We test boats and try to give buyers as much information as possible to guide their buying decision into the right vessel for their needs. However, we regret to say that we rarely come to grips with the most important factor of all. Occasionally we obliquely mention it, but it is a difficult and problematical subject to discuss in public. That rarely mentioned factor is the character of the builder, or the president of the company. His or her attitude makes all of the difference when it comes to a consumer having a satisfactory experience with a boat. And the same thing holds true for the boat dealer. In most cases, the difference between a boater having a successful boat experience and a miserable one rests on the experience, character, and integrity of the boat builder and the dealer. How can you tell which builders and dealers have those three important characteristics and which don’t? There is not sure-fire way, but we will give you one litmus test to use.
We tested the ZF Marine JMS or Joystick Maneuvering System on a brand new Viking Yachts 60C.
Sure, we’ve all heard how pods are all the rage and can allow a 16 year old to dock a 40 footer with ease. And we’ve also heard how you can have joystick functionality with stern drives. Now, however, the design team at ZF Marine, longtime innovators in marine transmissions and drive systems, has charted a new course that will allow full joystick functionality and more in larger boats with only inboard engines and bow thrusters. That’s right, inboard engines, and we think professional captains will like it as well as owner/operators. Viking Yachts, Tiara, and MasterCraft are the first to adopt this breakthrough system on their new boats, and we had to try it out for ourselves. Coming soon is a first look video as Capt. Steve tests the system out in a Viking Yachts 60 Convertible in South Florida. We’re currently editing the footage, but until it’s done, take a look at his report on how it comes together. The big news is it can be retrofitted!
Capt. Steve Says...
Joysticks are great for increasing the confidence level in boat buyers, and as a result, larger boats are being sold, which is good news for everybody. But as a professional captain, I’ve been in enough bars swapping sea stories about getting into a jam in a tight spot to learn that these hassles aren’t just for the amateurs. But the sizes of the boats we, as professionals, typically operate don’t come out of the factory with pods or stern drives. They’re usually large inboard boats that entail a lot of work and maintenance and they can be difficult to dock in tight places with cross currents with just two inboard engines.
ZF has been claiming that their new product brings joystick handling to large motoryachts, so, of course, I have to try one myself to see if the promotional hype was true. But first... the installation.
The main point of contact of the ZF J.M.S.
What Does It Take
So let’s say I have either an existing 70 footer, or I’m having one built. What does it take to add JMS or Joystick Maneuvering System to my boat? Turns out, not much. The requirements are simple. Aside from the obvious... a joystick and a control screen, you need...
1. Any engines with ZF marine gears with digital controlling systems and trolling valves. ZF’s popular, and time tested, Smart Command system allows the engine, transmission, and trolling valves to talk to the…
2. Black box computer controller, and
3. A hydraulic bow thruster.
Now to be clear, an electric bow thruster will work, but its inherent problems (i.e. limited thrust, limited battery life and time constraints before overheating and shutting down) preclude its effective use in this system. Particularly so with some of the additional features.
ZF reports that some customers have actually added the system simply because they wanted the hydraulic bow thruster (and indeed this was the case on our test boat) in addition to their Smart Command and therefore simply adding the whole system was a no brainer. Most boats being built will already have the control systems and thruster, so adding the third component, the computer controller, is such a cost effective choice, that its popularity is already adding a buzz to the waterfront equivalent of the office water cooler. If you do not have a trolling vale on your ZF tranny, you also need to retrofit that.
Coming up next with Capt Steve video...
What does it do?
What are the back-up features?
What happens when you lose an engine?
Stay tuned to BoatTEST.com...