November 06, 2012
Turn a twin-engine center console on a dime.
Joystick control nudges a 30-foot center console laterally into a tight dock space.
The most innovative product to come from this year's Miami International Boat Show wasn't a boat.
Teleflex Marine introduced Optimus 360 by SeaStar, an after-market electronic docking system that allows a mechanically-controlled, twin-engine outboard vessel to move port or starboard laterally, diagonally, reverse, forward,or even rotate 360 degrees at a standstill—all with the touch of an electronic joystick.
Wife, son or fishing buddy won't have trouble any longer handling your boat in tight spaces or trailer-loading. Push the joystick to port to move sideways in that direction; turn the joystick clockwise to move the boat 360 degrees; or move the joystick at an angle to motor diagonally. The joystick operation is intuitive and operator-friendly.
A boat captain can switch to joystick mode when nearing a marina or launch ramp, and the “smart” cylinders and actuators respond instantly to independently steer each outboard. Docking between two boats, reversing into a slip, and even rotating the boat 180 degrees for an easy exit are simple procedures. The exacting
joystick controls also allow a captain to manually hold over fishy bottom structure or a bait ball offshore without having to anchor (though that's not the Optimus 360's main purpose).
Traditional hydraulic steering and other engine controls are replaced by the Optimus 360's three parts: Electronic Power Steering, Electronic Shift and Throttle, and the Optimus 360 Joystick subsystems. In total, the entire system includes a joystick, electronic helm, control head, smartcylinder(s), hydraulic steering pump(s), CANtrak Display, pump control module(s) and i6800 control actuator(s). The CANtrak Display is where the boat operator can tweak Optimus 360 controls, such as steering resistance, response and other customizable options.
Don't confuse this system with bow thrusters. Bow thrusters on sportfishers make docking easier, too, as they allow port or starboard lateral movement without using the main engine. The Optimus 360 uses only the twin outboards mounted at the stern—no other propulsion systems and no forward movement necessary.
Independent, automatic steering and shifting is the secret to the Optimus 360 system.
We tested the new system at the 2012 Miami International Boat Show. Optimus 360 was installed on a Dusky center console. When moving sideways, the two engines face away from each other like the two flukes on a whale tale. Each engine operates independently moving forward, sitting in neutral or reversing gears to react to the operator's joystick movement. We noticed little-to-no “clunking” sounds from the Suzuki outboards one might expect when quickly moving in and out of gear.
Tides, winds and currents are not a factor with a built-in Boost Mode to increase effort when the conditions call for it. And there's never an issue with competing boat control, as the joystick cannot operate when the lever throttle controls are being used.
If parallel parking in the city was akin to traditional boat docking, the Optimus 360 by SeaStar takes away all the stress, do-overs and annoyed onlookers. For more information, visit www.teleflexmarine.
First Published Florida Sportsman May 2012
By Sam Hudson