We were delighted to receive a detailed review of VirCru from James and Jenny, owners of S/V Arkyla, earlier this month.
Read their thoughts on our boat monitoring system below. Head over to their website here for more travel, technology and sailing content!
“The security and condition of Arkyla has always been a concern for us when away from the boat, especially now she is based overseas. Although she is kept in a secure and well-protected marina, and we have a comprehensive guardianage contract in place, there is always a worry that something untoward could happen whilst we are away from the marina or have left her at anchor to explore ashore.
We are fortunate to have partnered with the VirCru team who, in exchange for some Instagram exposure, gifted us a monitoring system Launch Bundle and an initial 3-month airplan to thoroughly test the system (noting that this is not a paid promotion, and we are under no obligation to publish positive feedback or otherwise).
We are more than impressed with the clean design, functionality, ease of installation, and lack of maintenance required; as such, it was an easy decision for us to extend the airplan (at our own cost) beyond the original free assessment period. The system is relatively inexpensive (both hardware and airtime contract) and expandable to meet just about any boat monitoring requirement. Full details can be found at the VirCru website, but below are some examples of our installation and experience with the system.
We have located the GPS mobile-connected hub on top of the Nav desk instrument station; this gives just enough stretch for the supplied cables to reach the boat’s main battery box. I have also only needed to drill one small hole to feed the cables through the inspection hatch the hub is mounted on. This location also receives a good GPS and GSM signal necessary for the VirCru location-based services and for transmitting data to the VirCru app that must be installed on your smartphone.
The hub draws power from the domestic battery bank, but this is only minimal (5mA) and has no impact on our state of charge if we leave the boat charging on solar only. Each of the sensors are self-powered with an internal battery that will last 10-years.
Battery Voltage Status
The unit measures voltages across both the domestic and starter battery banks. Alerts can be configured if either bank exceeds or drops below user-defined limits. The readings can be displayed along a timeline that can also be expanded or contracted according to detail required. I have found that the Vircru unit reads about 0.2V below that of my Victron smart battery monitor but, whilst it isn’t possible to align the readings, the delta is consistent so not a problem.
Bow Thruster Bilge
We have previously had an issue with water, ingressing via the Nav light wires through the pull-pit stainless, pooling in the bow thruster bilge area that has no drain. Checking the state of this area is a pain as we must remove any stored items in the fore-cabin, the mattress, and wooden base to visually inspect this area.
I have now installed the VirCru High Water Sensor in this area which tells me, via the smartphone app, if the bilge area has remained dry (also important as a warning in case of bow thruster seal failure). The sensor and sender did not stick well to the GRP surface, but this was remedied by first applying some Gorilla Tape onto which the VirCru units stick well. This unit also works as a temperature sensor.
VirCru Smartphone App
A really great App that receives boat information. Data is transmitted over GSM which is included within the monthly, season, or yearly subscription (£100). The App allows you to configure sensors and associated alerts including the geofence which can also be used as an anchor watch alarm.
Other sensors and functionality included with the Launch Package, but which we haven’t activated, include an Automatic Bilge Monitor (the bilge pump on Arkyla is manually activated only), and a Security Tag which can be setup to notify you if someone has entered the boat or if an item (such as an outboard motor) has been removed.
The Hub includes a tilt sensor which can be used to make sure that the boat hasn’t begun to list (for instance, if a water tank began to leak), or to record angles of heel when under sail.
There is scope to expand the range of sensors too. In due course I intend to add both a Fire and a Carbon Monoxide sensor as potentially life-saving devices. With the ability to add up to 100 sensors to the hub, there are endless options for monitoring the security and integrity of the boat and its environment.
Would we have purchased VirCru had it not been gifted to us for free?
Without a doubt yes. Now that the boat is based overseas from home, a remote monitoring system was always on my wish list. Most systems come with a hefty price tag, but the Vircru solution is affordable in terms of both hardware and running costs. Without prejudice, I would thoroughly recommend the system; full details can be found from the VirCru website.”