Single-engine outboards are now invited to the joystick party. Yamaha has revealed an all-new Helm Master EX control system for single to quad engines, with a long list of new features, including bolt-on electric power steering, a system for single-engine boats, and the ability for a Yamaha dealer to install Helm Master EX as a repower or upfit application.
Helm Master EX is based on all-new software developed by Yamaha. The original Helm Master system used software designed for the Volvo Penta IPS pod drive that required expert, complex programming for each boat model, and so was only available as an OEM installation. Yamaha says the new system can be programmed by a Yamaha dealer through the Yamaha touchscreen display at the helm on the boat.
All of the Helm Master EX hardware has been updated to consolidate functions and improve ergonomics. The system has four main components that can be installed incrementally, starting with a digital electronic control (DEC), and an engine control unit (ECU) for each motor. The next step is digital electronic steering (DES), an all-electric steering helm and actuator, which mounts to each outboard, similar to hydraulic steering, and can be added to any Yamaha DEC-controlled outboard sold in the United States (except the F350A V-8).
To this foundation, you can add a new autopilot system that includes a compact control pad on the helm, a heading sensor under the console, and an antenna above the boat. Finally, there’s the new joystick, which enables a number of SetPoint modes; this maintains both the boat’s position and its attitude relative to wind, current or structure, and can also be used for on-the-fly adjustment of speed, heading and course in autopilot mode.
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In a single-engine application, the Helm Master EX joystick does not offer the boat control available with multiple engines; it cannot make the boat walk sideways or spin within its length. It does offer instant, simultaneous fingertip control of steering, throttle and shifting. The power steering can turn the motor from lock to lock in less than two seconds. There’s no more spinning the wheel while also managing the control and simultaneously eyeballing the dock.
One boatbuilder we talked to estimates rigging a single-engine boat with just the new control and electric steering (versus a hydraulic system) will add about $2,000 to its retail price, and that the autopilot and joystick are so easy to plug-and-play, they will be dealer-installed options. For a single engine, the entire system will add about $12,000 to a new-boat price, the builder says. Yamaha says a complete Helm Master EX kit for repower or upfitting a single-outboard boat will cost about $16,000, plus boat-specific cables. That’s spendy, but for someone putting together a premium full-feature bay boat, for example, it could just be the icing on the cake.
More Info: Yamaha Outboards