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Boat Sense


What is luxury on a sport fishing or family boat? Ask any 10 owners and you are likely to get an equal number of answers, with a laundry list of "functional luxury" must have additions for your boat, from bow thrusters to thru-stern windlass.
By Capt. John N. Raguso
Boat steering systems are all the rage these days for the big sportfishing machines; the good news is that joy stick controls are starting to filter down to twin outboard powered boats in the 23- to 30-range too.

Once considered an esoteric upgrade for single inboard engine cruisers and lobster boats, bow thrusters should have considerable appeal to anyone who drives a single outboard powered center console, dual console or cabin boat in the 21- to 26-foot range. Things can get hairy when you are trying to dock your boat into a confined dock space with both a crosswind and current that are collaborating to ruin your day. This is where a bow thruster comes into play and can create true peace of mind with the flick of a switch. Sure, they make a lot of whirring noises when you energize the controls, but there’s beauty in all of that racket when you can effortlessly bring your bow back into the wind and slide easily into your marina slip.

Let’s face it, despite their extremely top-shelf cost, roto-molded “designer” coolers like the Yeti, Engel, Icy-Tek, Canyon, Igloo Sportsman and others are here to stay. Independent tests have shown that they keep ice longer, fish cooler and beverages frostier than their plain-Jane counterparts and there’s a certain “Cadillac” element to the purchase as well, telling your neighbors down at the marina that you will settle for nothing but the best. They’re also more durable and “grizzly-proof.” Top builders are starting to include these as either standard or optional equipment on their boats, so in some cases, they are making the choice for you. I have used the Canyon and Igloo Sportsman next-gen coolers on my MarCeeJay and both have performed beyond my wildest expectations - they really deliver as advertised. I have kept ice in them for over a week, sitting out in the hot August sun! Some of the secrets to their collective big chill factor are a thick 2-inch urethane foam floatation throughout, sturdy outer and inner roto-molded polyethylene skins that clean up easy and don’t retain odors, plus heavy-duty hardware that keeps them locked up tight as a drum along with gasketed lids to retain the internal frostiness.

Some boat manufacturers are now offering the ability to control your anchor windlass from the helm or anywhere else onboard via wireless connectivity. Yet another option is to work the windlass from the bow via standard electronic pushbutton controls, where you can better see what’s going on with your anchor, chain and rode from firsthand observation. Both methods offer increased flexibility to the standard helm-mounted control that relies on communication with another crewmember to know if everything in the anchor system is working up to expectations. Both options are something to ponder when ordering a new boat or upgrading an older favorite.

Once considered an expensive novelty, light emitting diode (LED) lighting is the new normal and more manufacturers are offering LEDs as standard issue on their 2017 and upcoming 2018 model year boats. Besides producing a crisper and cleaner source of illumination with enhanced visibility, LED lighting uses significantly less 12V battery power to get the job done. How much? Name brand LED running lights (Perko, Hella, etc.) consume over 90% less battery power than their incandescent brethren, are more durable and weather resistant and typically hold their brightness levels for significantly longer time periods too! I have upgraded my 228 EdgeWater cc to LEDs and will probably do the same to its little sister the 185cc at some point soon. If you have the option to add LED Nav, cockpit and interior lights to your ride, go for it, you will not be disappointed and it’s worth the investment. LED running lights are way cool too and the next-gen models are smaller, more powerful and use less battery power to function.

Boat steering systems are all the rage these days for the big sportfishing machines and their capabilities are simply mind-boggling. But the good news is that this technology is starting to filter down to twin outboard powered boats in the 23- to 30-range too. Teleflex introduced their SeaStar Optimus 360 Joystick a while back and it has been a great success ever since. It is also the basis of Evinrude’s i-Dock System, which provides 360-degree maneuvering agility with fingertip control, allowing the operator to negotiate crowded areas, dock the vessel, or stall the boat over an inshore rip or local wreck. Smart Cylinders with rudder position sensors allow twin Evinrude E-TEC engines to be controlled independently or in tandem to maneuver the boat sideways, diagonally, forward and backwards, rotate on its axis or even crab-over sideways to accomplish tricky docking maneuvers.I actually field tested this system at a local boat show and it works as advertised.

Yamaha’s Helm Master uses flexible, streamlined rigging that digitally connects an enhanced binnacle control, a high-definition LCD screen, electronic steering, an electronic ignition panel, a theft-deterrent system and an innovative joystick. Together these components form a true drive-by-wire system that responds instantly to your command. Helm Master is compatible with in-line F200 outboards in twin configurations and 4.2L V6 Offshore and all V8 F350 models in twin, triple or quad configurations. It's calibrated for your specific boat and application, offers second station flexibility, with custom user settings. Mercury also offers a version of this unique outboard fingertip control system for their Verado four-strokes called Joystick Piloting for Outboards, or JPO for short. It has been upgraded for 2017 to include a special “Skyhook” feature that allows for holding position over a wreck or reef using an internal GPS and no anchor—now that really is something special!

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