A beautiful boat in need of an upgrade - Soundings Online

A beautiful boat in need of an upgrade

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When Gerry Dubey fried his radar during a trip in late November 2004, he decided to upgrade his 31-foot Duffy powerboat, Elizabeth, with the latest multifunction navigation system available.

When Gerry Dubey fried his radar during a trip in late November 2004, he decided to upgrade his 31-foot Duffy powerboat, Elizabeth, with the latest multifunction navigation system available.

“It seemed like the right time,” says Dubey, 57. “When I go out sometimes it’s pretty dicey, so I needed something that would work.”

The Chester, Conn., resident, working with electronics and yacht wiring specialists Connecticut Marine Instrument, selected a Raymarine C120 chartplotter/digital fishfinder/radar display with a 12.1-inch sunlight-viewable color screen.

Dubey and his wife, Cynthia, spend a lot of time on the water, including frequent boating on the Connecticut River on weekdays, over-nighting off Long Island, and a couple of weeklong trips to Martha’s Vineyard each year.

Their children are more interested in wakeboarding, he says.

“It’s a nifty little boat for two people,” Dubey says from the cockpit. “It’s also a great party boat back here, [with] lots of open space.”

Dubey is an investment management specialist with Smith Barney in Hartford. “Some business has been conducted from the back of this boat,” he says.

Dubey typically puts 150 hours on the 315-hp Cummins diesel engine a year, covering between 1,300 and 1,400 nautical miles in that time. Elizabeth, built in the mid-1990s, also spends a lot of time on a mooring in Hamburg Cove, upriver from her berth at the Essex Yacht Club.

With all that time on the boat, and an inclination for gunkholing, Dubey says it was important to refit Elizabeth with a quality GPS chart plotting and radar overlay system.

“We’ve done enough pea souping this [past] summer; we went from Montauk to Block [Island], where you couldn’t see the bow rail — the seas were awful,” Dubey says. “When you hear people bouncing around and the Coast Guard responding to different things, you’re thankful that you have systems that work.”

He had worked with CMI owner Chuck Lohrs before while getting VHF radio upgrades.

Lohrs and Dubey’s professional relationship started a couple of years ago, Lohrs says, when he began servicing Dubey’s older equipment. “Most of his equipment was about 15 years old, and then he had a problem with his radar and knew it was going to be expensive,” Lohrs says.

After some hemming and hawing, Dubey admits, they also put in an autopilot with remote control. The autopilot helps Dubey avoid a lot of the back-and-forth steering inputs the single screw boat requires, he says.

Charlie Koller has worked as a subcontractor with Essex-based CMI for four years and did most of the installation work on Elizabeth. “The guy is just amazingly talented,” says Lohrs.

Elizabeth’s console top needed to be raised to accommodate the new

C-Series multifunction chartplotter (manufacturer suggested retail price: $2,880). “We needed to raise it about 2 inches, and make it look like it came from the original builder,” says Lohrs. “That’s where Charlie’s talents came in. He did quite a bit of woodwork.”

On the electronics panel, three pieces of equipment were being reduced to one combination unit with a larger, 12-inch screen. They knew they would have to add a couple of inches to the dash to fit the display. Work started in late 2004 before the boat was pulled.

The boat was stored for the winter in a heated shed at the Brewer Dauntless Shipyard in Essex. “That made life very nice for us,” says Lohrs. Installation was completed in the winter, and Lohrs took Dubey on sea trials the following spring.

“I read the manuals a couple times before I even got out here,” says Dubey. “Every time I go out I learn something new about it. I spend a ton of time goofing around with it.”

Because there are so many screens and keystrokes, many functions are not covered in the manuals. Dubey doesn’t keep as many waypoints as he did with older navigation systems, as he can now point and click where he wants to go.

While the face panel is new, the original console housing is used. Despite the raised housing, Dubey says visibility at the helm remains excellent.

The boat’s headliner caused some problems. “The original headliner was put in to stay in,” says Lohrs. “Subsequently, Gerry had to hire Brewer’s Dauntless [Shipyard] to put a new headliner in.”

Along with upgrading the headliner, the Brewer yard fabricated teak rings around the ports to match the originals.

A close-knit boating community means Lohrs regularly gets to see the boats and owners with whom he works.

Another challenge on Elizabeth included fitting 100 wires in chaseways where originally there were 30 wires. Lohrs notes that access is a constant issue on refit jobs.

“It’s all kind of random,” Lohrs says. “You never know what you’re going to get until you see the boat or meet the owner. It just worked out nicely the way his particular dashboard is.

“The other important thing with this is just spending time with the customer after the installation, to make sure they know how to use it. Because, as you know, the latest, greatest doesn’t help much unless you know how to use it,” says Lohrs. He says he gets a lot of calls from new-boat owners seeking instructors.

The C120 is loaded with Navionics electronic charts.

“With the accuracy of this thing, I can go into a lot of gunkholes that I wouldn’t ordinarily,” Dubey says. “The detail is spectacular.”

The boat, finished by Hunter Scott, was designed by Spencer Lincoln, a former classmate of Dubey.

The 31-foot Duffy can take a lot of weather, Dubey says. He describes her as a tank, a good Down East hull that goes through anything. “Famous last words,” he adds, chuckling. “I treat this like a 17-foot center console.” He takes it out alone quite a bit, as Cynthia often skips out when the temperature really dips.

Dubey, who serves as chairman of the board of trustees of the Connecticut River Museum in Essex, feels he now has a complete system.

“There really wasn’t anything else that I could get that I didn’t get,” he says. “There’s really no add-ons to this system.”

But he has left an open space on the console just in case.

“He got a great package, he seems to enjoy it and he seems to know it really well,” says Lohrs. “In a short time he’s gotten really into it. [Raymarine] had just come out with it, so it was nice to have that nice equipment on a beautiful boat.”