One Engine with a Joystick?

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Joystick maneuverability has been the domain of boats with multiple engines, jet drives or bow and stern thrusters. Not anymore. After three years of research and development, Yamaha has unveiled its single-outboard Helm Master EX joystick system that can reportedly do nearly anything its multi-engine counterparts can manage.

“I was astounded by its level of control and functionality. It far exceeded my expectations,” said David Meeler, Yamaha’s new product introduction manager. “I think most people will be especially surprised by its SetPoint features.”

SetPoint is Yamaha’s collective term for position-hold features such as FishPoint, used as a virtual anchor to keep a boat in one place. Such features can’t maintain a precise heading while at anchor, but skippers can choose whether to orient the bow or stern into the prevailing wind and current. “FishPoint stern will be especially useful for those who toss cast nets to catch live bait,” Meeler said.

Repositioning in all SetPoint modes — FishPoint, DriftPoint (which maintains heading but allows a drift via current or wind) and DriftPoint Track (same as DriftPoint, but via waypoints) — is done by joystick in intervals. One short twist equals 1 degree of heading, while 5 degrees of heading is executed with a long joystick twist. A hold and twist of the joystick gives heading repositions in 5-degree intervals up to a total of 50 degrees.

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Helm Master EX also has Yamaha’s Pattern Shift, which can be programmed to shift the outboard in and out of gear automatically, to allow a boat to troll as slow as ½ mph (ideal for trolling with live bait). Combined with Pattern Steer, Pattern Shift will be useful for navigating the boat in an expanding circle or a zigzag pattern without the use of autopilot.

While the single-engine EX version of Helm Master has the same joystick control as the quad-engine installations, there are a few things the EX version can’t do, such as moving the boat directly sideways (twin engines are needed to create opposing thrust). StayPoint is also unavailable, even though that button is on the EX system.

The Helm Master EX package includes a control panel with single-touch buttons to activate features and make heading adjustments. And, a new binnacle design makes conventional shifting easier. An interface box is available to link to a Raymarine or Garmin MFD.

Also included: Yamaha’s new Digital Electric Steering (DES) system, which is derived from the power steering system on the flagship 425-hp XTO Offshore outboard. This steering system eliminates the need for hydraulic pumps and lines, making the final installation simple and clean.

“Everything about the Helm Master EX joystick itself is new, both internally and externally,” Meeler said. “New software means smooth, easy shifting, a new spring rate, and ergonomics mean a super-premium feel with no dead spots, and individual buttons for each SetPoint mode make it very easy and quick to operate.”

“You’re going to see the single-engine Helm Master EX full maneuverability system on big bay boats, small to midsize center consoles, and pontoon boats,” Meeler told Trade Only Today. “This system is designed to give drivers more control over their boats than ever before. It will make most anyone a better, more confident pilot.” 

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