New outboard joystick controls from Mercury Marine and Yamaha Outboards promise to relieve the fear of docking, which marketing research reveals is the chief anxiety of many boaters. As with inboards and sterndrives, a digital joystick manages the independent shifting, steering and throttle of multiple motors to achieve fingertip, low-speed control beyond the imagination of most weekend captains. The technology isn’t cheap, but neither is therapy.
Yamaha’s Helm Master and Mercury’s Joystick Piloting are similar in concept. Each combines a digital helm, digital throttle-and-shift, power steering and a joystick in a single computer-controlled system that manages input to multiple outboards. Both systems debut this spring. Helm Master is available through installation by the manufacturer on new boats. Mercury Joystick Piloting is available on new boats and will be available for repower if you buy a new 250 hp or 300 hp Verado fitted for the system beginning Oct. 1, 2013. Each is designed to work only with that brand’s engines, which happen to dominate the market. There’s also the Teleflex Optimus 360, a digital joystick system that works with any brand of cable-controlled outboards in a dual installation, and a new adaptation of the Teleflex system by BRP/Evinrude.
The Mercury joystick is based on the software designed for the MerCruiser Axius sterndrive joystick system and will be offered for the Verado 250 and Verado 300 outboards in dual, triple or quad configurations. It integrates with the Mercury SmartCraft suite of electronics and includes a digital helm, power steering for each motor, and a new VesselView information display with cruise control.
Yamaha Helm Master was developed in conjunction with Volvo Penta and Teleflex, and mates to any Yamaha 4.2-liter V-6 Offshore outboard and the V-8 F350, in twin and triple installations but not quads. In addition to a joystick, Helm Master includes an electronic helm, a new digital control that can throttle and shift up to three engines with a single lever, an electric power-steering pump for each motor, an electronic key and a new Command Link Plus 6Y9 information screen. Helm Master has a cruise-control function and also automatically trims the motors up or down based on rpm and preset limits.