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February 26, 2013

Slight of Hand

Three new joystick-steering systems for outboards simplify docking and improve control

Yamaha Helm Master

Yamaha Outboards’ Helm Master system allows you to dock in extremely tight spots using the integral joystick control.

Yamaha Outboards has partnered with Volvo Penta to create the new Helm Master system. Yamaha is quick to point out that this is much more than joystick steering, calling it a fully ­integrated boat-control system.

With no cables or hydraulic hoses emanating from the helm, components link up via digital electronics. This includes electronic wheel steering of twin or triple Yamaha outboards, fly‑by‑wire throttle and shift, keyless ignition, new CommandLink 6Y9 color display and, of course, a joystick control. You can also program a new Trim Assist feature to auto-trim the engines to preset levels at various rpm points.

I used the Helm Master joystick on the Tennessee River in October 2012 on an Everglades 355T with triple F350s and a Grady-White Freedom 335 with twin F350s. I preferred the triples, as these gave me more low-speed control in the river’s 4 mph current.

Helm Master is schedule to be available in March 2013, but only on select new boats powered by Yamaha’s 4.2-liter V-6 outboards and the F350 V-8. Yamaha would not reveal the cost of the system but said boatbuilders will set the retail price.
Joysticks for outboards are finally here. Yet, just as important, they’ve ushered in a new era in control systems for big outboard-powered fishing boats.