The current view from TTR in Kaneohe Bay, Oahu, HI.
About a year ago we wrote a blog post about TTR and some of the issue we were experiencing. As we stated in that blog, we think issues on a new boat are to be expected. Today we review the problems we were having and how those were resolved.
Looking back, it is amazing how few issues we have had with Ticket to Ride. Fortunately all of the issues have been manageable and none of them are structural in any way!
Once again, we must be very clear and express our sincere appreciation to HH Catamarans for their excellent service and support of us and for our sailboat. Each time we reach out to HH, they are prompt, extremely helpful, and reimburse us for labor and materials. We are truly thankful for their continued support and guidance.
The electronics on sailboats have become increasingly important and more complex. CZone is a control system that allows boaters to replace traditional wiring with electrical switching controlled at a centralized computer screen. One cool feature of CZone is that you can program six different settings on your boat and with the touch of one button wanted systems are engaged. For example, one setting we have is “Day Cruise.” When we engage Day Cruise, the electronic charts and VHFs turn on, power is turned on to navigation lights, winch controls are turned on, etc.
Along the top are the six programs we have customized
Initially we had some issues with communication between CZone and our systems and we thought CZone was not working properly. However, the issues turned out to be programming issues not function problems. When CZone was installed and programmed at the factory in Xiamen, China, the programmers didn’t really understand how we would want to use CZone on Ticket to Ride.
Frank spent plenty of time on the phone and through emails with Jessica Li, overseer of the installation and programming of electronics on our HH55, and Kiel Moore of CZone in New Zealand. Frank gained a better understanding of CZone and he has worked to get it set up to function well for our purposes. The beauty of CZone is its’ flexibility among other features. CZone is now working beautifully and we are very happy to have it on TTR.
In our original post, we discussed problems we were having with the air conditioning units and the processing of power from the generator to our inverter / chargers and then passing that AC power on to the AC loads onboard. We spent a good deal of time communicating with Jessica and tried a few different fixes without success.
Mastervolt Inverter/Charger installed.
In the end, the underlying problem was a faulty Victron Inverter / charger. Hudson Yacht Group specified the Victron Inverter/Charger because it was the largest wattage inverter in a single unit on the market at the time. We ended up replacing the Victron Inverter/Charger with a Mastervolt Inverter/Charger and since then we have not had any issues with the ACs or the generator to inverter/charger power.
AIS/VHF issues. As offshore travelers, having the ability to talk to other boats or ships using the VHF is extremely important. The AIS allows us to transmit our location to nearby boats and ships and to receive information about nearby boats if they broadcast on AIS. This information is extremely helpful, especially at night when it is hard to determine distances from other ships. For a while our AIS/VHF were unreliable and when working, only transmitted 2 to 2.5 miles.
After a bit of diagnosing with the help of an excellent electrician, Will Immanse in LA Paz, Mexico, we determined that the cable spec’d by Pochon (electronics supplier based in France) that ran from our VHF/AIS to the top of our mast was not properly sized for the distance between the units and the antenna. As signals travel through wire, transmission signal diminishes as the distance traveled increases. Frank and I replaced our RX-8 cable with Ultraflex 400TM (Times Microwave) which has greater signal strength and carries the information between the antenna and our radios and chart plotters.
After changing the cable, our AIS signal reception changed from 2 or 2.5 miles to 6 – 8 miles and on VHF we can talk with ships that are sometimes as much as 15 miles away.
As for the other small issues we listed, happily, they are resolved:
~ the enclosure around our helm station was made sooo tightly that we cannot get it zipped all around, even when we had three people working together. We had a small strip added to the enclosure and it now closes easily.
Now we are snug and dry inside this enclosure.
~ the oven on the stove sometimes goes out without any apparent reason. Easing the burner knobs out a little resolved this problem.
~ there is a leak from a vent box in the engine room that allows seawater into the area when we have following seas. Frank spent a bit of time replacing the hose with a longer hose allowing a large upward loop routed into the outer transom bulwark. The problem is solved.
Considering the complexity and performance of the HH55 catamarans, the issues we have had on Ticket to Ride are pretty minimal. Today we have over 10,000 nautical miles under TTR‘s keels and we are very pleased to say that her systems are running very well and we are living quite comfortably.
