The trend toward smoother boating took another step forward in mid-July as Evinrude announced the launch of its iDock joystick piloting system.
The intuitive, integrated system will be available this fall for boaters who purchase new twin Evinrude E-TEC G2 engines from 150 to 300 hp. Olivier Pierini, director of global marketing and strategic planning for Evinrude, says iDock will have an MSRP of $5,999 for all components of the system — from the joystick to the rigging. Some similar joystick piloting systems can cost more than twice as much.
Joystick piloting technology has been available for years, but Evinrude’s approach to its development has provided a product that may prove easier to own, use and maintain. It incorporates iSteer (integrated dynamic power steering), iTrim (automatic trim system), iControl (digital shift and throttle) and iLink (mobile display interface) into iDock to create Evinrude’s Intelligent Piloting System.
It could have a big impact on boating, too. Inexperienced boaters now will have more confidence in close quarters and experienced boaters will find it easier to maneuver their vessels.
“We made the iDock system intuitive using gyroscope sensors to help hold the heading of the boat, which corrects for wind and current automatically,” says Jason Eckman, Evinrude’s global product manager. “It really gives the boat operator complete control.”
The ease of use was on full display during a demonstration for the boating press in June. The event, held in Stuart, Fla., the longtime site of Evinrude’s saltwater testing facility and onetime home of Ralph Evinrude, took place during breaks in a day full of inclement weather.
Perfect conditions to test boat maneuvering technology, as it turned out. Southwest winds, coupled with a strong outgoing tide across the wind direction, meant that boating writers could truly see iDock’s strengths and weaknesses. The technology passed the test with flying colors.
A Scout center console and a Bennington pontoon boat, each fitted with twin Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboards, were at the disposal of the press. One by one, the guests were able to handle and scrutinize the joystick piloting experience. Not a single docking experience ended in disaster.
Eckman says an added feature of iDock is its ability to offer two stages of operation for the boater.
“In case you need additional thrust you put a little more pressure on the joystick and it moves into the boost position to give you the additional thrust you need, up to double, if necessary,” he says.
While the boater concentrates on approaching the dock, what goes on behind him is where the magic happens. A gentle push of the joystick, and each outboard will automatically and independently adjust to ensure that the hull is moving in the direction and at the speed the operator desires. An observer may notice the port engine turning outward while the propeller is moving in reverse at the same time the starboard engine is angled slightly inward with the propeller moving forward. The prop wash may appear chaotic, but the desired result is an ultra-smooth advance toward the dock.
Eckman says Evinrude engineers began with the goal of creating an easy-to-use technology that also would be easy to own. It resulted in a simplistic design feature that, he says, means clutter-free rigging.
“The whole iDock system is integrated,” he says. “It leverages the hydraulic steering architecture of the E-TEC G2 platform. We already had the steering integrated into the engine; we had the power steering. All we needed to do then was to add the control of these engines independently.”
Installation time is minimized, which helps keep costs down. The iDock models follow the same installation process as the Evinrude E-TEC G2 models, requiring less than an hour of on-the-water setup.
Eckman says all that helps make iDock more “attainable.”
“We know in our industry that docking is an anxiety that almost all boaters have,” he says. “As boaters we’re spending a lot of money and we take a lot of pride in what we own, but nobody wants to look dumb at the dock.”
Evinrude timed its announcement to coincide with ICAST 2017, the International Convention of Allied Sportfishing Trades. As part of the 100-plus-year-old company’s coming rebranding strategy, it has joined the American Sportfishing Association, which produced ICAST, for the first time, and is taking a more active role in the National Marine Manufacturers Association, says Pierini.
Evinrude is certain that iDock is going to generate industry buzz.
“Technology like iDock is helping to do what I call ‘straighten the curve,’ ” says David East, builder of Eastward Boats in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and former editor of a boat buyer’s magazine. “What skills used to take boaters a year or two to learn have now been condensed down to a matter of weeks.”
East believes Evinrude’s use of hydraulic rather than electric controls for iDock is wise, especially for boaters in saltwater environments.
“For the controls, hydraulic is probably going to prove to be more dependable than electrical,” East says. “And I think it’s definitely going to help novice boaters feel more comfortable at the helm. What experienced boaters are going to find out is that joystick controls will also help make it easier for them.”
Evinrude E-TEC G2 iDock model engines will be sold in pairs and will be available in the fall. The entire system is under the Evinrude warranty and BEST coverage.
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue.