The new Evinrude iDock system not only provides joystick maneuverability on any twin engine installation with new Evinrude E-TEC G2 150-hp to 300-hp outboards, it does it in a simplified way. There are no buttons to push, confusing read-outs, or set-ups; the system is calibrated for each boat model when it is installed.
In addition to new boats, it can also be installed on repowers with new E-TEC G2 150-hp to 300-hp engines.
The icing on the cake is that the system is available for under $6,000, making it far less expensive than joysticks of other brands.
For boat owners who are new to the sport as well as those who are experienced, there are many situations where maneuvering a boat can be intimidating and potentially damaging. Docking in particular can feature tight fits and odd angles that require time, patience, and some seamanship knowledge in executing smooth docking. Then, there is the embarrassment of a botched docking in front of friends and on-lookers. This is perhaps the worst part of docking for many people.
The Evinrude iDock is designed to completely revolutionize this process. With a simple, intuitive control the iDock joystick allows users to side-step their boat or pivot it in place, making piloting and docking simple and easy.
Lower Cost. Evinrude uses technology already built into the engines it is installed on, making it significantly more affordable than other similar joysticks emerging on the market.
Do not confuse joystick steering with joystick driving. While we did drive the boat around the marina with the joystick, it’s still more appropriate to “drive” in the traditional manner.
Designed for the E-TEC G2. The latest generation of Evinrude outboards, the Evinrude E-TEC G2, comes with steering integrated in the engine housing which makes it perfectly suited to interfacing with hydraulic steering from the helm’s wheel, but also digital signal from a joystick as well.
The goal of Evinrude’s iDock joystick piloting system is to be entirely intuitive for the user. Boats are a major investment, and while the novice may be more likely to approach docking with anxiety and lack of confidence, a seasoned owner knows it doesn’t take much when docking for things to go wrong.
Joining this simple, easy-to-understand joystick interface with advanced aircraft gyroscope sensors puts a powerful, responsive, and reliable bit of technology to use. The gyroscope delivers a “smart” control by factoring wind and current to deliver the same range of motion tied to joystick movement every time.
The learning curve in operation is therefore short, and the universality of the joystick coupled with its repeatable response means even a novice can approach docking with confidence.
When the wind or current is particularly strong, the iDock has a second-stage response. This requires simply pushing the joystick further in the desired direction to double the thrust instead of pushing a button to do so.
The joystick can be purchased with a new boat already installed or it can be installed with an Evinrude E-TEC G2 twin engine repower installation. This also serves to drive down the cost of the iDock installation drastically, making it a boating game-changer because of its attractive price.
Before we start using the system, we first activate it by putting the traditional control in neutral, then pressing the power button on the joystick to turn the unit on. It will not work otherwise -- an important safety feature.
The joystick essentially has two power settings: 1) the default RPM setting in the low range; 2) stage two, which has more resistance to the touch so the operator immediately knows the system is in the boosted power position. When progressively more power is needed, the joystick is pushed further in one direction or another. This is intuitive.
There are no buttons to push for the higher range of power, so the driver’s eyes never have to leave the target, and his hand never has to leave the joystick.
We start out with just the simple tasks first. Moving the stick forward will move the boat forward. If winds or current begin to affect the boat, the aircraft gyroscope sensor will act to autocorrect. Move the stick back to reverse the engines and stop the boat, and, of course, to back the boat into a slip. Releasing the stick springs it back to its neutral position.
Also, and as expected, moving the stick to the side will cause the boat to slide sideways, and the same goes for moving the boat in a diagonal direction. Basically, the boat will follow the hand of the operator, regardless of which direction it is moved to. Rotating the stick will add a pivot to the movements and “twist” the boat one way or the other.
Our Test. In practice, the iDock performed as advertised in terms of intuitive response and second-stage boosting with increased pressure on the joystick.
We tested the iDock by docking a pontoon boat in a cross-breeze. In many ways, the pontoon acted like a sail as we side-stepped, catching the cross-breeze and pulling the bow off the intended destination as we maneuvered toward it. This allowed us to experience the gyroscope in action, as it worked to counteract this to keep the boat moving parallel toward the slip -- perfectly sideways -- after lining the boat up with the destination space.
The iDock can spin a boat on a dime -- 360 degrees -- and it does it in a professional manner. An experienced captain’s cardinal rule of docking is to never go faster than you want to hit the dock, i.e., move slowly. And, when we put the iDock system in a 360 maneuver, it slowly moved clockwise or counter-clockwise, giving the operator plenty of time to make a correction if necessary.
Whether backing into a slip, or going forward into it, or moving the boat sideways to lay it up alongside a dock between tow boats, the iDock make the experience exponentially easier and quicker. No sweat.
Now just as we wouldn’t take the engine controls and continually slam them back and forth from forward to reverse, so too should we not do so with the joystick. It is controlling mechanical components, including transmissions, and a gentle touch is key to both longevity and controllability.
Patience. We have found that we don’t need to move the stick far beyond the neutral position. Small movements, and then patience when waiting for the boat to respond, are what it takes to maintain safe operation. As always, whether using the joystick or not, keep the thought process ahead of the boat.
Even though the system must be carefully calibrated for every individual boat model, taking into account length, beam, displacement, center of gravity, and other factors, not all boats will respond with the same alacrity to the joystick’s command. That is because of a number of obvious reasons, such as length, weight, wetted surface -- and the distance of the engines apart.
For example, in our tests of a pontoon boat with two widely-spaced engines, and a deep-V center console with twin engines as close together as possible, there was a noticeable difference in reaction times. Obviously, with the engines and props close together, they simply do not have the “leverage” or twisting movement of a pair of engines widely spaced. As a result, the pontoon boat was faster to react than was the center console.
Nevertheless, the center console was always able to execute the desired maneuvers; we simply took a little longer.
Evinrude’s iDock system comes with an MSRP of $5,999, which includes the joystick, module, and hydraulic hoses. This is about one-third the cost of similar systems offered by other outboard engine makers.
When comparing outboard prices among brands (which are all roughly in the same ballpark), by factoring in the cost of the joystick features, the Evinrude total system with engines and joystick combined generally comes out significantly less expensive than other brands.
After testing the new iDock system on two very different types of boats, we came away impressed with the simplicity of the system and how easy it made even the toughest docking maneuvers. Not only can a boat equipped with the Evinrude iDock system do a better job of maneuvering than even a veteran captain could with only throttles and gears, it can do things like side-stepping and going on the diagonal, which are nearly impossible otherwise.
Perhaps most importantly, since there are other joystick systems on the market, the most impressive aspect of the Evinrude system, other than its simplicity, is its price -- which is significantly less than the competition. And, it can be installed on any boat with new Evinrude E-TEC G2 150-hp to 300-hp engines.