In the spring of 2012, I saw an article on Panbo (look here: http://www.panbo.com/archives/2012/04/siren_marine_best_cellular_boat_monitoring_yet.html) about a pair of boat monitoring systems called “Pixie” and “Sprite,” by Siren Marine (here: http://sirenmarine.com/). Then while cruising in New England during the summer of 2012, we stopped at a marina that had an advertising handout on the device. I had been interested in boat monitoring systems for some time, but was never very excited with the price-point vs. feature-set alternatives. At the Annapolis Boat Show in October, 2012, we happened to see the Siren booth. We had a chance to touch ’em, see ’em in operation, meet the owner/developer, etc.
I bought the “Sprite” version. It uses GSM cell technology, via a SIM card, to send text messages to a smartphone and provide information about the status of the boat. It will transmit pre-scheduled status and real-time alarm info. It monitors bilge pump activity, battery status, hi/low/current temperature and shore power status. Additionally, it provides several normally open (n/o) and normally closed (n/c) relay contacts. With these contacts, it can:
- monitor bilge pumps and high bilge alarm switches,
- turn heat pump units on/off remotely, via text message,
- turn deck lights and/or anchor lights on/off remotely, via text message,
- monitor fire/smoke/CO alarms and motion detectors remotely, via text message,
- monitor reed-switch door and window intrusion alarm switches,
- etc., etc.
The Sprite has an internal GPS, so it can monitor unauthorized boat movement as well as provide a real-time Geo-fence while you’re on the hook. This is useful to monitor for anchor dragging. I’ve done a fair amount of research on boat monitor units, and this one seems to be very good value for the price.
Like a cell phone, you buy the “Pixie” or “Sprite” hardware unit and an associated text messaging plan. The text messaging plan (2G, machine-to-machine) is used to transfer boat status data to your smart phone. The price point included a one-time-charge (OTC) of $600 for the “Sprite” box (the “Pixie” is $500, but doesn’t monitor shore power), and $15/month charge for unlimited text messaging. (A Boat Show promo added to the length of warranty and added three months of complimentary text messaging.) With its feature set and price point, it’s much more attractive than Boat Nanny and GOST. The SPOT HUG has apparently been discontinued (verify that for yourself); it didn’t have a very rich feature set by comparison to available competitor offerings, and rumor seems to suggest it didn’t work all that well.
Installing the “Sprite” was quite easy as a DIY project! With real-time monitoring of shore power, battery, bilge and temperature, I feel comfortable leaving Sanctuary unattended in the water, particularly at a staffed marina. We live aboard, and Sanctuary is our home. When we’re away from the boat visiting our kids, we do worry about her. We always leave someone in charge when we’re away, and we also notify the marina office. We’ve never had a problem. But with the monitor, we have real-time awareness if something looks wrong, and can intervene before it becomes catastrophic. My thinking is, if I got an alarm, I could call a dock neighbor or the Marina staff to check it out.
For us, Sprite takes some of the anxiety out of being away from the boat. It could also simplify haul out issues and commissioning/decommissioning work and expense, so there are multiple ROI opportunities. Rumor has it these units MAY provide an insurance discount (depending on company). If so, there’s an additional ROI opportunity to installing one.