. As a music lover, Haggstrom also knew he wanted a better sound system than the standard system found on most boats, plus he wanted enough “toys” and gadgets that his guests would have access to multiple means of entertainment. These extras would required much more power than the default technology needed — as well as more space. Such requests would be a piece of cake for a home installation, but a boat offers little wiggle room as far as custom measurements.
The yacht's upper deck, one of three, mostly consists of the fly bridge (the outdoor area where the captain steers the boat) and a whirlpool. The main deck has two more outdoor areas plus the salon, the galley kitchen, and the pilot house. Five bedrooms are on the lower deck along with the engine room. There is very little storage space on each deck and, because the structure is wood, the wiring and much of the equipment had to be installed as the boat was being built in Taiwan by Paragon Motor Yachts.
“The biggest problem of putting systems like this on a boat is space,” Farinola admits. Had he had more time, Farinola would have racked the gear in the engine room, but the boat was already in the building stage and the engine room was already complete when he got the job from Haggstrom. Instead, he looked to a little-used storage space between the pilot house and the upper deck called the headliner. The 2-foot-high space was too small for Middle Atlantic's standard racks, so Farinola and his team customized eight Middle Atlantic Slim 5 S-14s to fit side by side and across from each other. No bigger than a crawl space, there isn't room to swivel or pull out the equipment for servicing, so they installed all of the racked equipment with the backs of the products facing toward the central hatch entry for easier access. “This is one of a kind. It's never been done before,” says Farinola. To support the 400 pounds of racked equipment, Paragon had to reinforce the ceiling of the main deck.
Salt water and humidity are major concerns for electronics on a boat, so Paragon also customized the headliner by sealing a standard vent to keep moisture out. Controlling the temperature are six Middle Atlantic FC4-1C thermally controlled exhaust fan systems. Additionally, Farinola used all stainless-steel screws in the racks and siliconed all of the equipment in an effort to prevent rust and salt-water damage, but was unable to do little else. “Every six months, we check all the connections, clean the connections, and make sure the salt doesn't build up, because salt build-up can short something out,” Farinola says.
Credit: Schematics: Courtesy Architechknowlogy Design Group
The wiring was also done in Taiwan, which gave Farinola about two weeks to design the system and ship the gear halfway around the world. Due to the time constraints and size of the project, he called on Xeven Zorza of ArchiTechKnowlogy Design Group, who works with firms across the country, to design and document the blueprints. Paragon needed the wires to be shielded, so Zorza took this opportunity to color-code them by type: red/yellow for Cat-5e control cables, dark blue for 16/4 loudspeaker cables, etc. On the blueprint, he indicated which wire each color represented and illustrated the racked products in detail to ensure minimal confusion despite the language barrier (see illustration above).
According to Zorza, coordination between the people and companies on the project took some effort, particularly with the boat builder in Taiwan. “The distance of 10,000 miles creates an interesting hiccup in communicating, [because there was] an eight-hour time difference,” says Zorza. “The boat builder, project
manager, and I spent hours up really late or up really early to communicate.” Once the wires and plans were shipped, Farinola subcontracted a team of Mandarin-speaking integrators who traveled to Taiwan twice to oversee the installation.
When the boat was complete, it sailed to its new home in Newport Beach, Calif., where Atlantic Stereo spent an additional 200 hours testing and fine-tuning the wiring before they installed the remaining equipment. They were happy with manufacturer's work, with the exception of an overlooked page of blueprints. Fortunately, the installers had no problem retrofitting the dozen missed cables.
A WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT
The tech room in the headliner contains sources for the boat's 16 AV zones. On one side of the central hatch are two Extron VSC-500 VGA-to-component down converters; a Crestron CNX-PAD8A eight-zone/eight-source audio distribution processor; a Crestron CNX-BIPAD8A eight-zone/16-source Cat-5 audio distribution processor; a Crestron AV2 for lighting, video, blinds, telephone, security, and HVAC control; and a Crestron C2N-TXM for XM and Sirius satellite radio control; among others.
On the other side are three DirecTV U.S. satellite receivers and three DirecTV Mexican satellite receivers as well as a Kaleidescape System 3000 with a 5-terabyte hard drive that, Farinola says, holds up to 2,000 DVDs. The Kaleidescape also includes a four-zone CD player that's accessible from any television and loudspeaker on the yacht.
Farinola installed a Sonance A800DR in-ceiling subwoofer on the outdoor aft deck, because “they're the only ones that made one that I could put in the ceiling that was weatherproof,” plus he used Sonance Extreme XSSTR weatherproof 6.5-inch full-range in-ceiling loudspeakers and Crestron WPR-48 water-resistant RF remote controls on the upper and forward decks.
Because the wiring and equipment had to be installed as the boat was being built in Taiwan, Xeven Zorza of ArchiTechKnowlogy Design Group used product images and color-coding in the blueprint documents to illustrate where the wiring and equipment should go.
The bedrooms have a Sharp LC20D30U 20-inch LCD monitor, a pair of Sonance Symphony S623TR in-ceiling 6-inch flush-mounted loudspeakers, a Microsoft X-box for gaming and watching DVDs uploaded to the Kaleidescape server, and a Crestron CNXRMC/LV room control and Cat-5e video receiver with a Crestron MT-1000 mini touch universal RF remote. The X-boxes are networked so guests can play against each other. The master suite, however, has its own special features that includes a Fujitsu 42-inch high-resolution plasma TV. A Crestron STX-1700CXP touch-screen universal RF remote controls it all. The master suite's bathroom also has Sonance Extreme XSSTR loudspeakers and a Crestron TPS-2000 two-way AV color wall-mount touch-panel control screen.
The salon showcases some of the owner's favorite technology, such as an iPod dock and a Fujitsu 55-inch HD plasma TV that rises and lowers on a lift. But it also has such “necessities” as a Sunfire Cinema Seven power amplifier, a Sunfire True Subwoofer EQ 2,700-watt powered sub-woofer, and three Dynaudio IP-24 flush-mounted loudspeakers. Nearby, a Crestron STX-1700CXP 17-inch touch-screen control panel gives the user complete control over the boat's entire AV system.
With the exception of two built-in control panels, nearly everything on the yacht is wireless. Farinola tried using the Crestron 8x Wi-Fi remote in the salon, but its function was inconsistent because the boat's navigational radar caused too much interference. In the end, he reverted to Crestron's STX-1700CXP 2.4 GHz RF remote.
The Endless Summer II was finished by January 2007 and has gained well-deserved attention within the boat show circuit.“From an audiovisual standpoint, it's one of the most talked about boats ever that's under 100 feet,” Farinola says. Haggstrom plans to charter the boat when he's not using it, but in the meantime he enjoys sailing his friends and family along the Mexican and Californian coasts.
While Farinola worked on boats previously, the Endless Summer II was Zorza's first marine experience. “This was actually my first boat design. It was really a challenge,” he said. “It was the challenge of getting this equipment to fit in tight locations and make the drawings easy to understand. It was just a fun project to do. Something new and unique.”