Dockmate is a
pocket-sized wireless extension of a boat’s engine controls that enables
skippers to dock a boat single-handedly from anywhere on board. Developed by
entrepreneur Dirk Illegems, whose hands-on approach to boating led him to
develop an easy docking system for a broad spectrum of boats, the system can be
installed on any boat or yacht with electronic engine controls, and UK agents
Allboat Services of Plymouth can
also fit it to any new boat when commissioned.
provides wireless remote control of a boat’s single or twin engines. It
can control conventional shaft-driven engines, pod drives like IPS or Zeus,
sterndrives and outboard-powered boats. It also provides control of the
windlass so you can drop the hook while standing anywhere on the boat, use any
thrusters that may be fitted and sound the horn. It provides total fingertip
control of a boat’s movement without compromising on the responsiveness of its
in three formats: Dockmate Single, Dockmate Twin and Dockmate Twist. Dockmate
Single simply works the gearbox, bow and stern thrusters, and the windlass and
horn if needed. Twin works in the same manner, but with two engines to control.
Twist is by far the most interesting as it gives proportional propulsion
control of any set-up, be it single/twin shaft drives, sterndrives, outboards or
pod drives. It can also control thrusters, including proportional thrusters, and
has the ability to steer/vector sterndrives, outboards and pod drives ‒ in
effect, a portable joystick.
both the single and twin systems comes in three methods: analogue for older
boats without digital control; digital via CAN bus technology – effectively
tapping into the boat’s electronics; and a direct connection to the gearbox
solenoid, through a specially developed interface. This last method has been
developed to bypass the boat’s CAN bus system, avoiding any possible protocol
incompatibility problems that could void a manufacturer’s warranty. Connection
for Dockmate Twist uses the same methods, though electronic control of electronic
throttles would have to be through the boat’s digital CAN bus system. The
receiver for the system, which measures around 10in square by 2in deep, is
sufficiently compact to fit behind most dashboards and will pick up the remote
control from 50m away. The actual remote is designed to have the effect of a ‘dead
man’s switch’ insomuch as if you drop it, the lack of fingertip
pressure/control on the remote disengages the transmission of whatever engine
was in gear, or whatever thruster was spinning. This makes good sense as
although the remote comes with a lanyard, losing it over the side when standing
on the side deck while berthing could be an expensive slip-up.
So far there
have been quite a few retrofits to boats ranging from a fairly new outboard-powered
Axopar 37 to an older shaft-driven Princess 460, so this system has been
developed for craft both old and new. However, I suspect that the cost of
retrofitting to older analogue boats will be higher than tapping into modern
CAN bus electronics.
The cost starts
at around £6,000 and goes up to £8,400 for the Dockmate Twist.