Joysticks are not all equal

Joystick controls becoming de rigueur in the luxury boating market. Many believe they are aimed primarily at people relatively new to bigger boats.

Not necessarily, according to experienced boater Roy Wells. Roy and his family live in South Australia and keep their Maritimo 56 Motoryacht “Stephanie” in Port Lincoln. Roy specified a Twin Disc Express Joystick System (EJS) when the boat was being built last year.

“I have done a lot of boating and this is my fifth large boat and second Maritimo,” said Mr Wells. “I am comfortable manoeuvring big boats on engine controls. But the EJS offers so much more precision than any skipper could achieve without it.”

According to Luke Durman, Marketing Director for Maritimo, about 40 percent of all shaft drive boats now being built at the company’s factory will be delivered with Twin Disc EJS installed.

“We can all get into a bit of trouble docking in big weather, and we get a lot of that around Port Lincoln,” said Mr Wells.

The town is an important tuna fishing centre and is barely protected from the wild Southern Ocean and the winds sweeping north from Antarctica.

“Even in a strong wind, I can hold this big boat a foot away from a dock for as long as I wish,” he said. “I also use the system when I am out tuna fishing. I have joystick controls in the cockpit and can finesse the boat to keep the fish exactly where I want it with just thumb and forefinger.

“In a standard boat, I would need a skipper controlling the boat from the flybridge while I’m fishing. This way I can do it all myself, or control the boat in the cockpit when the kids are on a fish.”

Mr Wells has used joystick systems on pod driven boats and says they don’t compare.

“There’s a response lag with the pod systems,” he said. “EJS is instant and absolutely smooth.

“I may be a bit of a traditionalist. I like the simplicity of a shaft drive system. There are only the shafts, the props and rudders in the water. With pods there is all kinds of technology hanging under the boat.

“EJS allows me to keep my shaft drives and have all the benefits of a joystick.”

Roy Wells and his family combine a passion for fishing with cruising which is why they selected the M56 rather than a fish boat.

“I like the comforts of the Motoryacht as well as the safety of walk-around decks. We’ve simply added some rod holders, rocket launchers and live bait tank for offshore fishing.

“EJS means that I’ve been able to teach my wife how to manoeuvre the boat accurately. It took just 10 minutes of training. I can also teach guests who come on board. And our children learned it very quickly.

“Until we had the system, Gill had to do the heavy lifting when we manoeuvred to pick up a mooring. Now she can comfortably control the 30 tonnes of boat while I go forward and pick up the line.”

Another major benefit for Roy Wells has simply been speed control.

“These big boats will idle at six or seven knots so when we are in a four-knot zone, we have to push the engines in and out of gear or use a slow vessel mode which can be dangerous at such low revs and can cause a stall

“The Twin Disc system uses the QuickShift slipping clutch. When we need to run really slowly, I engage the EJS and drive the boat with that. I’ve proven to skeptical friends that I can run it safely at just one knot!

“Another benefit is just how quiet the system can be. Because the big hydraulic thrusters are proportional, they can run very slowly and cause very little noise. When I am coming back to my berth at night, I use the EJS to run the engines at idle and manoeuvre slowly. It is whisper quiet. You don’t get that incredible noise of that standard electric thrusters make.

“There’s not a thing I can’t do with it.”