Beyond the Basics - Soundings Online

Beyond the Basics

Dockmate’s wireless remote system is helpful in surprising ways
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The author says navigating his boat by remote took some practice.

The author says navigating his boat by remote took some practice.

Many times, I’ve wished I could step away from the helm of my boat but still control the engines from a better vantage point, or from where I wanted to handle a line. I was, therefore, eager to try Dockmate’s wireless remote system.

Dockmate has installed several thousand systems worldwide since 2012, but the brand just came to the United States in 2018. Its latest system can control two engines, one or two windlasses, a bow and stern thruster and a horn. A receiver is
typically installed under the helm and then connected to each item, as well as to a wireless remote.

The system is designed to interface with electronically controlled engines. On my Carver, Have Another Day, Dockmate controls the Volvo Penta QL bow and stern thrusters, twin Volvo Penta D12 EDC engines, horn and Maxwell 3500 windlass. The receiver is about 9-by-9 inches and mounts out of sight near one of the helms.

Critical functions such as thruster and engine commands have double relays, both of which must close to engage the function. This safety mechanism avoids a stuck relay and unintended
actuation, such as thruster and engine commands. Also in the safety department: In the event of any failure, dead batteries or other unexpected event, the system is designed to return to neutral, with the engine controls at the helm active.

Dockmate offers two styles of remotes. The Twist is a joystick-style remote for twin-engine and pod-driven boats. The Dockmate Single or Dockmate Twin has membrane push buttons for single- or twin-engine installs. All the remotes are waterproof, float and include a neck lanyard.

Immediately after completing the system’s installation, I walked the remote down the dock and using my boat’s horn found its range is in excess of 300 feet. During two months of testing, I’ve never had a control input fail to transmit and execute a command.

Navigating my boat by remote control took a little practice. It’s best not to turn your body 180 degrees because in your brain, the angle creates a mismatch between the direction you push the remote and the direction the boat moves.

Dockmate remotes come with push buttons or joystick.

Dockmate remotes come with push buttons or joystick.

In general, while departing a slip, docking, anchoring and weighing anchor, I’ve found Dockmate to be a useful aid, even in circumstances where it’s not an absolute must-have. When pulling out of a slip in high wind, the ability to tend lines on the bow —and control the engines and thrusters—while my wife works lines at the stern is helpful. I also appreciate how I can stand at the bow while weighing anchor and keep the bow in the right place. And when tightening lines, I can stand on the dock with the remote and thrust the boat over.

The Dockmate installation is virtually invisible, with only a master power switch and the charging pad showing at the helm. A Dockmate installer can customize nearly every aspect of the system’s operation. My boat’s torquey motors and big props mean that I can pretty easily spin the boat on differential thrust alone, so I asked that the joystick’s twist motion be set up to put one engine in forward and one in reverse while not using any actual thruster power. By contrast, a Dockmate single-engine demo boat has the twist motion use only the bow and stern thrusters.

Now that I’ve had the Dockmate on Have Another Day for a few months, I don’t want to give up my loaner system. According to the manufacturer, a five-function (two engines, thruster, anchor and horn) system with a Twin remote costs about $7,500 installed; a six-function (two engines, two thrusters, anchor and horn) setup with the Twist remote connected to CAN-bus-controlled engines runs about $12,500. I’m reminded of the system’s true value every time I maneuver my boat. 

This article originally appeared in the June 2019 issue.

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