New Gretna, N.J.-based Atlantic Marine Electronics (AME) is a master at picking just the right spots in luxury yachts to place the latest in connected-home electronics and technology. As John Krug, senior technician, Engineering & Support for AME, a wholly owned subsidiary of Viking Yachts, explained it, that knack is a necessary skill, when you need to fit electronics designed for a residential home use into the nooks and crannies of a sea-going vessel. This applies even on yachts as generously sized as the newly designed Viking 68-foot sport fishing yacht he and his team outfitted to showcase what is possible in the way of entertainment and automation. “We were tasked with creating a stock A/V package that would be the base system for all of the 68-foot models,” Krug said.
“Previously,” he continued, “Viking’s electrical department would install a very basic package that didn’t include any type of control system. AME would then come in and upgrade these systems once the yacht had a buyer.” But this project was handled differently. “AME designed this package around a URC Total Control system, to make it easy to expand on the A/V system. Many of our projects begin as stock boats, then are sold to a customer, so we wanted an easy way to customize the systems without removing equipment and completely starting over, like we had in the past.”
Inherent Challenges Surmounted
Among the inherent challenges in designing connected-home electronics for yachts is that space is finite, said Krug. “You can’t necessarily add on a space to house them. You have to fit things into areas that were never really meant for anything on a boat. Sometimes there will be dead spaces where we can go in and build cabinetry. Then on top of that, there are all types of heating and cooling issues – you’re putting electronics into all these small spaces and have to make sure to somehow get cool air to them. Many of these boats end up in Florida or the Bahamas or South America – so we’ve had to have a dedicated zone of air conditioning just for electronics. Usually we will try to pull air from an adjacent space, but you need to really get creative with it. And the issue with boats also is that everything has to be secured. With sport fishing yachts, these guys don’t just go out into calm seas. There are 10-foot waves slamming the boat and you have to make sure a rack of equipment isn’t going to come flying out. Everything we do, we beef it up to secure it.”
Krug said that this 68-foot model is Viking’s first of a new design, and that his crew was brought in early in the planning process “so that we have dedicated spots for electronics this time. Now, with any new model, we are designing the whole A/V system. This allows us to design something that can be easily upgraded as well. Even if a boat is only getting a satellite TV or receiver, we have it set up for additional sources, in case a customer wants to make changes or additions, so that we don’t have to start from scratch.”
AME selected URC’s Total Control 2.0, Krug said, because of its ease of programming and flexibility in case of additions to the system. “If a customer decides he wants a different remote, for instance, I can just put it into the programming file, hit a button and it’s already programmed for me. And I can easily add or remove a device without totally reworking all the programming, as in the past. The user interface is streamlined and attractive.”
Krug’s shop also has the capability of customizing electronics for installation in these yachts. “We have an in-house fabrication department that can build and modify anything, so we don’t need to worry about stock racks; we have a whole metal shop. So it doesn’t slow us down when we are asked for custom things, in wood, fiberglass or metal. And we have our own paint facility and can match anything on the boat, including speaker grilles.”
The salon on this yacht was the recipient of a fully capable A/V receiver with additional inputs and a 5.1-channel surround speaker system. Every stateroom is endowed with a TV with an HDMI switcher for simple expansion, as well as a two-channel audio system, explains Krug, and both the salon and the master stateroom are equipped with URC TRC-1080 handheld remotes, with the other three staterooms having the option of adding a remote control or using a mobile app for control.
On top of the A/V system, AME also designed and installed a full navigation electronics package. That is just a part of the many aspects of the full-circle service that owners of luxury yachts, just as owners of luxury homes, expect from their technology integrators – and that can be delivered by a master integrator like Atlantic Marine Electronics. “I am constantly trying to improve on our designs. We’ll always bring new things to the bench, discuss it, and move forward in keeping with the electronics world’s changes,” said Krug.