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Top 10 Boating Innovations of the Decade

Submitted onJanuary 5, 2010 13 Comments, join the conversation

Here is a list we wrote 2 years ago … do you have anything else to add? Start the conversation

Turn to any channel or website this week and you will be bombarded by news from CES.  The Consumer Electronics Show takes place in Las Vegas this week and boaters should take notice. Why? Because what’s designed with homes and cars in mind usually trickles down to our industry as well.  Take touch-screen technology that made it’s way onto nifty Garmin electronics displays or wireless cameras that now allow you to monitor your boat from anywhere in the world.  At Yacht Help Desk we’re for anything that makes boating easier and more enjoyable!

Here’s our list of the most popular, useful and innovative advances in boating this past decade:

Wireless networking:

Wireless everything became the tune mid-way through the decade and suddenly electricians and carpenters had something to toast about.  It used to be that installing a PC or camera would cost far more than the equipment.  “Chasing wires” was the norm and boaters paid dearly to run CAT 5 wires and such just to get internet in the staterooms. You want CCTV? No problem, that will be Time + Materials and we’ll need to tear your boat apart to find the wire chases (if you had any) or cut out new ones. Advancements in wireless routers has made it ever easier for even the average boater to install a basic onboard network linking his laptop and printer anywhere onboard. Even more sophisticated jobs like a remote music database and multiple laptops sharing a printer have become everyday tasks. Say goodbye to expensive, bulky and heavy wire looms!

Cell phones & wireless internet:

Keeping us on the wireless subject are cell phones and internet cards whose portability and affordability helped us kick those clumsy intercom systems onto the docks for good and allowed us to enjoy the fresh air. Almost every larger boat in the 90’s came equipped with a “state of the art” intercom system connecting most areas on the boat.  The idea was that you could be at the wheelhouse and still communicate with someone in the engine room while you bled the steering system (insert your own example). The problem was that the cords were either too short of far too long or the receiver would unhook from the base, etc… This of course was separate from the land line that could only be used when you reached a marina. Enter the cell phone with affordable minute and data plans. Now you can sit in front of the steering system, take a photo with your phone, email it to the tech and have him email you a link to a YouTube video showing you step by step instructions on how to bleed the system! As for the wireless internet card…used to be you had to sit in front of the fixed pc monitor to check work email while your family took turns jumping off the boat deck into the cool ocean waters…now you just take your laptop (and mojito) outside and work al fresco. Ahhhhh

LCD & Plasma TV’s:

Flat Screen on a Sunseeker Motoryacht
Sure, they were around in the 90’s, but it wasn’t until the beginning of the last decade that their cost and durability made them attractive on boats. Their main benefit is undeniable: SPACE!! Prior to thin cabinet television we had to compromised between the size of the TV (and therefore it’s screen size) and space in the salon or staterooms. Galley TV’s? And sacrifice storage cabinets? Fuggedaboutit!! Nowadays you’ll find TV’s hidden behind paintings, handing flat under an overhead galley cabinet, exposed to the elements in flybridge bars, sliding out of impossibly small places and even in engine rooms. They are inexpensive, easy to install and light weight…and best of all: compact in size!

LED lighting:

Maybe not the sexiest, but certainly one of our favorites is the advancement in LED technology. Low heat emission, low power consumption and super long lasting makes LED lighting not just suitable, but essential in boating. At first they were clusters of lights that shot too defined making your salon ceiling look like a the underside of an UFO, but now they come in all sorts of sizes and brightness, and have diffuse light as well as any halogen bulb.  The fact that they barely produce heat also makes them an important safety achievement. With the popularization of LED lighting power consumption & heat emission dropped faster than Sarah Palin’s approval ratings, but the real winner is all those kids that no longer burn their fingers on those blazing hot bulbs!

