I've got an HV10 which is the same basic sensor and electronics. Don't shoot it on full auto. Lock the shutter and use the manual mode for aperture control. While it's still not full manual it will stay in a range where it's forced to use the built in ND's, which allows you to open up the aperture.
In that mode you use the zebras to control exposure and you can underexpose a tad. That's the only way to get decent color out of it. It's got a wonderful full raster sensor but like all 1 chip cams the color reproduction isn't the best.
I found the instant AF works pretty good from the tow boat but would probably use manual focus from a chase boat.
Remember you're shooting HDV which doesn't handle motion well at all. Keep your panning at a minimum, slow & smooth so you don't stress the codec.
These cams are capable of amazing video but it takes a lot more work then with a pro cam with full controls.