Automation Makes Smooth Sailing for Yacht, Home

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Choreographed controls by Crestron and high-def, pop-up video are just a sampling of the technology employed.


Jul. 25, 2011 — by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

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.

Seaworthy Systems
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.

Homeward Bound
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.

Flat-Panel Facelifts
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.

A high-def display can only perform to its potential when fed by high-def sources, so Yacht Tech added a Kaleidescape media server, Denon Blu-ray player and DirecTV high-def DVR receivers to the theater’s Middle Atlantic rack, which slides out from the wall and rotates for service access. The theater also features a 7.2-channel JBL Synthesis surround-sound system, Crestron touchpanel remote, iPod dock and motorized LEG draperies.

Automation Overhaul
Perhaps the most significant update, though, was the addition of a Crestron MP2E control system. Yacht Tech spent many hours programming the system to choreograph the operation of everything electronic in Christine’s home. It’s made a dramatic difference in how she manages her business and personal life. Rather than interact with a myriad of different keypads to prepare the house for a dinner party, for example, she now goes to one Crestron touchpanel, presses a button and dozens of devices react appropriately. The lights on the main level dim to soft preset intensities, a compilation of music from the Kaleidescape server streams to built-in SpeakerCraft speakers, and several motorized draperies close to create an intimate atmosphere.

It’s a different story when Christine engages the PARTY button. The lights brighten to showcase her extensive collection of colorful glasswork, lively music broadcasts through the speakers, and the draperies open to encourage guests to stroll through her Japanese gardens. Here, the setting changes again. Inconspicuous motion detectors signal the Crestron system, which in turn trips outdoor light fixtures, speakers and a misting system in a perfectly timed sequence to guide guests through the illusion of a rainforest. On cue, the sound of crickets plays through the marinegrade outdoor SpeakerCraft speakers, and a light mist brushes the lawn.

The mood shifts once again when the party moves to the home theater. It’s high-octane entertainment in this 600-square-foot space located smack in the middle of the home. A ticket counter and illuminated movie posters and marquees—all controlled by the Crestron system—welcome friends to the show. Inside, it’s wall-to-wall lipstick red: the seats, the carpet, the drapes around Christine’s new 108-inch display, but only for a few minutes. As soon as Christine taps the MOVIE button on a portable Crestron touchpanel, a pair of pocket doors close and the room fades to black. Lively chatter is replaced by knock-your-socks-off surround-sound, and the intricate theater design is trumped by 108 inches of pure, high-def imagery.

Down Time
The Crestron-controllable lighting effects, housewide music and home theater enable Christine to pull out all the stops when guests are in town. Most evenings, though, the control is low key, with Christine choosing to watch movies on a 42-inch Planar LCD TV in her bedroom or a 37- or 26-inch NuVision display in her office.

From a Crestron touchpanel she can dim the lights, adjust the thermostat and position the drapes, creating an atmosphere of total relaxation … almost. Before Christine can breathe easy, she likes to give her home the once-over, ensuring that every area is safe and secure. Again, it’s a matter of touching one button on the touchpanel. The CAMERA icon instantly brings up real-time, high-def video on a TV screen, from 12 color Panasonic surveillance cameras. Via navigation buttons on a touchpanel, Christine can choose to view all of the cameras at once or cycle through the images one at a time. She can pan, tilt and zoom in some of the cameras and record every second of video to a DVR for future reference.

Naturally, one of the cameras is positioned to watch over the Norwegian Queen. Captured and displayed in clear, colorful high-def, the image is a constant temptation to hit the Seven Seas. Thanks to Christine’s pair of Crestron control systems, both the house and the yacht can be ready for her departure at a moment’s notice. Bon Voyage!



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