Signal Mate Review
Sound and light boat signaling unit automates safety at sea.
Compliance is signaling in restricted visibility. This is why we became interested in Signal Mate and its approach to automating sound and light signaling, a big plus for short-handed sailors. The companyís console-mount controller and its portable emergency signaling kit offer great capability and quite a bit more.
The easy-to-operate push-button console actuates digital switching circuitry that controls light, and sound signals are pre-programmed to indicate anchoring and making way in low visibility, as well as designating emergency and distress situations. Thereís also a capacity to manually control the signaling process, and to select sound, light, or both as signaling options. The unit can connect to the boat horn or other audible device or can be wired to a mast-mounted maneuvering light.
The console comes with a stainless-steel bracket, and the unitís weather-proofing allows it to be mounted in a variety of locations. A self-contained kit version of the Signal Mate console includes, in addition to the above-mentioned controller, an orange nylon zip case that contains a sealed, rechargeable 12-volt DC AGM battery, a 106-decibel horn, and a bright LED maneuvering light connected to 16-foot cables. This mini setup can be temporarily affixed on deck in a number of locations, or the light and horn can be attached higher in the rigging.
During our testing, we found that the small LED maneuvering light was bright and exceeded the range for navigation lights on vessels under 65 feet. Its reflector concentrates light on the horizontal plane, so a conventional strobe likely will be more visible to search-and-rescue aircraft when overhead, something to keep in mind should you plan to use it as an emergency signal.
Retailing at $299, the console-only version (without battery pack) can be wired into existing light and sound equipment providing automated signaling. The all-in-one portable device sells for $499 and can be easily placed in the bow as an automatic sound-signaling device. When the light is used as a maneuvering signal, itís wise to elevate it well above the crew, because it kills night vision.
Not everyone will rank the Signal Mate as essential, but it does provide valuable functions that are required. By automating the process, a short-handed crew can continue to cope with other watchkeeping duties and vessel handling tasks. If you just want an automatic foghorn, some of the high-end VHF radios offer more basic signaling for about the same price.