Dockmate: the remote control boat docking tech that Dirk built

By | May 16, 2019

A necessary indulgence, Dockmate is establishing itself within the marine community as one of the world’s most future-proof remote control boat docking systems.  We take a brief moment to look at the man behind those controls; how he engineered a global docking phenomenon in the face of adversity and how he has successfully steered Dockmate, with finger-tip precision, into such an enviable position…

If necessity is the mother of invention, and play its father, then Belgian entrepreneur Dirk Illegems had the perfect upbringing and lineage for creating a global phenomenon that simplifies boat docking.  Today, Dirk sits at the helm of Dockmate, a future proof, wireless remote-control boat steering system with a distribution network across 31 countries.

Dirk Illegems

Dirk, who has been a keen sailor since his teenage years and always adopted a hands-on approach to his own repairs, bought a new motorboat in 2011 in his late forties.  When he started to look for a remote control to help dock it, he didn’t realise it would be his own vision, business acumen and actual product which would later fulfil that need.

“There was only one brand on the market that could possibly do the job, which was way too expensive for the old tech at its core.  So, I said we can make this better.  Let’s start from scratch,” explains Dirk in his perfect English.

One year later, he had developed his first Dockmate prototype. “The whole marina came out to watch me test it on my own boat.  No one would let me near theirs with it, back then!” he jokes.

Always an entrepreneur at heart, Dirk ran his own print finishing business for 25 years before selling it in 2006 to turn his hand at globally exporting graphic machines and manufacturing their electronic components from its base in Belgium.  It was a chance encounter with his chief engineer, involved in creating remote controls used in coal mines, which led him on to apply the land-based solution to water, making his idea a reality and solving his own personal boat docking crisis in the process.

Dirk compares the modular design of Dockmate to Lego where its modules are built on a ‘base plate’ to make a final, intuitive product which can constantly evolve without the hindrance of old restrictions and compatibility issues.  Dockmate’s ‘Lego bricks’ come in different shapes, sizes and colours.  Individually, they are very simple things which fit together, with a snap, to create a bigger more complex and impressive whole.  Its modularity and flexibility make it easier and faster to tweak or create custom-built solutions on demand.  It also has the infinite capacity to quickly adapt and change to maintain a competitive edge with room for creativity.

“Whatever is needed, we can build.  We can make whatever can be imagined.  We just add more bricks, or change the ones we have to meet the opportunity or challenge.  The possibilities are endless.”

When asked about the threat that self-docking boats might have on Dockmate in the future, Dirk responds by saying: “We know that the self-docking tech is only precise to a range of 1 metre from shore so a Dockmate will always be needed to finish off the job, stress free.

“Dockmate is a product that will never be finished.  We’ve created a system which works well and will never become obsolete.  There is evolution in every product and if you aren’t constantly evolving your product, you don’t have the right product.  20% of our business focuses on the updates needed to keep ahead of the rapidly changing tech behind engines and accessories.  In three years’ time the market will be completely different and you will need a product like Dockmate which can keep pace with change to make life on the water more enjoyable.”

Further information on the stress free docking solution, which enables skippers to dock a boat singlehandedly from anywhere on board whilst controlling to the centimetre how to berth safely, can be found at www.dockmatedirect.com.  During 2019, Dockmate UK will also be exhibiting at Poole Harbour Boat Show, Seawork International and Southampton Boat Show.