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17 February 2021
Boat Monitor: How to monitor my boat


As yachts have become more advanced and more valuable, there have been significant developments in the monitoring and management systems designed to look after them. Of course, at a well-managed marina with diligent staff and professional protocols, you can expect your boat to be kept in sound condition as a matter of course. You can expect to receive a phone call about any issues that develop. And in addition to tasking the marina staff with giving your boat a regular wash-down to protect its physical condition, you can generally request a monthly sea trial to keep all mechanical systems primed and operational.

But when you’ve invested your time, money and effort in the acquisition of the perfect yacht, it’s natural that you would want to do more. It’s natural that you would want to play a proactive part in its upkeep and that you would want to reassure yourself with regard to its security and wellbeing when you’re away from the marina. That’s exactly where a boat monitor comes in.


What is a boat monitor?


At its most basic, a boat monitor is a GPS tracker that enables you to keep tabs on your yacht by relaying its position to your phone, tablet or computer. A geofence facility also enables you to set a perimeter, outside of which your boat cannot stray, making a boat monitor ideal both as an anti-theft device and as a safeguard against anchor drag.

In terms of their operation, most entry-level monitors use mobile phone networks to raise the alarm – and this means that your home waters need to enjoy reliable coverage from the network in question. Of course, whether they come with integrated SIM cards or the added flexibility of a SIM-ready slot, they do incur a monthly subscription fee in the same way as a mobile phone, but the cost is rarely prohibitive, even for owners of relatively small cruisers and motor yachts.

When the value and activity of a yacht necessitate a more sophisticated monitor (for instance, when used to track the movements of luxury charter yachts during extended passages away from home), satellite coverage tends to be the go-to solution. Though more expensive both in terms of initial outlay and monthly service fee, a high-end satellite-based monitor can help pay for itself – and not just by protecting your yacht and providing personal reassurance, but by generating substantial savings on your insurance premium.


What kinds of feature should I look out for?


Monitors are no longer solely about deterring intruders, keeping your boat where you left it and maintaining a dry bilge when you’re away from the marina. You can also now receive live data about the rest of your on board gear – from shore power connection to speed, bearing and equipment malfunctions. That means you can track both the location and condition of your yacht if it’s being taken out by friends or family, enabling you to make sure they (as well as your yacht) are safe and well.

In fact, most systems now come with a host of optional add-ons, enabling you to hook up everything from intrusion sensors to water level, temperature and movement sensors – so by thinking about your boat monitor as a central hub for the interactive two-way transmission of data, you can begin building a bespoke system, tailored to provide control and reassurance over whichever potential yacht problem you fear the most. For instance, by expanding the package with relays to enable remote switching, you can turn your lights on and off or activate a siren to scare away intruders. If the worst happens, you can even activate a remote engine kill switch. You can also run your fridges, adjust your air-con and activate your dehumidifier, enabling you to have your yacht primed and ready when you turn up for a day out. In short, you can take charge of your yacht’s various electrical and electronic systems in virtually any way you see fit.


Can I monitor my boat without all the extras?


Despite the flexibility of the latest systems, monitoring your boat remotely doesn’t have to involve reams of nuanced data. One of the most practical and cost-effective solutions is also one of the most straightforward. A simple plug-in device with an internal back-up battery and a SIM card can be plugged into a mains socket on your boat without any fuss at all regarding installation. If your yacht then experiences a power outage or is disconnected from the hook-up, you will be notified by means of a simple phone text, enabling you to get in touch with the marina staff, who can remedy the issue before any problems develop. You can even put the marina technicians on your device’s registered alert system, so they receive the same notifications as you do. At a stroke (and for very little money), you know that your batteries are protected 24/7 and that your critical systems have the electrical supply they need.

Siren Marine has become a household name over the past couple of years by creating accessible, user-friendly ways to monitor, control and protect your yacht from the comfort of your living room – the system even works with your Alexa smart speaker. Integration, user interfaces and product flexibility are improving all the time and happily, the natural crossover with industries beyond yachting, has seen the prices of boat monitoring systems drop significantly. For those who are frequently away from their yachts, there’s now very little reason not to invest.


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