In the words of Criteria Marine President Dave Tovissi (Dania Beach, Fla.) and Electronic Integrations Owner and President Jeff Wheeler (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.):

• Know that there are rules of marine etiquette. For example, if the owner’s on the boat, you might be allowed only to walk on one side of the boat. You might have a certain type of uniform that must be worn; you might have to go around in socks or barefoot to avoid tracking around dust. Be meticulous in your installation habits, because there are other, crucial subsystems on the boat, which include navigation, radar, GPS and communications. If your wiring or components are not rated or installed properly, you’ll cause interference with those other subsystems, which could cause catastrophic damage. If you wired your Cat-5 wrong and it’s giving RF interference to the radar, and you get some special bleep on there, next thing you know, you hit an atoll or a reef, and who knows why. There’s a completely different set of standards for working on a boat.—Tovissi

• Make sure you have the stomach for it—literally, meaning make sure you won’t need an I.V. Dramamine drip. You’re going to be on moving vessels a lot of the time. You always have to do sea trials to make sure everything works even in the worst conditions—at high speeds, in big waves—to make sure the G-force when you make a quick turn doesn’t affect anything. If you get seasick just looking at the boat, forget it.—Tovissi

• It’s not for you if you’re claustrophobic. The area where you will work is very confined, and although these yachts are huge, they don’t give you a big space to work in; they give you a little bitty closet.—Tovissi

• Troubleshooting can sometimes be travel-shooting. We chase boats all over the place. I’ve got a guy in Spain right now working on a boat, because they are mobile. Once the project deadline has passed, you may have to chase one of these guys down somewhere to finish something. Parts get delayed; you’re working in a very confined space and there may be three different trades that need to work in that same space. Somebody’s gotta get in there first, second and we’re always last, because it’s the nature of what we do, which is the finished product, for which you can’t be in there making a lot of dust. If everyone else is running behind, it puts us in a tough position. They can’t leave without the motors; they can leave without the TVs—and they will!—Wheeler

• Hiring an ex-car installer is a very good bet. Most of us started in car installation. There are so many similarities—dealing with the small space and similar troubleshooting such as dealing with RF noise. Marine installers most of all have to be detail people; that’s probably the most important thing.—Tovissi

• Document, document, document. When you’re working with all of the sub-trades, you have to have so much more documentation. In a home installation, you’re dealing with an electrician and a few others; on a boat, you’re dealing with 15 to 20 different trades. There’s one that just does the floors, one that just does the cabinetry, one that does the navigation, one that does security, and you have to work with them in limited space. All of us have to understand who’s got what compartment during the installation phase, and we have to honor each trade’s space.—Tovissi

• Always, always run extra wire. Whenever we’re running wires, we run extra. It’s not like in a house where once you get to the attic you can run it to the other side, drop it down and you’re done. On a yacht, we have to go through the bulkhead, remove overheads, light fixtures, air conditioning ducts, whatever it takes to get to what they call the wire trace and run the wire. And then it has to be secured every six to eight inches. It can’t just be flopping around up there while the boat’s moving. You do all of this labor—it’s 90 percent labor and 10 percent materials for the wiring—and then they say, “Oh, let’s also put this in.” And we think, “Oh, man, had we run just one more wire…” So we tend to run a lot of what we call “future” wires (if we call them “extra” wires they don’t want to pay for them!) What I always tell them is that amount of labor is going to be almost identical, and the cost of the wire is going to raise it about 10 percent. They realize, once you’re in there doing it, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have to go in there again.—Wheeler

• Choose vendors who make products that run cool. Think digital amplifiers rather than analog ones, think smaller components, think DVD players that play universal-region software for when people travel out of the U.S.—Tovissi

• Sell backup products. The yachts should carry two or three of each of the components most susceptible to failure, like hard drive-based products, amps or satellites, or anything that gets hot. You can give them a satellite uplink, but if an amp is blown, there’s nothing you can do with the exception of a helicopter trip out there.—Tovissi

• They—and you—are not in Kansas any more. Remember, yachts on sea are not governed by U.S. laws, which means if that boat leaves Seattle and goes beyond the limit, it’s no longer in the U.S. If you haven’t been paid, you might never get paid, and there is no court in the U.S. that can help you.—Tovissi