Thursday, October 8, 2009

Arcturus Marine/TRAC hydraulic systems class: Amazing!!

Ron and I are here in Rohnert Park, CA participating in a class put on by Arcturus Marine/TRAC -- the stabilizers-thrusters-hydraulics system folks for Equinox. The integrated systems class is free for owners, captains and engineers and SO WORTH taking. During our many years of boating, Ron and I have learned a lot about boat systems, so through hard-earned experience, feel comfortable doing our maintenance or troubleshooting. But... never having had hydraulic systems before, we were in the dark about how these systems worked. Truly, hydraulics were a mystery to us and thus would have been an Achilles heel should we ever have had problems.

But not now!! The class was priceless in the amount of information we learned. Eric Folkestad and the TRAC folks are stellar in explaining the care, feeding and maintenance of the systems, from the stabilizers to the bow and/or stern thrusters. The first day, we got a tour of the factory buildings and saw first-hand the amazingly meticulous care and quality that gets built into the units. The systems are robust, durable and built to standards that exceed the norm. (Clearly the reason we could be so blithely ignorant of our hydraulic systems for the first two years we've had Equinox, I'm ashamed to say.) We saw how well they machine their parts, and how they strive for improvement over every generation of component, refusing to out-source items that they know they can build/machine better. These systems aren't cheap, but when you are out at sea in nasty conditions, do you want to be thinking, "Damn, I'm glad I saved money on my stabilizers!"?? don't. We've been there in ugly seas, and I was thanking my TRAC stabilizers even then, when I didn't know a thing about them.

Dave beginning our tour of the machine shop, explaining how
they fill the orders and the quality control behind each assembly

Schematics of one system, with only partial markings from
the technicians as they double-check each order. By the time
this order is ready to ship, the schematic is multi-colored

Eric put us through the paces, teaching us about hydraulic basic principles of flow and pressure, basic components and their proper settings, how to read system diagrams to understand our boat's particular set-up, and how to trouble-shoot if you ever have an issue. Really reassuring is to know they keep on file the detailed diagrams and drawings of every boat system they've ever made, in case you need parts. Have an issue? Just call and give the sales order number or hull number from your boat, and they can pull up your schematics and tell you what kind of hydraulic pump you have or what size actuator cylinder you might need.

A manifold machined out of a single piece of
aluminium, with each port marked precisely

Eric showing us how TRAC cables are manufactured
to the specific dimensions of each boat system

Day Two had us doing the oily work: trouble-shooting various theoretical problems, then disassembling the various components and replacing or repairing the components. Be it as simple as clearing out a valve assembly or as complicated as replacing a broken actuator unit, we did it all and felt very secure in new-found prowess. We had folks from Kadey-Krogen there, and well as Nordhavn and an independent yacht maker who sent his engineer crew. With only six of us in the class, we all had ample time to go over information, discuss concepts and have time working with the stabilizer assembly and sensors.

Day Two: Eric explaining the workings of systems aboard
each of our boats, using the mock-up that illustrated the different
stabilizer or thruster hydraulic configurations

Hands-on training: replacing a stabilizer actuator control arm
and re-setting the fin position sensor and coupling

After the end of the course, we all enjoyed chatting, telling boating stories amid much laughter. It was a great group of always with cruising, we met new friends with whom we hope to keep in touch and hope to have our paths cross again. For any boat owner or cruiser who wants to improve their knowledge, comfort level and safety concerns, we highly recommend this course. Arcturus Marine/TRAC does it right!

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