Joystick steering is a great thing if you can afford it.
Today there are a number of joystick systems for sterndrives and pod drives, such as Mercury’s Axius and Zeus and Volvo Penta’s Joystick Docking. For outboards, there’s Merc’s Joystick Piloting, SeaStar Solutions’ Optimus 360 and Yamaha’s Helm Master.
All greatly ease the task of docking — a blessing for new boaters unaccustomed to maneuvering in tight quarters. But there’s a downside. Joystick options add at least five figures to the cost of a new boat. Prices start at around $14,000 and range upward to $34,000 or more, depending on the number of engines.
That might seem insignificant when you’re already spending $500,000 on a new boat, but where does this leave a family buying a 25-footer for around $150,000? Many customers will forego the option and vow to hone their docking skills.
Evinrude may well shift that mindset with its new iDock option, which adds only $5,999.99 to the cost of a new boat. The system works with select models of Evinrude E-Tec G2 outboards ranging from 150 to 300 hp.
Though it works only with twin outboards and lacks some features found in more expensive systems, such as station-keeping and heading lock, iDock brings greater affordability to the joystick market.
It also performs exceedingly well. The Boating Tech Team tested the iDock system in Stuart, Florida, near Evinrude’s test center, aboard a Scout 255 LXF center console and a Bennington Q27 pontoon boat. The Scout boasted twin 200s, while the Bennington featured twin 300s. Using iDock in the tight quarters of a marina, we found the joystick control easy and intuitive to operate. Blustery conditions added a special challenge on test day — iDock came through like a champ.
The system integrates almost seamlessly with the built-in steering on new Evinrude E-Tec G2 outboards for a relatively simple, plug-and-play add-on. That’s a big part of bringing down the cost — there’s no extra hardware, aside from the joystick control itself.
A press of a button on the base of the joystick control activates iDock. When in use, the boat’s steering is locked to remind you that iDock is activated. To turn the system off, press the button again or shift the throttle-and-shift controls.
In operation, the iDock joystick allows you to maneuver and turn the boat in any direction. You can move it sideways, forward and in reverse, as well as spin the vessel in place. Skippers can also pivot the bow or stern while moving the boat sideways, forward or in reverse.
Gyroscopic stabilization automatically compensates for wind and current to keep the boat moving on the course you direct with the joystick. Returning the joystick to the neutral position resets the gyrostabilization system.
A built-in boost mode intuitively adds thrust with additional pressure on the joystick. A detent on the joystick tells you when you have pushed past the normal speed and activated the boost mode to increase engine rpm.
Based on the ease of installation and price, the Evinrude iDock system is sure to bring joystick steering within the grasp of a whole new group of boaters.