July 25, 2011
| by Lisa Montgomery
The Norwegian Queen stretches 165 feet from front to back. It’s a commanding presence and the first thing you notice when you pull into Christine Lynn’s driveway.
Docked on the Intracoastal Waterway behind Christine’s manicured backyard, the yacht is home to an amazing array of electronic systems. Sixteen flat-panel TVs, 16 marine-grade loudspeakers and dozens of dimmable light fixtures provide all the comforts of home—a very grand, high-tech home—while Christine and her crew are cruising for months at a time to Europe, New York City or some other destination.
From any portable Crestron touchpanel, Christine can set the level of the lights, signal a piece of motorized artwork to roll away to reveal a TV, select a movie from the dozens that have been stored on a Kaleidescape media server and stream music to the sundeck or anywhere else on the boat. “We’ve outfitted yachts for her in the past, but the Norwegian Queen was the most sophisticated,” says Tom Lambert, president of Yacht Tech Solutions in Stuart, Fla. “She was so impressed with the way it turned out that she asked us to incorporate many of the same features into her house.”
One of the main hurdles when working on a yacht, says Lambert—even one of this size—is squeezing the electronics into somewhat tight cabin spaces. Fishing wire behind and through fiberglass walls is particularly difficult, and small storage areas afford little space for head-to-toe racks of A/V equipment. Moreover, bigscreen TVs can eat up limited wall and counter space. Still, Lambert and his seasoned team of designers and installers rose to the challenge, giving Christine a hightech home at sea … and a template to follow for the makeover of her 20-plus-year-old Mediterranean-style house on the Florida coast.
As it turned out, Christine’s 22,600-square-foot residence posed many of the same installation challenges as the Norwegian Queen. Poured concrete walls and cathedral ceilings offered no avenues for the high-speed wiring network that Yacht Tech Solutions planned to install. So the crew pulled out some ladders and specialty fishing tools and got to work. “To reach the great room, for example, we had to run the cabling outside though plastic conduit and underneath eaves 50 feet high. In other places we tucked the cabling behind the baseboards,” says Lambert.
Also tough to work around was the home’s existing control system. Installed 15 years ago by another company, its usefulness had long worn off. “It was big, clunky and patched together; it was sorely less sophisticated than the system we had installed on the yacht,” says Lambert. In addition, long-term exposure to humidity had corroded many of the inwall speakers that made up the original whole-house music system.
Rather than try to fix what was broken, Yacht Tech started fresh. Over the course of many weeks, they erased all signs of the antiquated system. They pulled out cabling, removed keypads and touchpanels from the walls and yanked out dozens of rusty speakers. Analog TVs were replaced with high-def models, iPod docking stations were added, highcapacity media servers joined the equipment rack in the theater, and mechanisms that lifted hidden TVs into view were swapped for quieter, smoother operating units.
In addition to being smarter and more sophisticated than the original equipment, the new gear was significantly smaller in size. Numerous cabinets, countertops and portions of walls were rebuilt to suit the slimmer form factors.
The update of Christine’s home theater, meanwhile, would test the brute strength of Yacht Tech’s systems integrator Bob Ackerman and the rest of the installation team. An existing rear-projection TV was traded for a 108-inch, high-def Sharp LCD model. In order to cart the 540-pound display into the home without damaging the marble flooring, Yacht Tech had to build a heavy-duty “skateboard.” The platform on wheels was engineered to distribute the weight of the TV evenly, roll easily across the flooring and glide up a ramp to the TV’s final resting spot: a specially built base in the opening where the rear-projection display once stood. Before Yacht Tech could begin, though, the transport required the blessing of engineers at Sharp. “In total it took us three days to deliver and install the display,” says Lambert.
Lisa Montgomery has been writing about home technology for 15 years, with a focus on the impact of electronics on a modern lifestyle.