Thanks for stopping to read our blog. We will be finished with quarantine on Oahu very soon and we look forward to exploring this island soon.
TTR before her departure from Xiamen.
So let’s state the obvious first: cars are mass produced and before the first one appears on a showroom floor hundreds of prototypes have been well and truly tested. Then a bajillion cars are made and 99% of the time, any problem you take to your local dealer will have been addressed in another car before you arrive.
Boat builds are significantly fewer in number. The number of units of a “mass” production boat model built is still in the 100s after a couple of years.
Ticket to Ride is one of only four HH55s produced to date, and each boat is customized to the specifications of the buyer. Due to this customization, some of the issues we face on TTR are probably different from issues the other three HH55 catamarans have experienced.
In addition to the uniqueness of each boat, our catamaran is a little city unto itself that must safely carry us from one port to the next and provide all of our electrical, refrigeration, water, power and navigational needs.
Given these facts, it is unrealistic to think that every system on TTR, or any other new boat, would be functioning perfectly at the time of delivery.
La Paz under a full moon taken from where we are anchored.
Knowing we would have issues that needed to be addressed, we decided long before Ticket to Ride was delivered that we would spend a season living on board to figure out what is working and what needs fixing. That is the purpose of our trip to the Sea of Cortez.
First let us reiterate that we are very pleased with our boat. The quality and precision of the interior spaces; cabinetry, tech spaces, painted or veneered surfaces, etc are excellent and we are very impressed.
Ticket to Ride sails like a dream and is more capable than we are. I’m not saying we aren’t decent sailors, but this boat has excellent performance rigging, sails and equipment and she is set up to goooo.
But TTR does have some issues and in the spirit of sometimes removing our rose colored glasses, we will share a few of our current concerns and what is driving us to return to the U.S. for warranty work. To date we have had very good service and response from Hudson Yacht Group with our questions and concerns.
The nav desk on TTR.
Perhaps the most complicated and potentially problematic system on Ticket to Ride is CZone; the electronic control and monitoring system that is the brain of everything with an electron flow on TTR. CZone essentially is the replacement for the AC and DC switching panels seen on most boats plus a whole lot more. With this computer brain and the touch of a screen, through CZone we can program our electrical system to fit our current situation. For example, TTR’s CZone system has 6 programmable modes such as “day cruise” or “anchored home” that allow one to turn off and on all the systems used in those situations with the touch of only a single button. So when we press “day cruise,” VHFs, navigation screens, winches, etc all turn on when we touch that one button. CZONE is a beautiful thing and yes, there is the potential for problems. After many, many hours reading manuals and technical support phone time with CZone Tech Support of New Zealand, the CZone, Frank and Mary Grace are living in harmony.
The company responsible for our electronics package is Pochon out of France. At the time of writing our purchasing contract, we tried to convince HH to use a U.S. company for this pivotal installation. We knew the chances of having everything right from the start were slim because the system interactions and programming are complicated. We lost that battle and now we are facing a few disadvantages because our resource for fixing the electronics is a French speaking group in France. Between the inconvenience of differing time zones and language barriers, even issues discovered during the delivery phase are still not fixed.
Explaining the details of the electrical / electronic / navigational issues is complicated and more details than we think most of our readers would like to wade through. The summary is that we are having compatibility issues between CZone, B&G, Mastervolt and the Victron electronic components. We would really like an expert to come on board to resolve the problems. We also need that expert to communicate clearly so we can become more efficient at modifying the system to meet our particular needs.
Half of the solar panels on TTR.
The solar installation on TTR is excellent and our 1900 watts delivers so much power that we only run our generator once in a while to make sure it still works! The HH team did a first-rate job of adding the individual solar controllers Frank requested and as a result, our solar farm is producing about 80 percent of the energy we require! (The remainder is topped up by the engines when we motor.)
The wiring, neatness, detail and labeling of our boat electronics done at the HH Factory are amazing. Sailors who come on board and peek at our tech room are suitably impressed, as are we. However, there are a few glitches in the wiring that need to be addressed.
That is a pretty tech space!
