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. 

Dockmate 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 engines. 

Dockmate comes 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.  

Connection for 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.


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