Evinrude has a new way to control its larger twin, triple and quad outboard motors that will give you the confidence to dock your boat in places once thought impossible. The ease of operating the new Optimus 360 Joystick Control System offered by Evinrude and manufactured by SeaStar gives the operator a whole new confidence in docking and maneuvering multi outboard vessels and will put you where you never thought you could be.
Introduced earlier this year these systems are now being offered as optional equipment on new and re-powered boats sporting new twin, triple or quad Evinrude E-Tec V6 engines from 150HP to 300HP.
These are sophisticated systems that are a whole new breed of vessel control that can allow for easy and secure steering in tight or tricky conditions such as while docking, maneuvering in tight quarters, launching or retrieving the boat from a trailer or hovering on one location. Larry Koschak, the Accessories Product Manager for BRP and Evinrude, points out that after just a few minutes of learning the system anyone can have the confidence to control the boat with ease in any tight quarter situation. He says “it’s all about finesse and taking your time.”
With this joystick control system anyone can take the helm and have masterful control of the boat after just a short time, as I proved in a recent trial aboard a Premier 290 GrandView PTX pontoon powered by twin E-Tec 300HP outboard motors and capable of speeds in access of 52MPH. With just basic instruction and a few minutes of learning the feel of the controls I was able to parallel dock, hover and move the boat in every direction, including sideways and diagonally, with no effort and full confidence.
The ease of control and operation was nothing like any multi outboard or inboard vessel I have ever helmed. The controls were sensitive without being touchy and you truly do have full control over speed and direction.
There is even a boost button that gives extra RPM’s if needed in stronger than normal wind and/or current. When you are ready to navigate normally you simply turn the joystick control off with the push of a button to disengage. Should you forget, there is a throttle cutout when the joystick is selected.
“This is no one fits all joystick system,” Koschak goes on to explain. Each system is fully customizable to the vessel and can not only be tuned to the physical and handling characteristics of the boat but can also be tailored to the owner’s preferences. The system can be set up so no matter what vessel it is on the boat will spin on its axis and will control RPMs to the physical requirements of the engines and vessel. Once the steering system is configured to the boat’s physics and requirements and owner’s preference there is no need to tamper with the settings again.
The system is comprised of a specially designed joystick that feels good in one’s hand and has a rounded point on top that gives the operator a tactile and visual reference to the direction of the bow while in use. The joystick fits comfortably in your palm or can be controlled with two fingers and a light touch.
Programming of the joystick and a display of a wide array of system information is accomplished through the remote mountable CANtrac display. These are the obvious components but there are a lot more parts to this innovative system. These include a specially developed electronic helm that sends signals to hydraulic pumps, which in turn control “smart cylinders” on each individual outboard. It is directly due to these automated individual cylinders and engine controls that you may see the engines in different angles in relation to each other, allowing the vessel control that would never be possible with a traditional steering system.
This power steering system also allows for automatic adjustable (and fully customizable) speed sensitive helm turns, allowing for tighter steering at lower speeds and more forgiving wheel movement at higher speeds. The lock-to-lock turn rate also adjusts with speed, as does the wheel resistance. The components communicate through a robust CAN network and account for a reliable and seamless control system.
Although not an inexpensive option, when the whole steering and electronic throttle control system is considered, along with the elimination of the need for a bow thruster (where a bow thruster was not even physically possible on the test boat), the ease of operation and the confidence it can give any owner in handling their vessel would make it a worthwhile investment. Once you try it for yourself you will not want to go back to standard steering. If you’re in the market for a new boat or re-powering your existing boat with Evinrude, give the Optimus 360 Joystick Control system a try and be pleasantly surprised.