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Old 10-28-2014, 08:04 PM   #1
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Compressed Air on your boat?

So first post here of probably what will turn into many. On this new to me vessel I have discovered 3 air compressors. One on the main. One on what used to be the genset/aux motor. And one electric 32V (of course). So I have an air operated throttle for the main at the helm station. And a air operated gear shift set up. Upper helm is cable throttle linkage to the engine and a second air shift for the transmission.
So, the question is what are the alternatives? I know I can go dual station cables like I had in my old outboard. I can leave things alone (it all works and I understand it oddly enough) or I can switch to???. How reliable are some of the newer electronic controls I see? Is there some other way short of putting one of the kids downstairs and shouting down the ladder SLOWER! SLOWER! NOW REVERSE AND GIVE IT!
So what is on your boat and how happy have you been. Past problems with the system you are using. How much maintenance. And it is an old 671 so no, tapping into the computer is not an available option.
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Old 10-28-2014, 08:20 PM   #2
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We have Mathers MM electronic controls and haven't had problems. But if I had a choice I would look at twin disc too.
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Old 10-28-2014, 08:37 PM   #3
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Greetings,
Welcome aboard.
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Old 10-28-2014, 09:03 PM   #4
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Yes, but only for the horns.
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Old 10-28-2014, 09:07 PM   #5
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Yes, but only for the horns.

Forgot something!
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Old 10-28-2014, 09:13 PM   #6
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Yes, the compressor. And then there is the tank.

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Old 10-28-2014, 09:13 PM   #7
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Yes, the compressor. And then there is the tank.


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Old 10-28-2014, 09:49 PM   #8
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Is there some other way short of putting one of the kids downstairs and shouting down the ladder SLOWER! SLOWER! NOW REVERSE AND GIVE IT!

Bryan aboard
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Should you decide to go with the "kids downstairs" this might be a better option than shouting.

Welcome aboard Mr. Bryan
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Old 10-28-2014, 11:00 PM   #9
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I have a similar system. 32v motor air compressor. A push button transmission driven by air and a electric throttle. All to drive the 671. Simple and reliable. Just make sure you have plenty of air before maneuvering.
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Old 10-29-2014, 12:39 AM   #10
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Hydraulic

No reason to change unless you want to simplify the system and get rid of the compressors. You do have an electric starter, right. Hydraulic controls are smooth and reliable and stand alone. Some electronic shifters seem to have a slight delay which I find annoying, Especially if your boat moves quickly at idle, docking can be a little stressful waiting for that gear change.
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Old 10-29-2014, 08:50 AM   #11
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Welcome.

Is this the Sutton that had been for sale in Baltimore? if so, she is a great boat! very salty indeed.

I can't speak for performance in boats but i do have experience with pneumatics in industrial applications(food and pharmaceutical processes) . As long as you keep feeding them dry air they are very dependable (sounds like you have several backup air sources). Unlike hydraulics they don't make a mess in case of a line failure and the lines can be quickly fabricated in the field without special tools. If the equipment works and is in serviceable shape go with it.

I have often wondered why we don't see more air controls in boats.
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Old 10-29-2014, 11:16 AM   #12
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Air controls were often used on older tugs and commercial boats, many of them still operating. So they must be reliable. Sounds like the OP has a hybrid system where the upper helm is direct cable, and the lower helm air control. That sounds like trouble as you can't smoothly go from one helm to another. But that is an issue with modern electronic controls- you can't start using a second helm without disabling the one in use. That can be dangerous as someone detecting danger at one helm cannot stop propulsion. Hydraulics and cable have no such issue.

I have seen a multi station boat with air control- I knew it was as when docking I could hear the "air spits" when shifting, which I think is kinda neat.. I don't know how that boat solved the "which helm is in command" issue, and whether that same tech might be available to the OP.

Find out which vendor made the air controls, then check with them for second station options.
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Old 10-29-2014, 12:24 PM   #13
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But that is an issue with modern electronic controls- you can't start using a second helm without disabling the one in use. That can be dangerous as someone detecting danger at one helm cannot stop propulsion. Hydraulics and cable have no such issue.
Hi Ski,

That's not completely true of modern electronics. For example on the Mathers Controls on my boat, control can be taken at any of 3 stations by holding the take control button, which will immediately stop propulsion unless the station taking command advances the throttle. To get command back to the original station, the operator would have to do the same, press and hold the take command button.

To the OP, air controls are very reliable and it does take some getting used to the time delay when backing down on something and switching to forward (as you count, one-one thousand, two-one thouseand....)
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Old 10-29-2014, 12:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ski in NC View Post
Air controls were often used on older tugs and commercial boats, many of them still operating. So they must be reliable. Sounds like the OP has a hybrid system where the upper helm is direct cable, and the lower helm air control. That sounds like trouble as you can't smoothly go from one helm to another. But that is an issue with modern electronic controls- you can't start using a second helm without disabling the one in use. That can be dangerous as someone detecting danger at one helm cannot stop propulsion. Hydraulics and cable have no such issue.

I have seen a multi station boat with air control- I knew it was as when docking I could hear the "air spits" when shifting, which I think is kinda neat.. I don't know how that boat solved the "which helm is in command" issue, and whether that same tech might be available to the OP.

Find out which vendor made the air controls, then check with them for second station options.
First- thanks for the replies.

I am not sure how the upper cable is supposed to override the air throttle and will have to get two people on board so I can watch what is going on.
I am concerned about the reliability of a cable system or the new electronic systems if I was to change to one or the other and remove the air system. The air shift system on the vessel is 50 years old seems pretty bullet proof but I don't like the cable to the upper control station.
Some days I like the thought of removing all the air compressors and piping and just having a little 12 volt compressor for a horn. Then I go back to if it is not broken why am I fooling with it?

So, I thought I would see what others have. Good to know that there are some other boats and ships with air controls. At least this was not some random experiment by the original owner. Now, later we will talk about the hydraulic back up drive for the prop. That is another story.
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Old 10-29-2014, 12:56 PM   #15
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If it has been on the boat for 50 years it must be a dependable system otherwise a PO would of already replaced it.
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Old 10-29-2014, 01:26 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Edelweiss View Post
Should you decide to go with the "kids downstairs" this might be a better option than shouting.

Welcome aboard Mr. Bryan
Beautiful single lever control!!
Now how to adapt it to "direct" control bypassing the engineer in the
engine room.

Air controls are still used in the loaders and yarders in the logging
industry.
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Old 10-29-2014, 02:16 PM   #17
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Hi Ski,

That's not completely true of modern electronics. For example on the Mathers Controls on my boat, control can be taken at any of 3 stations by holding the take control button, which will immediately stop propulsion unless the station taking command advances the throttle. To get command back to the original station, the operator would have to do the same, press and hold the take command button.

To the OP, air controls are very reliable and it does take some getting used to the time delay when backing down on something and switching to forward (as you count, one-one thousand, two-one thouseand....)
I'm no expert on the electronic controls, but on a couple of boats I tried to take command on second helm while primary had the boat under way. The thing beeped at me and refused to do anything. I had to run below, put active helm in neutral, then run back up and hit the take command button. Then it worked.

Maybe there was a way to do it, maybe I did not hold the button long enough. Maybe more modern controls have changed that feature.

But in either case, it certainly is not intuitive. I guess you could just hit the engine stop buttons..

Never a problem with cable or hydraulic, all helms are active at all times, no thinking required.
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Old 10-30-2014, 04:16 PM   #18
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Lightning strikes near by will not disable the air system.
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