August 20, 2005 Report: Trac Stabilizers

I had researched the various stabilizers for about 8 or 9 years, both on behalf of customers and for Dreamer.  I was most impressed with Trac's systems and with their attitude towards customer service and dealing with my hundreds of questions in a professional and thorough manner.  I was particularly impressed with their control system which was and is three-term. 

Just before I made a decision on which system to go with, I had narrowed it down to Naiad and Trac.  Both were about the same price for the hardware, but Trac's package seemed to be a bit more complete.  Their documentation and installation manual was also more complete, IMHO.  And finally, I felt more comfortable dealing with John Champion (who lives up to his name).  I decided to go with Trac's smallest system with 7.5 sq ft fins for most effectiveness at slower speeds.

In order to install the fins, they had to be married to Dreamer's wood hull with a heavy duty stainless steel foundation by cutting out a frame  on each side beside the engines, reinforcing the hull with wood, epoxy glue and fasteners.  Installation of the foundation also included tying it into several frames forward and aft as well to the chines and engine stringers.  The fin actuators were then thru-bolted through the SS foundation, hull and a 1/4" SS plate on the outside of the hull which also tied the hull and framework together with thru-bolts.

I believe the end result is that the hull is stronger than before the installation and I am satisfied with the installation.  After the installation was complete in early 2004 and some other work completed, we launched Dreamer.  John Champion and and his field technician, Russ, came up to commission the system and did so both in the slip and then underway.  All parts of the system worked very well though we couldn't find any waves to challenge the system.  We had a couple problems after that which were discovered during little shakedowns around Oak Harbor and both were promptly and satisfactorily taken care of with their technician Russ coming up to Oak Harbor both times to replace a small control valve once and the Pilot House Control another time, all at no charge.

We really weren't able to shake the system down until this summer and promptly ran into a problem about an hour out of Oak Harbor while enroute to Victoria on Vancouver Island in BC Canada.  Via cell phone, Russ troubleshot the problem while we were enroute and got a replacement  actuator valve shipped to Victoria and routed another technician, Dave, to Victoria to swap them out.  That didn't seem to solve the problem so they shipped another Pilot House Control and Main Control Panel and had Russ (Dave wasn't available) drive up and take the ferry over to Victoria and he replaced both units, taking the others back with him for testing.  To make this saga a bit shorter, the system worked the rest of the cruise without incident. 

They put the three components on a bench and proceeded to test them relentlessly for a week or so and came to the conclusion that nothing was wrong with any of them and that the fault was in the power supply which converted 12VDC to 24DC.  Seems it did have enough punch to get things started intermittently.  So they engineered a modification involving some circuitry that included a large capacitor, bench tested everything and brought that up with brand new Pilot House and Main Control Panels and Dave installed everything and tested it in Oak Harbor.  Terrific service, IMHO and all done voluntarily because it was needed to cure the problem.

So far, we have tested the system during our cruise as far as Newport and can report that it has operated flawlessly and virtually eliminated rolling.  We couldn't be more pleased with our decision to install the Trac Stabilizers and highly recommend them to anyone!

When one thinks about the money we invest in our boats and boating, adding the costs to install an effective roll stabilizing system to even a smaller cruising boat makes sense, IMHO.  Consider it a part of the cost of purchase of a comfortable cruising boat that increases the pleasure of all cruising.  Perhaps making the difference between one's spouse being enthusiastically involved and not interested due to the lack of comfort while underway.  While not necessarily needed when cruising the protected water of the PNW, any cruising in unprotected waters will benefit hugely from roll stabilization.  That's the way it looks from here!