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Old 05-25-2020, 06:24 AM   #1
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Wireless controls

Considering “package” wireless controls for boat
1. Anchor up/down
2. Bow and stern thruster control
3. Rudder control Port/Stbd
4. Gear Fwd/Rev
5. Throttle control
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Old 05-25-2020, 06:41 AM   #2
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I would be very wary of anything wireless where it really needs to work. It might work, or it might not. I personally have had near 100% failure with wireless devices on my boats. I think Bluetooth is the worst, and 900 MHz cordless phone bands are the best. Much will depend on the size of the boat and it’s construction. I think I would be looking for some sort of performance guarantee especially for something expensive or difficult to install, and I expect that applies to what you have.
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Old 05-25-2020, 08:30 AM   #3
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I would be very wary of anything wireless where it really needs to work. It might work, or it might not. I personally have had near 100% failure with wireless devices on my boats. I think Bluetooth is the worst, and 900 MHz cordless phone bands are the best. Much will depend on the size of the boat and it’s construction. I think I would be looking for some sort of performance guarantee especially for something expensive or difficult to install, and I expect that applies to what you have.
I wouldn't trust wireless either. If I wanted remote control from bow or cockpit I would do wired.
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Old 05-25-2020, 08:30 AM   #4
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Considering “package” wireless controls for boat
1. Anchor up/down
2. Bow and stern thruster control
3. Rudder control Port/Stbd
4. Gear Fwd/Rev
5. Throttle control
Twisted, let’s go over the rational for each in no particular order.

2. Bow and stern thruster control. Assist in docking when single handed and bringing the boat closer to the dock for boarding from the dock.
3. Rudder control. My N46 had a rudder control on a very long cable. I used it when sitting at the a more comfortable table in the pilot house. NOT for close quarter rudder control.
1.Anchor up/down. Currently on my AT there is only one control station, at the bow with foot switches. Granted it’s not a great distance to run back to the helm but if windy conditions I could actually lose any benefit I might realize by moving the boat fwd and then, going forward to bring the anchor rode up. IF I could find room at the helm, I guess I could put an additional winless control there too.
4 and 5, my bro had pods on his boat, they stopped responding at the helm and ran the boat up on the rocks. Got a new boat from the builder, with the old fashion shaft and rudders, no remotes. He is very happy now.
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Old 05-25-2020, 08:41 AM   #5
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There are a few horror stories about wireless controls. Don't believe everything you hear, but...

I wouldn't have them. A lightning hit, or maybe even just an electrical storm could render everything inoperable or worse, maybe fried.

My boat is a 1978 Albin. Guess it will never enter the electronic age, not with me around anyway.

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Old 05-25-2020, 08:45 AM   #6
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I would be very wary of anything wireless where it really needs to work...... I personally have had near 100% failure with wireless devices on my boats. .......
I've had very similar experiences with wireless devices and try to hard wire everything if possible. (i.e.) Chain counter, throttle and shifter controls, all cameras, bridge to salon TV, etc.
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Old 05-25-2020, 09:02 AM   #7
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Twisted, let’s go over the rational for each in no particular order.

2. Bow and stern thruster control. Assist in docking when single handed and bringing the boat closer to the dock for boarding from the dock.
3. Rudder control. My N46 had a rudder control on a very long cable. I used it when sitting at the a more comfortable table in the pilot house. NOT for close quarter rudder control.
1.Anchor up/down. Currently on my AT there is only one control station, at the bow with foot switches. Granted it’s not a great distance to run back to the helm but if windy conditions I could actually lose any benefit I might realize by moving the boat fwd and then, going forward to bring the anchor rode up. IF I could find room at the helm, I guess I could put an additional winless control there too.
4 and 5, my bro had pods on his boat, they stopped responding at the helm and ran the boat up on the rocks. Got a new boat from the builder, with the old fashion shaft and rudders, no remotes. He is very happy now.

No argument over the rational. I'd like all those things too, and even in a wireless remote.... BUT.... it has to work 100% of the time. Breaking is OK, I can deal with that, but flaky or intermittent operations is totally unacceptable for stuff like that, at least for me. Even the seemingly high-end devices like Yacht Controller I have heard of too many issues.
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Old 05-25-2020, 09:23 AM   #8
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First off any of these actions need to have existing wired control in order to use a wireless controller.

1/2 wired electric devices, should be no more problem than usual.

3 for the rudder you would need an autopilot to interface with wireless.

4/5 You would need fly by wire controls. There are servos that could probably be used, but typically wireless controls need fly by wire controls in order to interface.

If you have push pull engine/gear controls you need to budget for electronic controls, not an inexpensive change out.

