How Electronics Provide Insight

Electronics may offer clues to a boat’s condition.

How Electronics Tell a Story

As owners run boats, helm electronics give them information and insight into what’s headed their way. Those electronics can also give information to someone who’s looking to buy that boat. Smart buyers take a look at the screens, but a glance behind the dash may tell even more.

"The first thing I look at, other than the engine room and the general condition of the boat, is the way the guy has upgraded his electronics," says Andy Kniffin, broker at AK Yachts ( in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. "If you see a bunch of antique, dinosaur electronics, you kind of get the impression that the guy has been thrifty, and that may apply to other areas."

A prospective buyer may see an antiquated helm as a good thing: New owners often replace electronics anyway, and removing a dilapidated setup may be easier to swallow than tearing out one that still works.

"I think the ability to let the buyer pick and choose his or her own equipment is important," says John Todd, director of sales for the Florida market for Burger Yacht Sales ( in Fort Lauderdale. "But sellers that have old stuff on the boat, old single sidebands or old-style radars that aren't working anymore, should get them out and plug up the hole so they don't have a target for the surveyor to come aboard and say, 'That doesn't work.' We try to shorten the list at survey time as much as possible."

Some owners may try to add bits and pieces to keep the helm running on the cheap, but many single-function components have been absorbed by networked systems. A new helm installation can solve any problems, but get a professional opinion first.

"When you get an older boat, you don't want to use the old wiring," says Jon Schimoler, owner of Voyager Marine Electronics ( in Essex, Massachusetts. "It's old, it's annealed, and you don't know how much water's gotten on it. So if you end up putting new equipment on, you cheapen the installation and gamble that the wiring is decent, and normally it comes back to bite you." This kind of recycling may cost an owner down the road when a warranty claim gets rejected due to reused wiring. Some installers may try to integrate old parts, such as transducers, into a new installation. Be aware: Transducers have a limited life, two to five years depending on usage, and are critical to sounder performance. The bottom line: Get a look at the service records of the boat, and bring in a trusted installer to tell you what you have and what you'll need.

“We like to see what’s on the boat either by the brokerage sheet or by a wire listing — that pretty much tells us the age of the equipment,” Schimoler says. “Digital cameras or camera phones can get us some pictures and get us some idea as well. Put a ruler on the dashboard so we can see the height and the width.”

The last owner’s upgrades tell how the boat was valued. What you do to the helm will affect the next buyer.

“If the electronics are second or third generation, I think that adds value a little bit,” Kniffin says. “Some people are electronics nuts and want to get the latest and greatest — many yachts won’t have that.”

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Cruise Control: Tenacity is a 116-foot Burger raised pilothouse motoryacht built in 2005. She has a 10,000-gallon fuel capacity and a range of more than 2,200 miles. She offers four staterooms plus crew and is listed at $12.35 million at this writing. Contact John Todd at Burger Yacht Sales at 954-463- 1400 or visit



Calming Effect: Zen is a Symbol 58 pilothouse motoryacht built in 2003. Her Jack Sarin-designed hull has three staterooms and is powered by twin 700-horsepower Cat C12 diesels. She is listed at $899,000 at this writing. Contact Andy Kniffin at AK Yachts at 954-292- 0629 or visit

Far and Wide: Seafari is a 93-foot Burger raised pilothouse cockpit motoryacht built in 1975 with a 2,800-mile range and three staterooms plus crew, listed at $1.65 million at this writing. Contact John Todd at Burger Yacht Sales at 954-463-1400 or visit