Winning Isn't Everything. The Kid proved that technology can make up for some lack of experience. Yet I proved that with experience and an understanding of where a boat's pivot point is, how it steers from the stern, and the effect the wind has on your bow, you can dock anything, anywhere, anytime. All it takes is practice and remembering these three points: Go slow, always know where your drive is pointing, and use the wind. Oh, and one more thing: If you're a macho boat jockey who likes to keep his ego intact, don't challenge a kid with a joystick to a docking contest.
Maxum Control. Control Max is simply a bowthruster and a pair of stern thrusters operated by a joystick at the helm. The thrusters are small propellers installed in tunnels molded into the hull below the waterline. Operation is intuitive: Shuffle the joystick in the direction you'd like to go, and the boat responds-forward, backward, even sideways. Easy as pie.
The catch? There are several. For one thing, the system costs $4,000. You could get docking instruction from a professional captain for 1/10 of that. Electrically powered, Control Max runs on a dedicated battery that weighs about 100 pounds. Our experience dictates that adding weight aft affects a boat's speed and performance. This battery is also a parasite on your engine's charging system. It requires so many amps that your alternator will take longer to recharge both the Control Max battery and your boat's primary batteries. Therefore, we recommend a dual starting battery system, in addition to the dedicated battery, for any boat equipped with Control Max. This adds more weight and expenses.
Finally, unlike bowthrusters on large boats, the Control Max propeller tunnels are too small a diameter to get a paint brush into. Therefore, if you keep your boat in the water, fouling will eventually prevent the propellers from turning.
But for the Lotto-winning novice, those who don't have the time to practice, or even as a safer way of picking up a downed water-skier, Control Max works.