Mercury - JPO

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Captain's Report

Mercury Joystick Piloting for Outboards jpo1

The JPO system on this multi-engine outboard rig makes maneuvering around the dock a snap for even the greenest boat-owner.

Mercury Joystick Piloting for Outboards jpo2
Mercury Joystick Piloting for Outboards jpo3
The new Mercury Marine outboard joystick integrates a light ring to show when the stick is active. Move the throttles into neutral and the ring immediately lights green to show the joystick is activated. (It cannot be used when the gears and throttles are engaged.)

The lighted rings also show in which direction the thrust is being directed. We questioned this feature as frivolous at first, but during our tests, we did find ourselves glancing down at the LED light ring to verify we were moving the stick correctly. Mostly because of the progressive thrust.

Progressive Thrust

When the stick is moved a little, there’s a little thrust. When it’s a lot, there’s a lot of thrust. This characteristic is important for safety reasons. When making small moves, the boat doesn’t just lurch ahead. Remember the old boater’s adage about never approaching the dock faster than you want to hit it.

So when we just nudge the stick, the boat isn’t leaping into action. It’s a gentle maneuver that may not seem readily apparent. That’s why even if the boat does not seem to be moving, the light ring will indicate which way the boat should be moving. Then we can either let it do its thing or add more stick for more reaction. This is a useful feature and one we have not seen on conventional joysticks. And after some use in the field, we are believers that it’s a nice feature to have.

Mercury Joystick Piloting for Outboards movement
When the joystick is moved, the green LED light ring changes to show the direction of intended movement. Just a glance shows that the stick is responding properly to your commands.

Engine Operation Correlates to Stick Operation

When moving the stick forward the engines engage to drive the boat forward. Move the stick back and the engines kick into reverse. Move the stick sideways and the boat goes that direction, too. Rotate the stick and the boat pivots on its axis.

When we moved the joystick to the side, the engines split and gave separate steering inputs to each of the engines. The thrust was also separated, and this combined action is what is giving us sideways movement. Naturally, this also works on the diagonal.

Mercury Joystick Piloting for Outboards split
With the stick moved to the side, the engines split and give opposing thrust to move the boat sideways.

When we rotated the joystick the boat rotated in the same direction. In our test boat, the point of rotation seemed to be just ahead of the center console and the helm. The engines appeared to be making a circular pattern while the boat rotated around a point – it was definitely not the boat rotating around the engines themselves. That’s how well dialed-in the JPO system is.

Whatever direction in which we move the joystick, the boat moved in the corresponding direction. In this manner we could dock with exacting precision. Even if the wind and current were acting on the boat to push the bow or stern away, we could counter that and correct by rotating the stick while moving sideways.

Mercury Joystick Piloting for Outboards stationary
The JPO system has a level of precision that wasn’t possible for most operators in a twin-engine application with only throttles and shift. Even the pros like it because it’s easier and more precise than old school operations -- mostly because when the wheel is turned, both engines move together. It was impossible to get them to turn opposite one another.

With the JPO the engines turn whichever direction is required and the thrust is automatically directed forward or reverse as needed to obey the joystick’s command.


Now everyone can look like a pro, regardless of how challenging the prevailing conditions are.

The trend in boating these days is to add outboard power on center console boats, sportboats, and even on relatively large cruisers. For example, Formula has recently introduced a quad-powered 43’ (13 m) crossover bowrider/express cruiser. Intrepid has built a 47’ (14 m) sport cruiser with quads for years. Sea Ray has a new SLX 350 bowrider with multi-engines.

Multi-engine outboards are not easy for anyone to handle, but the JPO changes all of that.