As I am currently at La Grande Motte Boat Show in the French Camargue, I´ve noticed that so many of my fellow colleagues at Excess and other brands wear a Garmin Quatix smart watch. It was so many of them that I thought it might be interesting to write an article about it: After the FitBit-Boom some 10 years ago I had thought that the “wearable” and “smart watch”-trend would just be something for the nerds and fitness-nuts, but apparently, in the sailing community these watches made quite some impression.
Garmin, American brand which stepped up it´s efforts to grab hold in the boating industry, came up with a smart watch wearable some 3 or 4 years ago. This smartwatch is called Quatix. Including myself, I know some sailors who have either made themselves a gift or their mindful partners presented them this wearable as a high-grade gift. I use mine – the Quatix 6 – since half a year approximately.
Garmin Quatix sets the benchmark
So, what is it all about? What is this Garmin Quatix smart watch capable of? Well, first of all this is a proper watch which should be something important to a skipper. I have made a previous article on wrist watches whilst sailing and my search for a watch that reflects my needs. I need to get a quick info on the time, after turning 40 years I also need to see the date quickly … the Garmin Quatix has literally dozens of clock faces to download easily and install on your watch: Classic or digital, fancy or modern.
In this, the watch comes also with all functions you already know from fitness-wearables: Garmin saves those data like your daily steps, stairs, HF-frequency, sleep score and sleep analysis (very interesting!) and such in an app that displays those data conveniently. I managed to be aware, control and reduce my stress-level for example. Also, a built-in GPS antenna delivers rudimentary information on your position, speed, direction and heading.
The watch can thus be loaded with many more apps from the Garmin-IQ-store to be specified to your particular needs. In this, as a nice co-incidence, the shipyard of Excess Catamarans lately decided to switch their electronics supplier from Raymarine to Garmin and as a matter of fact the Excess 14 catamaran on display here right now is stuffed with Garmin electronics: A great opportunity for me to try out the boat-connectivity and practical look and feel of the Quatix connected to a boat.
Surprisingly easy: Connecting your boat
I was happy to be joined by Garmin representative Thomas Doret whom I called to help me: My previous experience with connecting wireless devices is not the best and I foreshadowed problems here too so I thought it might be a good idea to get a demonstration of a professional. As it turned out, my fear was absolutely baseless: The Quatix on my wrist was connected and working just fine as if it was always that case in literal seconds.
Thomas just went into the “Setting”-section of the chart plotter and into the “Connect Wireless Remotes”-submenue, enabled this function with a swipe, the plotter searched for a brief moment and had my watch found. I just pressed “Ok” to confirm connection and that was it. Every time I near myself the boat now, my watch connects itself. Connecting a smartphone to my BMW is more complicated than this. Thomas laughed when he saw my face and told me, that as many as 10 Quatix could be connected, which of course is a ridiculous number for a boat (maybe on a big two-masted schooner?) but two or three is no problem at all.
The wired skipper: Sailing with the Garmin Quatix
So why should a skipper have a Quatix then? First of all, the watch is now able to display the dynamic data on your wrist. This ranges from position to speed, wind-speeds and depth. I often remember my long sailing trips with night shifts, laying in my bed and hearing some talk or unusual noise: I always woke up and wondered if the watch up has everything under their control: Are we on the right course still? Is wind increasing or decreasing? Instead of getting up and out of the precious warm bunk, a quick look onto my watch will deliver an answer immediately – this is very convenient!
Secondly, with the appropriate app installed on the watch, it is now possible to actively influence the boat via watch. For example, there is an autopilot-app for the Quatix. You can engange and disengange the autopilot by watch and steer the boat. Sparing the money for a remote control (with Raymarine the Smart Controller is around 900 Euros, by the way), you have your remote always at hand and it cannot get lost unless you break the watche´s wrist band.
Does the modern skipper need a wearable smartwatch?
The question, of course, is how much wiring-up and wireless-gadgets you “need” or want on your boat. I am a kind of a split mind in this. On the one hand I somehow feel the trend to over-app-lify the boats is something that takes away the classy, raw and kind of “free” charm of sailing. Sailing for me always was the last resort where connectivity hasn´t got a full hold of. Which is a fallacy, of course: Without a load full of satellites swirling around the globe in space sailing would not be the same in the first place. But is the wired boat good? Doesn´t this make sailing over-complicated, over-electrified and over-controlled?
Well, the level of digitalization is of course in your hands: Even if Beneteau Group, for example, pushes its Seanapps-system on all boats now which creates a similar connectivity and digital service world we all know (and honestly, appreciate) in our cars, you as a skipper can decide which level works for you and where you set the boundaries. I really like my Garmin Quatix 6 (which is the non-touch screen model) and will certainly use the data-display function intensively on my boat. If this works for you as well – just find out.
Also interesting to read:
The wired yacht: Groupe Beneteau launches “Seanapps”
Weather routing with apps and online tools for free
What makes a good skipper? Parts 1 and 2