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Dock Your Boat Without Fear

The next wave of boating technology — assisted close-quarter docking — continues to break with Raymarine's DockSense system.

DockSense vitual bumper

One of the highlights at this year's Miami International Boat Show was Raymarine's new DockSense, an assisted-docking system that uses GPS and an "attitude heading reference system" to compensate for the effects of wind and currents while docking. The system's Virtual Bumper zone technology, coupled with the vessel's propulsion system, prevents the boat from hitting a dock, piling, or another boat.

DockSense was developed in partnership with Mercury Marine. For now both manufacturers are touting it as "collision avoidance," but unassisted automatic docking, like Volvo-Penta's recently introduced self-docking technology, is the end goal.

"Bringing these innovations together into a simple solution addresses a key customer challenge by taking the stress out of docking a boat and makes the boating experience safer and more enjoyable for everyone onboard," explains Jim Cannon, President and CEO of FLIR, Raymarine's parent company. Take a look at this humorous video Raymarine produced to showcase its new system.

Bottom line: The days of sweaty-palm docking in a crowded marina may become a thing of the past. Things like joystick control have certainly helped ease anxiety, but there's still the risk that you'll bump into the dock or another boat causing damage.

DockSense consists of small cameras mounted on the outside of the boat that can "see" things around them creating Raymarine's Virtual Bumper. The system collects data from GPS, heading sensors, and the cameras, then feeds the collected information into a central control module computer to precisely determine the position of the boat in relation to nearby obstacles. Designed to be integrated with modern joystic-controlled boats, Raymarine claims it is virtually impossible to crash into a dock, nearby boats or other objects.

Expect to see DockSense on new boats starting around fall 2019. Docking will never be the same.

Mark Corke

A marine surveyor, and holder of RYA Yachtmaster Ocean certification, Mark has built five boats himself — power and sail. He was senior editor of Sail magazine's hands-on "Boatworks" publication, worked for the BBC, written four DIY books, skippered two round-the-world yachts, and holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest there-and-back crossing of the English Channel, in a kayak! He and his wife have a Grand Banks 32.