Enabling Your Boat To Talk
Ocean Navigator|November/December 2019
A concerned seller who could not attend the survey and sea trial of his trawler called me, his voice laden with concern: “Jeff, I keep getting text messages that the bilge pump is going off. Are you guys sinking?”
Jeff Merrill

Everything was fine; the surveyor was purposely filling the bilge with fresh water to test the automatic bilge pump float switch. Each time a bilge pump went off, the installed pump notification program sent alerts to my seller’s phone. We laughed when I told him what was going on, and this story not only had a happy ending with a successful sale (and working bilge pump system), but at the same time it showed me how important it can be to keep track of your boat when you are away.

We have all seen the transformation in our lives of smartphone apps allowing us to communicate with our cars and our homes. It only makes sense to adapt some of that thinking to better look after your boat when you’re no longer aboard. There have been a number of marine equipment providers offering this type of service for boats over the last few years. Once installed, all they require is Wi-Fi and electricity to connect.

The idea of using apps to keep in touch with your vessel is not new, and most trawler owners I know have some sort of digital game plan to take advantage of the mobile technology that is available. When you are away from your boat, it can be unsettling because you don’t know what’s going on. So, before you jump in and spend a lot of money to install a new system, ask yourself this, “If your boat could talk to you, what would you like it to tell you?”

A useful nuisance?

Smart technology has transformed every facet of our lives and can be annoying — remember when you used to think of a cellphone as a method strictly for making mobile phone calls? Our dependence upon our smartphones is overwhelming. Adding another reason to surrender our attention and interrupt our lives is not necessarily what we want. But doesn’t the convenience of knowing the status of your vessel from afar become a nuisance that makes sense?

Boats seem to be slower to adapt to the risks and benefits of new technology (though, admittedly, the marine sector is a smaller, less profitable niche for developers), but good ideas eventually filter down from the mainstream. I have a Ring doorbell and Nest camera installed at my house, and my initial reaction was to marvel and be amazed at the newness. Now that I’m accustomed to the technology, it is very reassuring to know that I can glance at my phone and see what is going on when I’m not home. Staying connected is very popular with houses, and it is gaining momentum with boats.

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