June 4, 2023
When built-in with a number of engines, right now’s superior autopilot techniques can maintain a ship in place.
Courtesy Yamaha Marine

A brand new breed of autopilot is rising, and it’s including much more angling advantages than typical autopilot techniques. It’s all taking place due to the mixing of autopilot techniques with digital throttle and shift controls, steering, GPS, and chart-plotter and heading sensors.

Mercury, MerCruiser, Suzuki, Volvo Penta and Yamaha all supply built-in techniques, both factory-rigged or put in aftermarket by certified sellers.

Superior options embrace the power to fine-tune boatspeed, hold a ship in place, keep a heading whereas drifting, cease and maintain the place upon arrival, and extra. Most—however not all—are built-in with low-speed joystick maneuvering techniques.

Digital Driver

Digital throttle and shift, generally often called drive-by-wire controls, for marine engines is the enabler of those new options. Lots of right now’s outboards now not depend on mechanical cables to attach the helm controls to the engine. Somewhat, throttle and shift instructions are delivered digitally by way of wires to the engine by way of pc modules. 

One function of this digital merger is the automated slowing of the boat’s pace throughout turns because the boat follows a programmed chart-plotter path to a fishing spot. Often called Route Smoothing, it’s accessible on the FishHunter Drive autopilot system, which integrates Furuno’s NavPilot 300 and Suzuki Marine’s SPC 2.0 engine controls on outboards starting from 115 to 350 hp. It really works with single or a number of Suzuki outboards.

“On turns of greater than 30 levels on a chart-plotter route, the FishHunter Drive will progressively sluggish boatspeed because it approaches the flip,” says Eric Kunz, senior product supervisor for Furuno USA. This helps guarantee the security of crew who may in any other case be jostled about throughout a sudden onerous flip at pace.

The FishHunter Drive will carry out this operate on any sort of route programmed into networked chart plotter, together with Garmin’s Auto Steering operate, which robotically calculates the most secure route round landmasses, shallows, and different hazards primarily based on chart information and the chosen waypoint. 

Yamaha Helm Master system
Yamaha’s Helm Grasp system allows an array of advantages, together with the power to robotically cease the boat in your fishing spot.
Courtesy Yamaha Marine

You Have Arrived!

New-age autopilot techniques additionally will ship your boat to a fishing spot, steering the course to a particular waypoint and slowing or stopping the boat when it arrives. 

Yamaha Marine’s Helm Grasp EX engages the Observe Level function and Waypoint Arrival operate so, because the boat cruises towards a programmed waypoint, it is going to progressively sluggish the boat at a distance from the waypoint you select. You may then enter whichever SetPoint operate you select (StayPoint, FishPoint or DriftPoint) on the last waypoint. It really works with single or a number of outboards.

“This will provide you with and your crew a chance to get sort out prepared and determine fish the spot primarily based on the ocean circumstances,” says David Meeler, supervisor of latest product introductions for Yamaha Marine. 

The Furuno/Suzuki FishHunter Drive can also sluggish the boat because it approaches and cease when it arrives. “The boat will robotically decelerate and allow Level Lock to cease and maintain the vessel over your favourite fishing spot or vacation spot,” Kunz explains. 

Mercury Skyhook system
Mercury’s Skyhook capabilities can be found by way of the Joystick
Courtesy Mercury Marine

Digital Anchor

Consider a digital anchor as a type of autopilot, however as a substitute of taking your boat to a vacation spot, it retains your boat at the vacation spot. Guided by GPS and different sensors, the station-keeping function typically requires a number of independently steered engines.

The idea was first launched about eight years in the past by Mercury Marine with the Skyhook function in its Joystick Piloting system. Since then, it’s been refined and augmented with extra options. What’s extra, different corporations comparable to Volvo Penta and Yamaha launched comparable performance quickly thereafter. 

“Skyhook was a game-changer,” says Rob Hackbarth, director of controls and rigging for Mercury. As we speak’s Skyhook capabilities inside Joystick Piloting can be found for boats with a number of Mercury outboards, MerCruiser sterndrives or Zeus diesel pod drives.

Probably the most helpful of Skyhook’s options for boating anglers is BowHook, which maintains the boat place—over a wreck, as an example—however permits the boat to take a pure heading. If you could alter the heading, you are able to do so with a twist of the joystick management.

“You should utilize the unique Skyhook function, which maintains each place and heading, however it may additionally require an important deal extra steering, throttle and shift,” Hackbarth says. BowHook serves as a gentler and quieter technique of holding place, and it saves gas.

Suzuki’s Level Lock and Yamaha’s FishPoint techniques are comparable. FishPoint presents the extra profit of selecting whether or not you need to put the boat’s bow or stern immediately over the spot. This helps anglers alter for various fishing kinds, in addition to present and wind circumstances. 

Drift Alignment

For anglers who prefer to drift-fish, capabilities such because the Mercury DriftHook, Suzuki/Furuno Sabiki Lock and Yamaha DriftPoint can present huge benefits. All are designed to take care of the boat’s heading (as chosen by the skipper) whereas permitting for a pure drift with wind and present. 

All are nice for kite-fishing or working a wreck, and Suzuki touts the hands-free function as ideally fitted to working Sabiki rigs to catch stay bait.

Yamaha enhances its DriftPoint function with DriftPoint Observe, which guides the boat to float alongside a route programmed right into a networked chart plotter. That is actually helpful when making an attempt to observe a depth contour for species comparable to flounder.

“While you need to repeat the drift, merely choose the waypoint on the high of your drift route and choose Observe Level,” Meeler explains. “Helm Grasp EX will use its autopilot to take you again to the start of your drift to begin over once more, notifying crew of Waypoint Arrival earlier than it will get there.”

Editor’s Tip: When shopping for your subsequent saltwater fishing boat, fastidiously take into account whether or not to incorporate a joystick system as elective gear, conserving in thoughts that these techniques aren’t solely for maneuvering in tight quarters or to ease the duty of docking. As a result of joystick techniques combine digital engine controls, steering, GPS and extra, in addition they allow the superior autopilot options and angling advantages mentioned on this story. -Jim Hendricks, Electronics Editor, Fishing Group