By: Zuzana Prochazka
I watched a friend come in and dock with his inboard (pod-driven) boat. I love that joystick option, but I have twin outboards. What would it cost to add a joystick on my boat, or is it even an option?
You’re in luck. It seems 2013 will go down as the year of outboard joystick control, as we witnessed at the Miami Boat Show this season. Volvo Penta (IPS) and Cummins MerCruiser (Zeus) revolutionized the industry with inboard drives that brought fingertip control to docking, so it was only a matter of time before the same intuitive technology came to outboards. In 2012, SeaStar (formerly Teleflex) introduced Optimus 360, which synchronizes the independent movement of twin mechanical outboards that vector and thrust to move a boat in any direction, including directly sideways, to make docking a snap. Tie bars are eliminated, so the engines move separately, but the system does allow you to limp home on one engine in an emergency. Check out the full Optimus review in the July 2012 issue of Boating World.
Docking is not the only activity where a joystick comes in handy. Backing down or orienting when you have a fish on becomes much easier, and the key is that the Optimus system can be retrofitted to any brand of mechanically controlled twin outboards.
Of course, this is not an inexpensive refit. The complete package with power steering, wiring harnesses, electronic shift and joystick control will cost around $18,000 plus installation, which is done by a specially trained Teleflex dealer. What if you don’t want to put that much money into your old mechanical engines? Take heart, as just about every major outboard manufacturer has created a proprietary version, and some systems even work with triples or quads.
Mercury Marine launched Joystick Piloting for Outboards for its Verado 250 and 300 hp electronic engines — and the company claims the system can control up to four outboards. Yamaha also debuted its Joystick Control System, which works with twin or triple installations of its V-6 225 and 300 hp, and V-8 350 hp outboards. Finally, BRP teamed up with SeaStar to bring the Optimus control to BRP’s installations of Evinrude V-6 twin engines. Rumor has Suzuki working on a solution as well.
So you have options, whether you want to work with your existing equipment, or repower with new engines. This equipment will become more widely available throughout the coming years, so take heart: You can wow the crowd on the dock with your independently moving engines and your expert landings — no matter the wind, current or slip configuration.