Volvo IPS engines:

No explanation needed here.  An entire segment was born from the innovation that these drop-in engines bring. They are fast and inexpensive to install, make even novice captains look like the Sully of the seas and you can now get that walk-in close that you always wanted…wow! Now admit it, you thought they were a fad when Volvo first announced them, but when Tiara’s started flying off the shelf (ok, docks), you paid attention. Since their introduction they IPS engines have proven as reliable as the competition. Their tiny footprint (compared to similar sized conventional engines) means that boat builders and designers now have so much more room to work with.  Give a good designer 1 foot and you just got yourself a full upright closet, give him 3 feet and you may have an extra stateroom! Best of all, their amazing ease for boat handling has given many newcomers the confidence to get into boating; that’s something we can all get behind.

Resin infusion:

So this one is not so technical in the electronic sense of it, but it is an innovation that deserves attention. For thousands of years boats were built using wood, then metal and now fiberglass. Resin infusion is to FRP building what robotic routers are for metal building. Instead of constantly measuring, waiting and adjusting over a few weeks during a conventional hand-laid hull layup, resin infusion allows the entire hull to be shot at one time in a matter of hours. It still takes some time to prep for the shoot of course, but once you start the process the resin soaks the foam quickly and accurately. This last one may be the most important for naval architects who constantly battle builders over weight control during the build. Resin infusion puts exactly the right amount of into the foam pockets making weight prognostication incredibly accurate and the finished piece extremely strong – even stronger than hand-laid FRP.  Less weight means less horsepower needed to propel the yacht which means less fuel burn and more money in YOUR pocket! Also, because the wetting process is done under a closed plastic system, toxic resin emissions are eliminating which is green for the Earth and excellent for the worker that would normally be exposed to fiberglass and resin inhalation. Yeah!
Resin Infusion Process when building yachts


Think of it as air bags for boats. When properly installed, Kevlar acts as a huge band-aid that can keep the boat to stay afloat even as the hull beneath it is crushed. It’s an elastic material that flexes, but does not tear easily like wood or FRP thus allowing it to hold the surroundings together. Builders are installing into the collision points on boat hulls which is very good news for those that travel waters congested with logs and lost ship containers!

Electronic engine controls & displays:

Engines were becoming more efficient than ever thanks to electronic governing systems so it was just a matter of time before the old cable and pulley system that controlled them were replaced by sophisticated controls that allowed builders to install them almost anywhere and with ease. This gave way to synchronizers and better auto pilot, taking a big load off the captains and once they started making them with built-in back up systems they became almost standard. The old RPM and temperature gauges were also replaced by digital displays that finally gave boaters instant information such as fuel burn, load and temperature without the need for a cluster of gauges covering the helm. The accuracy of the information has made much easier to perform important tasks such as estimating range and troubleshooting engines while at sea.

Wireless boat controllers:

Install yacht controller on your yachtScary at first and then you wonder how you ever lived without it. Winners of countless innovation awards, these handheld boat remote controllers, such as the one produced by Yacht Controller, have taken the boating world by storm. After thousands of applications and testimonials, it’s safe to say that these gadgets are here to stay. Through a quick and unobtrusive installation, the controller can give boaters instant command of the engine throttle, bow & stern thrusters,

windlass and more. This product made our list because of the tremendous confidence that it provides boaters by making it possible for a couple to easily dock or anchor a 70 foot boat. It used to be that you needed a third boat buddy around when pulling into a marina- one to man the wheel, another to watch the stern and one to grab the bow lines. With a remote around your neck you can easily (and safely) inch the boat into position while handling the lines or at least walk from one side of the bridge to the other without losing instant control of the engines.

GPS & Weather Alerts:

Does anyone know how to read the stars anymore? Do you still follow the barometer in your left toe to guess the weather? GPS and web-based weather reports have become a staple of boating. The ability to see exactly where you are and to receive accurate and updated weather reports is not just convenient, but crucial to safe boating. Companies such as Garmin combine the two onto one unit so you can overlay your position, course, radar and weather report on the same screen- it’s about as close as you can get to following your boat from the Goodyear Blimp with the head of NOAA as your co-pilot.

Happy New Years … and enjoy your boat!
Top 10 Boating Innovations of the Decade

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