If you have all the above then with the current crop of suppliers of wireless devices, it should be "plug and play." I do have a very limited experience with these units and note they are often "plug and pray."

When these devices try and interface with all these different devices there are sometimes "language" issues. Most of this stuff should be NEMA 2000 compatible, but even with all devices on the same page there are often issues.

If your inclined to bells, whistles and gadgets, awesome. I can certainly see the advantage of being able to move about the vessel with complete control. For single handing, especially on larger vessels or those without lower stations, big advantage.

Reliability and maintenance, more stuff, see comments above.

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Originally Posted by OldDan1943 View Post
Considering “package” wireless controls for boat
1. Anchor up/down
2. Bow and stern thruster control
3. Rudder control Port/Stbd
4. Gear Fwd/Rev
5. Throttle control
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Old 05-25-2020, 09:37 AM   #9
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I have an S-100 wireless remote control for my RayMarine autopilot
I have a SidePower wireless remote control for my Bow & Stern thrusters (in addition to joysticks at the helm).


I love these remotes and use them a LOT - but for convenience only. I try not to use them for anything critical - especially where there's no quick "plan B" available. Normally, I do not have signal problems with them. For me, the main risk is not knowing exactly when the batteries in the remotes might decide they no longer have enough power to give. For the thruster remote, I have to change the batteries only about once per year. For the Auto Pilot remote, it seems I need to change them 2-3 times per year, depending on usage.


Some examples of "non-critical" things I use these remotes for are:



Auto Pilot Remote:
1) My helm seat is not very ergonomic. If I position myself so I'm sitting comfortably for long stretches in canals and rivers, I have to lean over every time I want to turn the wheel just a bit. With my remote, I can sit in a comfortable position and tweak my heading via the remote. I wouldn't do this, however, if the waterway was busy.


2) Sometimes, in more open waters, it's nice to be able to sit on the bow of the boat, as I don't have a flybridge. I put the boat on autopilot and take the remote with me in case I need to tweak the heading for a fish buoy or another boat. I am comfortable doing this because my boat is only 33' long and it would take me only about 10 seconds to get to the helm if the remote failed.



Thruster remote:

1) I find this an enormous help going through locks (especially those of the ancient, rough European variety). Helps you keep the boat on or off the wall while you're tending a line rather than standing at the helm. Also reduces the mate's stress a bit too, especially if a line is dropped.

2) Turning 180 degrees in a very tight marina dockspace (i.e. where you might have only 12" clearance to do the turn). One can stand on the dock holding the bow in position and use the remote to gently push the stern around 180 degrees.
3) And finally, an unexpected and rather amusing use of my thruster remote...

I was in a remote area in Norway, with my bow pulled up to shore and tied to a tree. The stainless steel "hull plate" that protects the fiberglass hull from the anchor was apparently so mirror-shiny that a swan thought it had found a mate and kept coming back to bang its bill against the hull during the wee hours of the morning. Finally, I got up and retrieved my thruster remote and took it to bed with me. It only took a few more times before the swan decided he no longer wanted to deal with the output from the bow thruster :-)
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Old 05-25-2020, 10:36 AM   #10
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A bit of thread drift, but related to the topic.

Wireless vs wired. I have zero experience with wireless steering, gear / throttle, thruster or anchor windlass controls. I do prefer hard wired over wireless for all things critical. Please interpret my questions as non argumentative.

Many do use wi-fi navigation electronics networks. Those who use PC based systems rather than MFD based systems will often use bluetooth mouse and keyboard. I don't hear of a lot of issues with either use.

So, the questions. Why are wireless controls considered to not be reliable on mechanical systems when wi-fi and bluetooth are considered trustworthy for navigation sytems? Mechincal and nav systems are in my mind both critically important systems.

For the mentioned sitting comfortably at the helm and steering I have long used wired remotes. I will note that as they age they are not 100% reliable but generally will give warnings in terms of intermittent failures and general "fussiness" as they age.

For windlass I'm fortunate the boat has foot switches at the windlass as well as remote hard wired switches at the two helm stations.

