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Yacht Owners Take Comfort in TenderTag

If an auxiliary watercraft becomes separated from its parent ship, the RFID system sends out an alarm.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 10, 2008As yacht owners scale up the size of their vessels, they're also investing in bigger, fancier and more expensive tenders—the auxiliary boats used to access docks or transport individuals when the yacht itself is too large for the task. These tenders, which can reach values of $100,000 or more, can be too sizable to be stored on a yacht, so they must be towed behind it in open waters. This raises security problems, and the risk of losing the smaller craft somewhere at sea.

A British Columbian startup company known as Active Tag Security says it has come up with a solution—the TenderTag—that employs radio frequency identification to generate an alarm if a tender becomes separated from its parent vessel.


If a person wears the cylindrical MOBTag RFID tag and falls overboard, an RFID reader (two versions are pictured) will sound an alarm, or even turn off a boat's engine.

Phillip Richards, who serves as captain for his employer's yacht from his base in the Caribbean, has been using the system for the past year to ensure he doesn't lose track of his tender. Richards typically tows the smaller boat behind the 150-foot yacht between the Caribbean and New England, and to Belize. Although the tender has not broken free thus far, he says, the TenderTag system offers him assurance that he will be able to respond in sufficient time to recover the watercraft if ever it does so.

Typically, a tender is lost in rough conditions in which waves can cause the towline to break free. If the ship's captain fails to notice the incident immediately, it can be almost impossible to locate and recover the auxiliary craft. In other cases, bandits sometimes steal high-value tenders before the captain realizes what is happening.


The TenderTag reader (the black button turns the device on or off) and tag.
Richards is utilizing the TenderTag system to prevent both risks. He attached a TenderTag 2.4 GHz active RFID tag to the overhead arch on the tender. Measuring approximately 3 inches by 1.5 inches, the tag—which employs a proprietary air-interface protocol—comes with a power cord that plugs into the 12-volt cigarette lighter socket located on the smaller boat. Once installed, the tag transmits its unique ID number at a rate of about 10 times per second, says Glen Snaychuk, one of Active Tag Security's owners.

Richards installed the reader on the back of yacht. The interrogator can receive transmissions from a distance of 400 feet, as long as there is a clear line of sight. The device is set to sound an alarm if it fails to receive the tag's signal within a specified time period. Because waves can occasionally obstruct a reader's line of sight with the tag, Richards has programmed his reader to emit an alert if it has not received a signal within the past 20 seconds.

"It's loud—I can easily hear it in the wheelhouse," Richards says, while the device itself is installed at the back of the yacht. "It's a really good idea, and it works quite well."

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