There seems to be a multi-pronged issue with the wiring to our air conditioning units. Anytime we try to run the port ACs (the side of the master berth), a relay fails, the inverter/generator reads overload and the ACs quit completely. Frank has spent a lot of time trying to trace the issue and with the consultation of Jessica, HH engineer extraordinaire, he has replaced the same relay switch twice. Both of the new relays failed immediately. Our Northern Lights 9kw generator is powerful enough to run our ACs but the inverter isn’t recognizing the power coming from our generator and consistently shows “overload” and shuts down.
Related to this problem is that the generator and inverter/charger aren’t talking well even for basic charging of the batteries. If we try to charge the lithium batteries using the generator, the charger always shows “float” and never reads “bulk charge” even when the batteries are low enough to accept bulk charge. Frank has spent a lot of time talking to Victron and MasterVolt (inverter/charger and batteries respectively) and neither is willing to work through the problem with us ie, there is some finger pointing going on. Somewhere there is a wiring issue or a setting issue or a communication error in these units. This needs to be fixed as we won’t always be in sunny Mexico where solar power is an everyday full charge event.
We really like our B&G navigation/charting system but there are a few issues with it too. Our AIS and VHF systems are not working consistently and when they do work, they only broadcast or receive information for a maximum of 2- 2.5 miles. Considering our air draft is 88 feet, we should easily transmit and receive for at least 8 miles.
(AIS is an automatic identification system used on vessels to identify traffic. Notices of ships nearby show on the electronic chart and information about that vessel’s size, speed and closest point of approach can be seen. This is a big help when sailing at night and very important because we want large container ships to know we are out on the ocean with them.)
Our B&G autopilot, aka Jude, is mostly excellent. Jude can hold to a wind setting or a heading very well. She can follow a navigation route too. But sometimes Jude decides to change herself from navigating a route to just holding a heading… that would be like skipping a turn(s) when following directions.
Speaking of autopilots, we intentionally outfitted TTR with a completely separate back up autopilot system. Our primary one is on the port side and is working. Our redundant system is supposed to be installed on the starboard side but we have absolutely no reading from it and do not think it has been completely installed.
Also, we have recalibrated our electronic compasses several times and there still seems to be some discrepancies between the true compass readings and the electronic readings. We had our traditional compasses professionally swung before we left L.A. and we are confident that the error is in our electronic compasses. This has a bit of a domino effect and can cause calculated electronic information to be wrong. Frank is confident this issue involves magnetic interference and relocation is the answer. The problem is finding a 6 meter NMEA 2000 cable in Mexico.
Small things still need to be addressed on TTR as well. Some of these include:
~ a light switch mix up where two unrelated lights turn on/off by the same switch.
~ the enclosure around our helm station was made sooo tight that we cannot get it zipped all around, even when we had three people working together.
~ the oven on the stove sometimes goes out without any apparent reason.
~ there is a leak from a vent box in the engine room that allows seawater into the area when we have following seas. (HH is fabricating and sending us a replacement to fix this problem.)
This is not an exhaustive list of things that need to be corrected on Ticket to Ride, but it does give you an idea of the types of issues we need to resolve when we get back to the U.S.
We must make a very special mention of Thomas and Riccardo of the HH Team. These two men have done an amazing job of e-mailing with us, trying to troubleshoot our issues from the other side of the world. They have been extremely prompt and thorough in their responses and we are truly grateful. It is their responsiveness that keeps us positive that these issues will get resolved.
We are currently achored in La Paz, Mexico, preparing to move south to Cabo San Lucas where we will wait for a good weather window to sail back north toward Ensenada, Mexico and eventually California.
Frank is trying to get a few things resolved on our Spectra water maker before we leave here. Yes, there are a few bugs relating to the water maker, but so much progress has been made with it that I am not even listing it as a problem anymore. However, kudos to Spectra WaterMaker support and Riccardo of HH. They have been extremely responsive to Frank’s e-mails and phone calls and so far we have been able to make water all along even with the problems!! (Everyone knock on wood, please!)
Phew, so there you have another “report” from TTR. I promise, the next post will be full of pretty sights from the Sea of Cortez.
Sunset from our anchorage in Isla Coronados.
Thank you for reading our blog. Our posts are pretty sporadic right now because our connectivity is hit or miss here in Mexico. I try to post to the FB page to at least share some of the beauty of this area but I am limited by access. Thank you for stopping by.