May 15, 2018
When imagining setting sail on your Gunboat 68, a topic that comes up (usually quite far down the list after 20+ knot boat speeds and watching sunsets from remote anchorages!) is how smoothly the inner workings of your boat will function. Although one of the more mundane topics to read about, as many sailors know a well-designed systems package can be the difference between enjoying a sunset with a cold drink in the aft cockpit or your head buried in the engine room!
In this article, we’ll share some insight into the complex and innovative Systems Design process as it relates to the backbone electrical and plumbing systems – from concept to installation, and with built-in future-proofing!
“To create a boat that appeals to Gunboat owners and anticipates the most-desired options, we spent over a year on design and collaboration with the Gunboat community before we laid the first fiber of fabric. We were very proactive with systems (from air-con to additional solar, access points, tanks, and plumbing), so the Gunboat 68 is built to provide ease of operation, logical maintenance and to accommodate options – assuring owners, guests, captains and crew alike will enjoy the ride.” – Benoit Lebizay, Gunboat Managing Partner
To a great extent, going the distance meant staying within the Gunboat community. For the Gunboat 68 we leveraged the experience of the Gunboat fleet, collectively representing over two million miles of Gunboat sailing over the past 16 years. Owners and captains weighed in, providing practical knowledge on product selection as well as systems functionality and placement. We complimented the creative process and ultimately backed our decision-making with engineering and 3D modeling, but the distinctiveness of the Gunboat community truly shines through in this project with the products and design elements that are tried, tested, and desired by the fleet.
While each Gunboat is independently owned and operated, the knowledge of the over 16-year-old Gunboat fleet comes together to continue advancing these luxury performance catamarans.
Travis McGarry (Captain) and Ana Schor (Mate/Chef) of Gunboat 66 SLIM, who contributed their experience to the project, commented, “We’ve been lucky enough to have worked consecutively for owners of 4 different Gunboats since 2005. With the current Gunboat we are on, SLIM, redundancy and practicality for continuous preventative maintenance has been our mantra since the build. To design a round-the-world yacht, all efforts should be focused on the selection and placement of equipment onboard for its longevity, performance and accessibility.”
“The team at Gunboat has been in constant communication with past and present owners and crew, taking the perspective of so much experience to ensure they will not only produce an elegant and fast catamaran, but one that can explore the globe in comfort without spending weeks repairing and replacing gear. The attention to the practical details is honestly what excites me the most about the new Gunboat 68 – they’ve rekindled what separated Gunboats from all the other fast cruising catamarans.”
Captain Travis McGarry performing engine maintenance on Gunboat 66 SLIM
When designing the Gunboat 68, the interior layout, comfort, and furniture arrangement had to go hand in hand with the functionality and ergonomics of the systems package. All decisions followed Gunboat principles – we systematically selected and placed equipment that was easy to understand, access and maintain in the context of the priorities like weight reduction, weight placement, and quality.
From a sailing perspective, locating the bulk of the weight towards the center of the vessel reduces pitching motion and results in greater sail performance and greater comfort, so we put our full efforts into systems design that centrally locates the weight. Thus the engines are placed amidships, as well as all of the major electrical, plumbing systems, and tankage.
Gunboat 6801 in production in the new factory in La Grande-Motte France. Systems design both reduces and centrally locates weight for improved sailing performance and comfort.
Locating equipment close to the center of gravity of the boat not only guarantees a smoother ride, but it also offers further opportunities to reduce weight due to the close proximity of components. For example, we’ve located the chargers, inverters, and batteries in the mid-ship salon to make extremely short cable runs between the high output alternators on the engines and the batteries. Similarly, the hot water heater is located right next to the engine, resulting in a very short cooling loop run. Even tankage became exciting when we found weight savings and ease of maintenance in tanks welded from sheets of food-grade PE and crafted to fit exactly the profile inside the bottom of the hulls. Each has an inspection hatch, so all intakes, outtakes, and senders are easily accessible for cleaning and maintenance. These are just a few examples where close proximity of the equipment results in weight savings, centralized weight and access for maintenance.
