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New joystick controller to debut at Miami show

The proliferation of innovative maneuvering systems includes two recently introduced joystick setups for outboards, but other types of conventional propulsion are being married to the joystick as well.

I was reminded of this at the display of a small Coral Gables, Fla., company — Yacht Controller LLC — which has been making its own inroads into this segment. The company already offers an innovative docking device called the Yacht Controller that consists of a wireless system that electronically interfaces with a boat's engines, transmissions, thrusters and anchor windlass.

It gives the owner with conventional inboards precise low-speed maneuverability via a wireless remote control.
Now Yacht Controller has a fixed-mount helm joystick that it will introduce in February at the Miami International Boat Show.

It is called the Yacht Controller JCS — Joystick Control System, says Yacht Controller president Gerard Berton. JCS can be used alone or integrated with the wireless system, he says.

“Just hit a button and it will take you from wireless to fixed joystick,” Berton says.

Yacht Controller developed JCS because the market demands a fixed-mount joystick, Berton says.

“People like sitting at the helm with a joystick and pushing it around or twisting it to make the boat spin,” Berton says. “But when you get close to the dock it’s really our remote control that you want.”

The remote, which uses four buttons, allows the skipper to actually leave the helm and from the bow, stern or any spot on deck manipulate the engine and thrusters to maneuver the boat into a slip or to a dock, says Berton, who introduced the device in the United States in 2003. The company has sold more than 7,000 Yacht Controllers since it launched the product.

JCS is off to a fast start, with about 30 orders taken, says Berton, who plans to enter the product in the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s annual Innovation Awards competition at the boat show.

Yacht electronics and propulsion dealers — rather than boat companies — install the Yacht Controller. The Yacht Controller has been installed on more than 136 boat brands up to 125 feet.

The system ranges from $9,000 to $13,000. The price fluctuates, depending on the number of functions and the type of electronic controls, and it includes the electrical harnesses, the receiver and the actual transmitter. Dealers normally charge an additional $1,200 to $1,500 for installation, which takes about four to five hours, Berton says.

With JCS, the price increases by $5,000. JCS can be installed in as many as six stations on a yacht. The plug-and-play system comes with an LCD display that is viewable in sunlight.

JCS is easily installed and is equipped with a control panel with a visible-in-sunlight LCD screen that shows engine and thruster positions.

— Chris Landry