New features for electronic positioning systems linked to the joystick outboard controls offered by Mercury Marine, Yamaha Marine and SeaStar Solutions were introduced at the 2017 Miami International Boat Show. These positioning systems, sometimes called digital anchors, utilize GPS and the joystick algorithm to fix boat heading and position as selected by the captain. The original Skyhook feature introduced with the Mercury Joystick system (learn more in Mercury marine Unveils New Engines and Controls in Miami) has been extremely popular with all type of boaters. Skyhook will hold position and heading while waiting for a draw bridge to open, for example, or keep a fishing boat directly over underwater structure regardless of wind or current. The new systems introduced at Miami by Mercury, Yamaha and SeaStar are strikingly similar and expand on this basic capability. We tested the SeaStar SeaStation system in Miami to give you a look at it in action.


SeaStation for SeaStar Optimus 360

SeaStation is the first electronic positioning system for the Optimus 360 joystick control and will be sold as an option on new systems or add-on to any Optimus 360 now in service. It utilizes a dual antenna GPS sensor and newly developed software, and offers three modes.

In the Position Hold mode the boat will hold its position as it maintains its natural heading given wind and current. This mode will usually require minimal steering, shifting and throttle from the outboards and so is less intrusive to those aboard.

In the Heading Hold mode, SeaStation will hold the bow on a designated course heading while allowing the boat to drift with wind and/or current. This mode permits drift fishing over structure, for example, but keeps the boat from spinning in the wind or current as it drifts.

The Heading and Position mode will hold a boat in one spot on a pre-determined heading. This mode will be particularly useful when fishing around a buoy or other fixed structure, or while waiting for a bridge to open or for a spot to open up at the fuel dock.

Anglers, in particular, will find these new positioning systems helpful.

Anglers, in particular, will find these new positioning systems helpful.

SeaStation can be added to Optimus 360 for dual, triple and quad outboard installations. Optimus 360 is compatible with most outboard brands with cable controls and Yamaha and Suzuki motors with digital controls. SeaStation’s dual antenna GPS interfaces directly with the Optimus 360 system via a devicenet CAN harness. Installation by an authorized SeaStar Optimus installer or OEM is required. Once installed, a sea trial may be needed to fine-tune the system to assure optimal control and performance. According to SeaStar, the SeaStation upgrade will cost about $3,850 and includes software, wiring harness and the dual-antenna GPS. The system also requires the SeaStar CANtrak display screen.

For more information, visit SeaStar Solutions.

Mercury Skyhook Advanced Features

Mercury offers two new modes for its Skyhook system and a third feature that permits fine adjustment of heading when Skyhook is activated.

BowHook can be used to unlock heading but hold position, allowing wind and current to determine boat heading. In this mode the engines will usually be much less active than is required for full Skyhook control, which holds position and heading, so there will be less throttle, shifting and steering activity on the transom.

A second new mode is called DriftHook, and as the name implies it holds boat heading while allowing boat position to be determined by wind and current. This mode will be most useful for anglers who want to drift fish over structure or while kite fishing. BowHook and DriftHook rely on data from the joystick GPS and an internal measurement unit (IMU) that was added to the Mercury Joystick system in June 2016. Skyhook, which holds position and heading, will continue as a standard feature of the Mercury Joystick system for outboards.

The third new feature is Heading Adjust, which allows the captain to fine-tune boat heading in one-degree and 10-degree increments while Skyhook or DriftHook are active.

Each of the new features will be available for individual purchase as downloadable content from the Mercury GoFree shop. The three new features will be offered as a bundle for $500. BowHook and Heading Adjust will be offered individually for $50 each, and the DriftHook feature alone will be priced at $450. The features can be added as an upgrade only to the “gen two” Mercury Joystick control introduced in June 2016 and will initially also require installation of the VesselView 703 multi-function display. The downloadable content and VessleView 703 will be available in May, 2017, according to Mercury. Boat owners will be able to purchase Skyhook Advance Features for the VesselView 502, VesselView 702 and compatible Lowrance and Simrad displays after a software update in October, 2017. Firmware updates may also be required, so best to consult a Mercury dealer about installation details for your boat.

For more information, visit Mercury Marine.

Yamaha Helm Master Set Point

For the first time Yamaha will include a position-holding system for its Helm Master joystick control. Set Point will be a standard feature of Helm Master delivered to boat builders beginning in May, 2017, and later in the year as a retro-fit kit for Helm Master equipped boats already on the water. Set Point utilizes a dual-antenna GPS and offers three modes.

Stay Point locks in position and heading. Fish Point maintains vessel position but allows wind and current to determine the heading. Fish Point is designed to maintain position with minimal engine input and according to Yamaha in typical conditions will use no more than idle RPM to hold position. In stronger seas, Fish Point will attempt to keep the boat on position using no more than the requested Fish Point RPM to do so (up to 2500 RPM). Yamaha’s Shift Dampener System (SDS) propellers play a role in keeping the boat on point quietly. Drift Point maintains a selected heading as the boat drifts with wind or current. The system also includes two brilliant LED lights that are placed on either end of the stern, facing aft, to caution those approaching from the stern that Set Point is active and that the boat can possibly move. These are also intended to remind persons not to be in the water near the stern of the boat during this time.


In the past, these fishermen would have had to drop an anchor to hold position near this bait-attracting marker.

In the past, these fishermen would have had to drop an anchor to hold position near this bait-attracting marker.

The Set Point system requires a new Helm Master joystick with integrated Set Point control buttons, and the new CL7 touch screen display. The retro-fit kit will include the new joystick, the CL7 Display, twin GPS antenna and gateway, two Set Point notification lights and gateway, the required wire harness, software, and a new PCU. The Set Point retro-fit kit will cost $6,500 but an authorized Yamaha Helm Master dealer will determine charges for a specific installation.

For more information, visit Yamaha Marine.

Written by: Charles Plueddeman
Charles Plueddeman is's outboard, trailer, and PWC expert. He is a former editor at Boating Magazine and contributor to many national publications since 1986.