With most operators of boats under 26 feet in length overall now required to use an engine cutoff switch (ECOS), alternatives to the ubiquitous safety lanyard bear consideration. Take the 1st Mate. An electronic ECOS, it’s a small fob that one wears like a watch or clips on like a key ring.
The 1st Mate allows the captain to move around the boat, obviating complaints regarding the inconvenience of lanyards. It also allows restarting the engine immediately following a man overboard (MOB), unlike a lanyard ECOS, which, unless crew aboard possess a spare lanyard, may not allow restarting the engine if the skipper goes overboard.
The 1st Mate system is an app-integrated marine safety and security product developed through a partnership between Mercury Marine and Fell Marine. It integrates the benefits of Mercury’s industry- leading SmartCraft and Fell Marine’s WiMEA protocol, using WiMEA to communicate between a hub and fobs, which proves faster and more robust than Bluetooth in marine safety- critical situations. The 1st Mate system also uses Bluetooth for communication between app-loaded devices. Furthermore, the 1st Mate can be upgraded wirelessly to unlock new features in the future.
During a captain-overboard event, the 1st Mate cuts the engines; sounds an alarm on mobile devices with the app, its hub, and other fobs on the boat; and displays the GPS location and directions to the MOB. This enables crew to safely maneuver directly back to the victim.
Besides working for the skipper, up to seven crew can be protected by 1st Mate fobs, including pets. Should fob-wearing crew go over, the alarm and MOB location and direction are immediately sent to the app and system, though the engines are not cut.
Additionally, the 1st Mate can notify emergency contacts that an MOB occurred, and provide location, time and heading information to the event. This adds additional safety, particularly for a boater out on the water alone.
The 1st Mate system also provides security. Just like your car’s fob, the engine(s) will not start without the -captain fob aboard. You can -designate different fobs as the captain to allow others to use your boat. You can also disable the system for a service tech. Forgot your fob? The app affords backup startability. Dropped your phone? Touch the provided -key-ring-ready NFC -medallion to the hub.
Installation is DIY- simple, according to the 1st Mate team, requiring just four screws to mount the –sandwich-size hub and the running of one cable. That’s for boats with Mercury SmartCraft or NMEA 2000. Boats without a network require more effort to tap into the ignition circuit. Basic ECOS functionality is said to be -plug-and-play, while setting up individual fobs and a list of emergency contacts will take a few minutes. In-app and web-based written and video -instructions are provided.
The system is available for SmartCraft engines from singles to sixes. Non-SmartCraft engines are supported up to triple installations.
Pricing has been reduced since print publication.
Pricing at time of this publication ranges from $415 for a single engine SmartCraft DTS application hub and Captain’s Fob to $697 for a 4/5/6 engine SmartCraft/DTS application. Prices for Quicksilver branded kits, which work with non-Smartcraft (non-Mercury) engines are comparable; some are priced the same; some cost a bit less. Additional Captain’s Fobs cost $105 and additional Passenger Fobs cost $77 regardless of whether they are SmartCraft/ DTS or Quicksilver version. These prices have been rounded to the dollar.
The 1st Mate system appears to offer great value, ease of use, and a trifecta of functionality: safety, distress messaging and security. We plan to install a system aboard one of our project boats and will report back after several months.