All outboard manufacturers have cottoned on to the fact that everybody expects to be able to berth at the twist of a wrist. So it is a bit surprising that it has taken Evinrude three years since the launch of their game-changing G2 engine to offer it with a joystick. I say this because the revolutionary design of the G2 outboard engine, with its internal helical steering gear located within each engine’s midsection, made this engine perfect for joystick control.
Unlike its contemporaries, which require a hydraulic steering ram (or rams) fitted externally within the transom, the G2 has just one piece of trunking going to the motor. This aesthetically neat concept is known as ‘clean rigging’, with the trunking containing a fuel line, digital shift/throttle wiring and a hydraulic steering hose for the internal helical gear. In effect, with a twin/multiple engine configuration, each engine can be independently controlled, without the need for additional hydraulic steering rams to vector the engines, as is the case with a conventional outboard joystick system.
As a result, Evinrude’s G2 engines can be easily vectored in different directions to produce the thrust needed for sideways movement. All that needs to change in terms of the steering mechanism is that the hydraulic fluid in each hose will no longer be pumped in a synchronized direction, as each side will have a different agenda. Likewise, engine speed and direction will be independent of each other, which, like the steering, gets its direction from the software within the joystick housing.
This is pretty much par for the course for any joystick set-up, but what is unique is Evinrude’s use of a gyroscopic sensor, instead of relying on GPS to tell it which way it was, or is, heading. The same principle is used in most autopilot systems, and for a joystick it will be equally as effective. It should be faster-acting and less affected by wind and tide than a set-up requiring input from a group of satellites calculating your heading from the Earth’s orbit. There is a flipside, and that is the fact that you have no hold station facility. To be fair, this is a cool feature when everyone else is twisting the wheel and shifting the sticks to stay put.
If things blow up, you have two-stage control, enabling the skipper to increase thrust by simply pushing the joystick further in the desired direction to overcome the elements. Unlike other joystick systems, iDock uses old-school hydraulic steering rather than electronic. Apart from the reassurance of not having the risk of an electronic failure, it reduces the cost, and at a whisker under £6,000, iDock is generally cheaper than the competition. It does of course mean that the hydraulics will need secondary control from the joystick when it is activated. Sadly it is not possible to retrospectively fit this joystick package to any existing E-Tec G2 engines, as the new iDock-compatible engines have a more powerful power steering module, which is necessary for fast engine vectoring.