Evinrude rocked the outboard engine world when it introduced the E-TEC G2 and further shuffled the deck by rolling out the 2.7 liter E-TEC G2 just last year, so it should be no surprise that 2017 brings yet more innovation from this company—this time in the form of the iDock joystick docking system. We traveled down to Florida to get an early look at iDock, as well as some hands-on testing with the system on a variety of boats. Despite violent thunderstorms and constant rain, we managed to get out on the water during a 45-minute break in the weather. Here’s a quick look at what we discovered.
The iDock system is compatible with all of the G2 line-up, from 150 to 300 HP. Since it’s fully integrated with Evinrude’s digital control system the only hardware that has to be added to the boat consists of the joystick itself, a control module, and hydraulic lines. The G2 outboards have hydraulic steering systems already built into the motor mount, so no external pumps or components need to be installed.
The simplicity of the iDock installation on a G2 system and the absence of a need for additional hardware is a big part of the reason why Evinrude can offer this system at a price-point so much lower than the competitors. No, the $5,999 MSRP isn’t exactly cheap. But depending on the scale and installation of the system you’re looking, at and whether it comes OEM-installed or as an aftermarket add-on, the SeaStar Optimus 360, Yamaha’s Helm Master, or Mercury Verado Joystick Control systems commonly cost closer to the $15,000 range. It is true, however, that these systems do also have some added benefits not (at least not yet) available with iDock, most notably positioning features. While docking and close-quarters maneuvering is the biggest benefit of joystick control, these other systems also allow you to utilize “digital anchors” that the boat in place, and/or integrate GPS data to fix boat heading and/or orientation while adrift. See Mercury, Yamaha, and SeaStar Add Positioning Features to Joystick Controls to learn more about these systems, all of which were either introduced or significantly upgraded for the 2017 model year.
While there is an insignificant but noticeable delay between input at the helm and the reaction of the boat—a characteristic we also saw with early versions of other joystick systems, which commonly gets ironed out with product improvement over time—on the whole we felt the iDock joystick system worked on par with or better than the other systems we’ve tested. The incorporation of the gyroscopic sensor in particular is a definite advantage. With most systems you need to constantly tweak the joystick to fight wind and current, and this need was distinctly reduced. The difference was particularly pronounced when maneuvering a pontoon boat, which was being constantly buffeted by gusts. If your main goal is finding a joystick system that makes docking easier, especially for inexperienced boaters, iDock fits the bill.
If you’re wondering whether adding joystick control to an outboard-powered boat makes sense in the first place, check out The Happy Stick: Joystick Controls for Outboard Boats (Spoiler alert: it does). And if docking is an issue for you in general, you might benefit by reading our Ultimate Docking Guide: How to Dock a Boat with Single or Twin Engines, Joysticks, and More.
For more information, visit Evinrude.