We achieved further weight savings in the electrical systems with the selection of Mastervolt and their zoned CANbus system, CZone. For those of you who aren’t familiar with CZone, imagine using your iPad to seamlessly turn off all of the overhead lights and turn on all of the courtesy lights in one swipe. This system enables local switching in defined zones, whether that’s the port aft cabin, galley, forward cockpit, etc. We run two power cables from the battery bank and a single NMEA2000 cable from the central Masterbus interface to the zone’s switch box, and electrics are controlled locally from there. As a result, installation is much easier and there are massive weight savings due to significantly reduced cable use and no switching clusters or fuse panels!
Stuart Ingram, Power Products Marine Solutions EMEA Business Unit Leader, explains, “CZone really shines and comes to its best with multihulls. Their electrical architectures can see the greatest reductions in cable runs, sometimes at a 30% weight savings. Simplification of installation and our global post-sale support also make this so logical for the Gunboat 68. Partnering with Gunboat we knew they demanded products with a proven track record, and that’s CZone; over ten years of installations operating in harsh marine environments, from major boat builders to the Volvo Ocean Race.”
Images showing C-Zone and Mastervolt installation in the Gunboat 68
Having options at your disposal is everything when offshore or in a remote corner of the earth! On the whole and where it made sense, we selected as few product iterations as possible for maximum redundancy and ease of maintenance, streamlining parts to reduce the number of spares a boat may require.
We chose suppliers based on the best quality and maximum reliability. As with previous Gunboats, we chose Yanmar engines both for reliability and the global availability of spares. We decided on Vetus for the plumbing, exhaust mufflers, and water separators for their excellent product reputation. Whale supplies our bilge pumps, and all our through-hulls are Forespar’s Marelon, flush-mounted to reduce drag. Today’s composite valves are better than any other option – lighter in weight, fire-safe, resistant to corrosion and electrolysis issues. These are just a few examples and benefits.
For each new build, from the full suite of systems and options we designed, the owners make systems selections tailored to their preferences and intended use…so we thought even further ahead.
We know a Gunboat will live a long life after it is first launched with the options selected by an owner, so to address the long-term we “futureproofed” the Gunboat 68! Our in-house team designed and engineered the Gunboat 68 to be able to accept all of the systems options whether selected at the time of build or retrofitted, without necessitating structural changes or re-engineering down the road.
While the owners of Gunboats 68-01 and 68-02 have not opted to fit their boats with generators (Seahorse Magazine: Balance of Power), the space remains available and appropriated into useful storage, and we’ve even gone as far as making the penetrations for cables and ventilation in the structural bulkheads. The same concept applies for air-con, washer/dryer, generator, hydraulic powerpack – the list goes on.
Also paying it forward, all the conduits in the boat are slightly oversized and rigged with messenger lines so that new pipes or cables can be installed easily.
Futureproofing is yet another evolution in the bulletproof, long-life nature of a Gunboat – sure to make the duration of ownership more pleasant, and further support resale and future innovation.
When it came to installation we took extra measures to ensure a quality end result. In addition to the 3D modeling process, as a second measure we built full-scale physical mock-ups of every system installation zone in the boat. We fitted all the actual plumbing and electrical components that we would install in the boat, to validate our designs, physically check the fit, test quality, and perfect installation. By testing through mock-ups, we’re ensuring the smoothest possible process when building the real thing.
Further, installation is accomplished without a single screw penetrating the boat’s structure. We choose not to introduce that risk, which could compromise structural strength or allow water to enter the core in boats that are bound for long lives. To rule out any possibility of that happening, composite supports and brackets are glued onto the structure and the systems are fitted to those.
3D modeling of centrally located battery bay
Physical mockup of the battery bay
Designing a well-integrated and intuitive systems package onboard the Gunboat 68 has been a stimulating challenge and a tribute to the Gunboat community. Adapting the insight from their collective hands-on experience, we used advanced 3D-models and dedicated model testing to focus on creating the most efficient, lightest, and well-placed package afloat.
Talking about the backbone electrical and plumbing systems sets the stage for further topics down the road. Read more articles about the design and build of the Gunboat 68 here!