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Ready to outfit your new yacht?

Casey Cox created instrumentation that monitors a boat’s vital functions.  - Julie Busch photo
Casey Cox created instrumentation that monitors a boat’s vital functions.
— image credit: Julie Busch photo

Krill Systems rolls out a line of digital instruments.

Like a poop deck full of captains before him, Casey Cox inadvertently steered his vessel into choppy waters.

Cox and crew – his wife and now 10-year-old twins – had pushed off from San Francisco Bay aboard a 45-feet yacht, bound for Alaska, in 2001.

The plan was to spend a year sailing. But a prolonged hiccup in the weather prompted pleas for shore from his family, causing the Cox clan to spend the next month on land in a rented apartment.

“I had a mutiny on my hands,” Cox joked. “They wanted to wait it out.”

Fortunately for the marooned mariner, idleness led to ingenuity and the birth of Bainbridge-based Krill Systems, manufacturer of digital marine instruments, which began sales in January.

“I was thinking about things the boat needed,” he said. “And I realized the products I wanted didn’t exist or weren’t easily affordable.”

Cox envisioned a centralized device that could monitor his boat’s vital functions. At the time, such devices were available for large yachts and were expensive, but prior to Krill there was nothing that suited the needs of boaters like him.

As former vice president of engineering at Copper Mountain Networks, a former technology company based in Silicon Valley, Calif., Cox had the will, time and knowledge to bring his ideas to fruition.

He spent two years developing Krill’s line of products before it hit the market this year.

The units monitor power sources, fuel systems, water tanks and devices powered by on/off switches, among other things, all from a centrally located point on the boat. Entry-level digital instrumentation systems start at $4,500, not including installation.

“Most systems on 35-to-90-foot boats are measured in a very crude way,” said Lynne Watanabe, director of marketing for Krill. “The goal of our products is to consolidate gauges so that everything is upfront in one place, like a car.”

The instruments, Watanabe said, serve a number of practical uses because they are designed to be used intuitively by people who don’t necessarily possess Cox’s level of technological expertise.

“You don’t have to be an engineer to use them,” she said. “I myself didn’t understand the products when I got here a year ago, but they’re supposed to be easy to learn. They empower neophytes so that everyone on board can understand what’s going on.”

And as you learn the product, she said, you also learn about your boat.

“It’s not only for safety,” Watanabe said. “It helps you understand your boat’s systems as well.”

One practical example of the product’s utility is it’s ability to monitor the use of electronic devices, a common issue for liveaboards. The device will warn sailors if a hairdryer, for example, is in danger of causing a problem with the vessel’s electrical system – a helpful feature for those who prefer fried hair to a fried fuse.

Cox recently embarked on an East Coast sales tour, where he spoke to some 30 magazine editors about his products.

“There was a tremendous response,” said Cox, who said Krill products will soon be featured in nautical magazines across the country. He hopes to continue adding dealers nationwide, particularly in Florida, where the market is strong.

As for that cruise to Alaska, Cox said they never quite made it, but they did land on Bainbridge Island, where they’ve lived for the past two and a half years. He runs the business from his home on Grizdale Lane.

“It’s such a wonderful area,” he said. “The winds aren’t quite as strong for sailing as they were in San Francisco Bay, but it sure is beautiful here.”

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Contact Krill Systems at 780-2901.

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