BRP has teamed up with SeaStar Solutions (formerly Teleflex) to offer a joystick control system for Evinrude outboards. The system is an adaptation of the SeaStar Optimus 360 joystick control that allows it to function with the BRP/Evinrude ICON digital throttle-and-shift remote control. It will be offered for any Evinrude V6 outboard model, but only for boats running twin engines.
BRP debuted the system at the 2013 Miami International Boat Show, installed on a 32-foot 7-inch Andros Offshore 32 powered by a pair of Evinrude E-TEC 250 motors. We reported on the introduction of the Optimus 360 system at the 2012 Miami show, and the version that will be offered for Evinrude motors uses the same power steering helm and SeaStar Smart Cylinder steering rams, which are equipped with magnetic sensors that feed steering position data back to the electronic control module (ECM) that manages the system. The key difference is that the BRP system replaces the digital-to-cable throttle/shift actuator used on the original Optimus 360 with an interface to the BRP ICON control. For safety reasons, that ICON control uses its own electronic protocol, rather than the NMEA standard common to most other marine electronics, which is built into this version of the Optimus 360 system and makes it specific to Evinrude motors.
Watch this short video demonstration from the Miami Boat Show:
Evinrude Senior Product Specialist Larry Koschak lifted the hatch on the Andros center console to show the backside of the installation. It’s much tidier-looking than a cable-controlled Optimus system, simply because it lacks the bulky actuators. Mounted on the console bulkhead are two power steering pumps, which feed the steering rams through hydraulic lines below the deck, and an ECM about the size of a cigar box, if you remember what a cigar box looks like. Those power steering pumps can be mounted almost anywhere on the boat, within the transom for example. As with other joystick systems, Optimus 360 provide three-axis control (forward/reverse, port/starboard, and rotation) by independent throttle, shift, and steering control of each engine to provide optimal maneuverability at low speeds.
In my opinion, the Sea Isle Marina venue at the Miami Boat Show is one of the most challenging docking assignments imaginable. There is often wind and current, a lot of boat traffic, tight quarters, and usually a big crowd. So I was disappointed when the Evinrude crew didn’t actually offer to let me dock the Andros at the show. Instead, I was motored across the channel with the Andros pro-staff angler manning the boat, and we sampled the joystick around some docks. A fifteen-minute trial is not much of evaluation, but I can tell you that Optimus seems to blend seamlessly with the Evinrude control. It would move the boat sideways, spin it within its axis, and responded to my input as I expected it would. The joystick has two power settings, handy for days when the current or wind is strong, but I found the boat harder to control in the higher power setting, simply because things happen faster. You can see Larry Koschak at the helm in Miami in this Evinrude video:
Evinrude’s Koschak told me that the BRP/Optimus 360 system will cost $12,900 to $13,900 as a stand-alone option, but points out that some components that are part of the system – SeaStar Power steering and the ICON control – may already be part of a typical builder's rig. I know the SeaStar power steering costs more than $6,000 alone. The Andros pro told me that with Evinrude motors the Offshore 32 is usually rigged with the power steering and a digital control, and that adding the joystick would boost the boat price by less than $2,000. The system will become available in April, initially only on new boats through the OEM. If there’s one shortcoming of Optimus 360, it’s that it only works with twin engines, and I think many potential customers for a joystick are running triples on even bigger boats than this test platform.
For more information on Optimus 360, visit SeaStar Solutions.