For thruster to hold to the dock I might opt for a variable speed controller. Lay the boat alongside and engage the thruster at low speed while I step out to get the bow line. But, I don't have a thruster so...
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Old 05-25-2020, 11:58 AM   #11
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I installed a SidePower remote for my bow & stern thrusters and used it extensively all of 2019. Worked 100% of the time w no hiccups. Loved if forassisting my mate while locking and occasionally for docking.
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Old 05-25-2020, 01:19 PM   #12
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I have installed quite a few of the Lewmar wireless remotes for their windlass controls. I always tell the customer that they do not work reliably so their expectations are not high. That is the only windlass remote I am familiar with. I have installed several wireless remotes for the Raymarine autopilots for steering, which seem to be a bit more reliable but not great. I just last week finished installing a wireless remote for my boom winch for raising/lowering the Zodiac. Time will tell on the reliability but so far so good.
I would never trust having wireless controls for steering or throttle without an easy, positive way of shutting it down instantly.
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Old 05-25-2020, 01:28 PM   #13
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It’s not all or nothing

Quote:
Originally Posted by OldDan1943 View Post
Considering “package” wireless controls for boat
1. Anchor up/down
2. Bow and stern thruster control
3. Rudder control Port/Stbd
4. Gear Fwd/Rev
5. Throttle control
I have the standard wired controls for windlass, bow thruster and autopilot. I also have wireless remotes for all three. One remote can control the bow thruster and windlass. Using a yacht controller, as you seem to be indicating does not mean you give up your standard controls.

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Old 05-25-2020, 03:27 PM   #14
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Many do use wi-fi navigation electronics networks. Those who use PC based systems rather than MFD based systems will often use bluetooth mouse and keyboard. I don't hear of a lot of issues with either use.

So, the questions. Why are wireless controls considered to not be reliable on mechanical systems when wi-fi and bluetooth are considered trustworthy for navigation sytems? Mechincal and nav systems are in my mind both critically important systems.

Personally I've had issues with both. Wifi is pretty good, but I've encountered a lot of devices that hang up and need to be rebooted, or that slow way down and need to be rebooted. It's not a big deal while web browsing - just an annoyance. And it's fine I think for adjunct nav equipment like an iPad that supplements you primary nav equipment. But personally I would never put any of my primary nav equipment on wifi. It's hard wired only for me.


For bluetooth, I have used keyboards and mice exactly as you describe, and have had the most trouble with them. Bluetooth was never intended for distances more than about what you can reach, or maybe a little bit further. It's been stretched much further, and sometimes quite successfully, but even my mouse and keyboard were flaky if I stood between them and the computer. And they were no more than 6' apart. Lots of people have good success with the Sena headsets, and mine mostly worked, but there were too many situations where suddenly my wife couldn't hear me, or vice versa. I can't even get her to try different headsets anymore, they annoy her some much. Someday I hope to find something that's really reliable.


To be it really comes down to whether the device is a critical part of running the boat, and needs to work 100% of the time. They keyboard and mouse are border line. But position, heading, charts, radar, auto pilot (steering) I just want to be 100%.


Now that said, there are a number of large machines that are fully operated with wireless controls. Lot of travel lifts, for example. So it can be done, but I expect needs to be carefully tested a qualified in an installation to ensure acceptable reliability. Also, with a travel lift, if the remote communications is lost, you can just stop the lift. So there is a safe way to fail. Not so much with a boat that's moving.
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Old 05-25-2020, 10:18 PM   #15
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I also have the Sidepower remote for both thrusters (in addition to the hard wired joysticks at both helms) Incredibly useful Docking since I can’t see the rails from fly bridge & especially single handing which I do often. Can easily stay against the dock while I sort lines
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Old 05-26-2020, 01:31 AM   #16
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I moved to Florida from San Francisco 15 years ago. For whatever reason, swollen batteries in various devices is a common occurrence, likely due to climate. Not so bad that the battery is dead, but that it often destroys the contacts and device. My most recent casualty was a multi meter. I now try to remember to remove batteries, but I don't always remember. A friend's Yacht Controller remote succumbed to a similar demise last year - I forget the replacement cost but it was north of $1000.

I work on the business side of tech, networking to be specific. I'm not a geek, but understand a decent amount of networking. Enough to know that eventually some attached device will stop playing nicely with some other device. In my refit, one of my golden rules is to limit IP Addresses as best possible.

In short, I find wireless to be very convenient, however am not comfortable with then inherent vulnerabilities of power supply (batteries), network contention, and that the often require a learning curve that only one person endures so increases the divide between spouses. And I haven't even gotten to "where did I last see that dang remote????"
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Old 05-26-2020, 03:06 AM   #17
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A small digression, but somewhat related...


Last year, before embarking on a long trip, I went through the entire boat checking the health of every single "small-battery-dependent" device I could find. I made an inventory of these devices, the types batteries required, about how often replacement is required (if known), if I had spares on hand and whether or not I could eventually migrate the device to rechargeables. I'm no gadget freak, but nevertheless, I was astounded that my list came to 31 devices! For a 33' boat. AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, CR Discs, Buttons, LR and so on. It's now something I think about whenever I set out to buy another device that requires a small battery. Occasionally, opportunities to standardize present themselves.
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