The marine industry is taking GPS station-keeping technology to the next level — one that targets anglers.
Yamaha, Mercury, SeaStar Solutions and ZF Marine at the Miami International Boat Show all introduced boat-control systems that are enhancements of their current joystick helm control networks (such as Mercury Skyhook and Yamaha Helm Master). All four companies had boats — with their systems installed — on display and available for testing at the show.
“The fish really don’t stand a chance now,” says John Porter, electronic technical specialist for SeaStar Solutions, which introduced its SeaStation GPS Anchoring System. “[This technology] is ideal for fishermen who do a lot of drift fishing or fish over wrecks or any type of structure, or are into kite fishing.”
These products allow the operator to control the boat in several ways. They can hold its position and heading simultaneously, hold its position without a set heading and hold its heading while drifting freely. Each manufacturer has its own name for its specific boat-control movement modes. For instance, the mode that maintains a selected position, but not a heading, is called Fish Point in Yamaha’s Set Point system, but is named BowHook in Mercury’s new product, Skyhook Advanced Features.
Yamaha’s Set Point is integrated into the Helm Master joystick. A dual GPS antenna feeds Helm Master the navigational information it needs for precise control, says Martin Peters, Yamaha’s communications manager.
Precision is what Mercury’s Skyhook Advanced Features is all about, says Lee Gordon, Mercury director of public relations. “You can adjust the heading lock in one- and 10-degree increments while Skyhook is active,” he says.
The systems from Yamaha and SeaStar rely on the boat’s outboards to control movement. Mercury’s Advanced Features can be used with its joystick systems for outboards, sterndrives and Zeus pod drives.
ZF Marine has taken the technology to inboard-powered boats, and its system uses both the inboards and a bow thruster. At the boat show, ZF had its new iDrift software — based on its iAnchor station-keeping that is part of the ZF Joystick Maneuvering System — installed on a Viking 48 Convertible. The system controls the boat in four modes of operation, including two dedicated to drift control, says Martin Meissner, ZF marketing and communications manager.
“One of these modes is like a braking feature that will slow the speed of the drift; the other will counteract the wind to allow it to drift with the current,” he says. “Because you control the drift, you have greater control of the lines.”
SeaStar Solutions’ SeaStation GPS Anchoring System is an enhancement of its Optimus 360 joystick docking control. “Bottom line is you can spend more time fishing instead of setting up your fishing spot or drift,” Porter told me during a sea trial aboard a 38-foot SeaHunter center console with twin 350 Mercury Verados.
Each mode is ideal for certain scenarios. For instance, applications for SeaStation’s Position Hold mode (which maintains position but not heading) include bait fishing and wreck/reef fishing.
Yamaha’s Fish Point (heading hold/free drift) under normal conditions will use no more than idle rpm, which means Fish Point operation is less likely to scare the fish, says Peters. In stronger seas, Fish Point will attempt to keep the boat on the point selected, using no more than the requested Fish Point rpm to do so (up to 2,500 rpm).
This article originally appeared in the May 2017 issue.