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OLOH Gear: Yacht Controller
With great regularity, we’ll be pulling into a marina and as we approach the dock, someone will invariably ask, “are you driving the boat by remote control?”

“Why yes I am!” the Captain will answer from OLOH’s foredeck.  Without question, the addition of a Yacht Controller wireless remote system has been one of the greatest tools and best upgrades we’ve added to OLOH.  And it was one of the very first.

What It Is and Installation

Yacht Controller gives us wireless control of our thrusters and gears using momentary contact silicone switches on a waterproof controller which is always on a lanyard hanging from the Captain’s neck when being used.  Before we had even purchased OLOH, we knew we would want a Yacht Controller after having helped our friend move his 75’ motor yacht up and down the east coast where we got to know and understand the system and the value of having it.  When we were in contract for OLOH we worked with representatives from The Yacht Group, Yacht Controller’s parent company, and they designed our setup based on the systems we had onboard.  They were terrific to deal with and arranged the installation schedule so we could have their technician on board as soon as we closed.  It was a package deal that included the equipment and installation, however long that took.

Their tech, Vianca, flew to Connecticut from Fort Lauderdale just after we took possession of OLOH and was an absolute joy to work with.  She walked us through the whole process and then got to work, pulling cables and installing interfaces for the equipment we were controlling.  While the installation of the gear is fairly straight-forward, perhaps the greatest unknown element in estimating how long a job will take is the level of difficulty of the wire runs.  Even with OLOH’s excellent access “behind the scenes,” Vianca had to carefully plan it all out and took her time making the runs in the cleanest, most efficient way.  The installation took a solid day including full testing and orientation. 

When your system is spec’d, they match the interfaces to the equipment you have (thruster types, transmissions, controls).  Yacht Controller has performed thousands of installations and has interfaces for virtually every kind of system, new and old, that you will find on a boat.  Unfortunately, the module that was sent for one of our thrusters was not a perfect match but their engineer facilitated a necessary modification and Vianca returned a couple of weeks later to our home port in New York to complete the job.  Every installation can present its own unique challenges and we would have only been comfortable having this done by someone who works with this equipment every day with a lot of installations under their belt.

Yacht Controller’s dual-band receiver and “main brain” along with the bow thruster module, neatly installed behind the helm.

How We Use It

We know from other Yacht Controller users that we all have different approaches and comfort levels with how we use the system. For us, our primary mode is using it as “wing stations” where the Cap will stand just outside the pilothouse on the side-deck or further forward on the foredeck when departing or arriving at a dock.  For us, being able to bring the boat in or out of a slip from this vantage point is invaluable.  We have tested it from every part of the boat (we’re 60’) and it works flawlessly everywhere, but we prefer to always be steps away from the pilothouse helm out of an abundance of caution (a loud alarm would sound if the controller was out of range or there was some other communication issue, something we’ve never experienced – more on that in a moment).

We will use it from the foredeck’s working end (where the anchor lives) at an anchorage or in a mooring field which removes a layer of crew communication and, for us, makes much easier work of managing those situations.  But even from there we can be at the helm in a few seconds.  The only time we will use it from the dock is to bump the thrusters to adjust lines once the boat is fully secure.  No need for a discussion on the foolishness of operating a boat by remote control from a dock.

Yacht Controller’s master power is controlled by an elegant, backlit switch.

Reliability

Reliability is, understandably, the biggest concern people seem to have in discussions we’ve had or seen about wireless docking controllers. Anyone can read Yacht Controller’s promotional literature which points out the specifics of the tech so we’ll spare you a cut-and-paste and rather point out two of the key features that give us confidence.  The Yacht Controller remote communicates with its receiver simultaneously on two frequencies.  With interference being among the biggest concerns with wireless controls, redundancy is essential.  Also, when the system and remote are both powered up they are constantly communicating.  The moment that communication is broken, that loud alarm sounds.  We test this feature with some regularity by powering down the remote while the primary system is still powered on.  The remote will also time out and power down to conserve the batteries after several minutes without use.  If this happens while the master power is on, the alarm instantly sounds.

We use our Yacht Controller every time we pull into or out of a slip.  Prior to untying or arriving, before quarters are close, we test every function on the remote to ensure everything is working.  It is our standard practice to always test our thrusters, in any event, to minimize the possibility of surprises when we expect them to be there for us.  In the time we have had our Yacht Controller it has never not worked.  We have never experienced unreliable or intermittent operation.

Battery life on the remote has been excellent.  We are diligent about changing the batteries every couple of months when we are on the move (and removing them when the boat will be sitting for an extended period).  And while we have never run them down, I know from others that you have sufficient warning from the remote’s indicator lights when the batteries should be replaced before it will stop working. 

Two things we won’t leave the dock without. And Yacht Controller is Jasper Approved!

After almost three years on OLOH and hundreds of instances of docking and undocking, grabbing and releasing moorings and deploying and retrieving our anchor, we can say without question that it is one of the best tools we have at our disposal.  It is neither a toy nor a gadget.  It is a sophisticated piece of technology with an immense amount of R&D behind it and, according to Yacht Controller, close to 20,000 installations.  Given the critical nature of when and how it is used, we would not have gone with a system that wasn’t proven at this level.  Every boater has their personal threshold for what electronic interfaces they are willing to rely on and we can only speak to our individual situation, but the added benefit for us has proven to be well worth it and we can’t imagine having a boat without this particular piece of gear.

We have no affiliation with Yacht Controller.  We’re just satisfied customers and enthusiastic about the product.
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Yacht Controller In Action On OLOH
Without being able to run the boat from this vantage point, this departure would have been much more difficult…

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Have questions or any thoughts at all on OLOH’s Yacht Controller?  We’d love to hear from you!  Leave your comments below or contact us directly at ahoy@myoloh.com.

This Post Has 2 Comments
  1. I bought one in Jan 2019 after reading your review in 2018. Best peace of mind investment for docking. Also a marriage saver! The Yacht Controller seems expensive until you use it.... then you’ll wonder how you lived without it.
    1. Hey Cap - That's awesome. So glad to know you enjoy yours as much as we do ours. It's simply a terrific tool and yes - its value is quickly evident. Cheers!

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