All the secrets to easy joystick maneuvering

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Does a flawless maneuver in port or a fast and intoxicating “demoting” perhaps in a sea that enhances the driver’s skills and the hull’s talents make one more proud? Not a few, I imagine, will choose the first option, and the joystick inevitably becomes their “patron saint.” A revolution that has been sweeping the world of motor boating for a few years now and that shows no signs of crisis? Or is it not?

The solution to all maneuvering problems or a fad? A must-have accessory to avoid doing damage and making a fool of yourself in port or the helm of the future? Let’s shed light on the “joystick world” and solutions for easy maneuvering, and more

WHAT IT IS AND HOW IT WORKS
What a joystick is is all too easy to explain; we’ve all had them on our hands, maybe just for a video game or for more professional reasons. How it has been applied to boating is just as easy to describe, somewhat less so if you want to explain how it works. Let us therefore limit ourselves to summarizing its use: in port we can forget about throttles and bow thruster and maneuver it by relying on our joystick, which is able to rotate and translate the boat simply by acting on its control. Even embarrassing how easy it is: by rotating it, the boat rotates on its own axis, by moving it to the right or left the boat moves sideways on both sides, and the same, by bringing it forward or backward, slowly advances or retracts. Applause moorings are guaranteed and no more ugly figures with friends hanging onto the stanchions of neighboring boats to try to gain the coveted berth.
At this point, the curiosity to learn more is great and the desire to unravel the offer a bit is also essential, including whether you can budget for an investment to accessorize the boat you already have and whether you should think about a new boat instead. Getting into the merits of how it works, however, is already more complicated and perhaps not even that interesting, unless you are a technical enthusiast. If anything, it is more interesting to understand whether it can be adapted to all transmissions or only on those that are originally equipped with it.

THERE ARE NO INSTALLATION LIMITS, BUT…
Order it together with the boat or install it later? To understand the convenience, we approached ZF, one of the most active manufacturers in this field, having developed a number of transmissions and solutions adopted by many yards that revolve around the joystick applied, not only to Pods, but also to traditional axle lines.
“The use of the joystick is theoretically not subject to any limitations,” explains Enrico Crepaldi, Product & Sales Manager for Control Systems at ZF, “but in reality there are some contraindications. First is the price, which makes its installation on smaller boats uneconomical. When an apparatus costs approximately more than 10 thousand euros, its impact on the final price of, for example, a 10-meter boat becomes challenging even if the size of the boat does not present any contraindications. So let’s say that the use is taken into account when you go over 40 feet; then there are no limits until the threshold of approval of the ships that often have issues related to just the approvals themselves, although we have done some installation. The same issues arise for ‘retrofits,’ i.e., installations performed at a later date, where costs increase by another 20-30{b017e0ac7c59c56deea4a6a516a1b4e9a21a89b0b17d4961139af32b1b36b371} for all the inevitable retrofitting of the equipment involved in the installation. For the joystick to work optimally it needs a number of interfaces at the electrical and electronic level, which are not always present on older boats, but also on some recently built ones: if, for example, the throttles are mechanical its installation is practically impossible. In fact, the joystick is a kind of ‘mind’ but there is also an ‘arm’ which, for ZF, is the Smart Command, which is the interface between the joystick itself, the motors and the inverters, while the bow thruster, as well as the stern thruster if there is one, is controlled directly by the joystick processor. It is this control unit that controls the engagement of the gears, the action of the bow thruster and the ‘trolling,’ that is, the slipping of the clutches to adjust the power of the engines, which is usually disproportionate to that of the bow thruster even when they are idling, ensuring precise and continuous movement.”

THE RIGHT CHOICES FOR EASY RETROFIT
But the joystick is now destined to become a permanent fixture on every dashboard, which is why shipyards are working to prepare boats with the systems and wiring already in place for easy installation at a later date. “Today the Smart Command is fitted by the main shipyards,” Crepaldi continues, “from Azimut to Ferretti, from Sunseeker to Sea Ray, who have also appreciated it for the possibility it offers of deciding on the installation of the joystick at any time without having to make substantial changes to the on-board equipment: everything is already provided. The joystick can therefore be offered as an option and fitted when the owner decides.” All of this on boats with shaft-line transmissions or, even more so, with ZF Pod transmissions, which are also designed for the joystick; there are no applications in ZF on stern feet for now, partly because they very frequently have mechanical type interfaces.
A choice also shared by the “mother” of the joystick in boats-Volvo Penta, which was the first to introduce it on the bridge of a boat with the advent of Ips pods, and was also among the first to believe in stern feet as long as they were equipped with electric steering.
On the other hand, those who thought just about all their customers were Yanmar, which offers the joystick for any type of transmission, as long as it is matched to their engines. And so does Jolly Drive Marine, obviously for the surface propeller niche, but guaranteeing retrofitting as well. More rigid, however, are the offerings of Cummins and Mercruiser, which, with Zeus and Axius for Bravo feet, respectively, offer high-efficiency solutions, but with effectively zero retrofit possibilities.Alberto Mondinelli

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