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Boating Innovation:

The Joy of Joystick Piloting

Person sitting on the side of a boat in snorkeling gear

When you see a 13.7-metre boat with quadruple outboards walk sideways up to the dock, you'll realise you don't need to settle for mediocre boat steering.

Steering systems for boats are undergoing a revolution. Hydraulic steering has gradually overtaken mechanical steering. Now, many boat owners are choosing electronic power steering.

Electronic power steering for boats streamlines your experience. You only need a slight wheel turn to move the outboard precisely.

You can do even better than this.

The newest trend in boat steering is the marine joystick. Traditional boat steering options include the steering wheel and throttle lever. Now, you can have intuitive control of your vessel with a joystick.

Learn more about joystick boat steering and why it's one of the top boat upgrades you should consider.

What Is Marine Joystick Piloting?

As the name suggests, joystick piloting lets you control the watercraft using a joystick. You can move the boat forwards, backwards, sideways, or diagonally. You can also rotate the vessel or execute combined movements like rotating while moving sideways.

The farther you move the joystick, the more throttle the system applies.

The exact components of a joystick boat electronic steering system vary by manufacturer. Typical elements include:

  • Digital electronic control
  • Steering helm
  • Autopilot system
  • Joystick
  • Compatible steering actuators

The joystick typically integrates with the hydraulic or electronic power steering system.

Dometic was the first to introduce a joystick system for outboards without the need for bow thrusters or pods. Boat joystick control has become increasingly common, even on single-engine boats.

The Advantages of Marine Joystick Piloting

Joystick piloting has many advantages. It makes the watercraft easier to manoeuvre and safer on the water. It makes driving the vessel more accessible to boaters of varying abilities.

Enhanced Manoeuvrability

Joystick boat steering improves the manoeuvrability of almost any watercraft. You have more control at low speeds.

You can go from lock to lock with the joystick quickly and easily. You can change direction while also shifting from forward to reverse. You don't need to look down at the controls during any of these manoeuvres.

Additionally, it allows you to perform maneuvers which are impossible with a traditional steering system, such as moving sideways or diagonally.

A joystick takes the anxiety out of steering a boat into the dock. You can operate efficiently in tight quarters and crowded marinas. You have improved navigation in narrow channels. Vessel moves in the direction you tell it too with the joystick, without having to simultaneously operate the helm and multiple shift and throttle levers.

Improved Safety and Confidence

Joystick piloting helps you navigate more safely. You have better control, which can help you avoid collisions. You can react more quickly in an emergency.

Joystick boat steering makes controlling the boat more manageable, even in challenging conditions. You can dock and execute other complex manoeuvres even with high winds or strong currents. You're more confident on the water.

Accessibility for All Boaters

A marine joystick makes boating accessible to a broader range of boaters. Less experienced boaters can pilot more safely and confidently.

People with disabilities can operate a joystick. Joysticks are standard on power wheelchairs and other adaptive devices. The fact that using a joystick reduces operator fatigue is well-known.

The intuitive way a joystick works benefits all boaters.

Choosing the Best Marine Joystick

You have several factors to consider when choosing a marine joystick. A joystick steering system must be compatible with your boat. The joystick should also give you the best possible performance and precision.

Compatibility with Your Boat

Many types of joystick systems are available. You need one that's compatible with your boat. It needs to integrate with the controls, including the electronic power steering.

Brands like Mercury and Yamaha have developed proprietary joysticks. The marine joystick only works with power systems from the same manufacturer.

The Dometic Optimus 360 joystick control breaks with this trend. It will work with systems of almost any brand. It also works as a retrofit for an existing system.

Look for a joystick steering system designed for the size and type of your watercraft. Some features of your boat to take into account are:

  • Inboard, outboard, or sterndrive motor
  • Pod drive or standard
  • Number of engines
  • Gas or diesel engine
  • Mechanical or digital engine controls

You can add a marine joystick to the design of your new boat. Some joysticks are available as an upgrade to your current watercraft.

Performance and Precision

Performance and precision are two essential characteristics of marine steering. The Dometic Optimus 360 has been optimized to minimize the number of shifting events during joystick operation, improving the responsiveness of the joystick while giving occupants a smoother ride.

Technology continues to advance, which improves performance. For example, the Dometic Optimus 360 has intelligent programming. This minimizes the amount of shifting necessary to change speed.

User-Friendly Interface

An interface that is intuitive to use will help you get the most from your marine joystick. For example, with progressive throttling, you control the thrust by how hard you push the joystick.

Many models now consider the ergonomics of their designs. You have improved comfort and easier operation.

Additional Features and Integration

Most joystick boat steering systems offer additional features. Autopilot is one popular option. Autosteering will accurately keep the course you designate.

GPS virtual anchoring holds the boat in position. It locks the boat into one latitude-longitude coordinate. This is especially useful in deeper water or if you're boating alone and need to move around the deck.

Advanced marine steering systems can hold your heading while you drift. Some systems can save your preferred settings for cruising or fishing modes. Newer systems for outboards with thrusters use a unified controller that includes the thrusters.

Upgrade Your Boat Steering with a Marine Joystick

A marine joystick can take your boat steering to the next level. Joystick boat steering improves manoeuvrability and safety. It makes piloting accessible to a broader range of boaters.

The Dometic Optimus 360 joystick control system is a well-rounded option for recreational and commercial vessels. It integrates with Optimus electronic power steering.

You can use a Dometic Optimus 360 joystick with twin, triple, and quad-engine boats. It's available for retrofit and is compatible with third-party autopilot systems. Check out Dometic's full line of marine comfort systems. We'll help you get the most from your time on the water.

Featured products

Dometic Optimus 360 Joystick

Dometic Optimus 360 Joystick

Joystick control for Optimus EPS, EJ1400

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Dometic Optimus 360 Joystick

Dometic Optimus 360 Joystick

Joystick control for Optimus EPS, additional station, EJ1401

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Dometic Optimus 360 Joystick

Dometic Optimus 360 Joystick

Joystick operating kit for Honda twin engine, EPSK1480

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