Docking your boat with a joystick? It’s like a video game controller


Find it stressful to dock a boat?

Maneuvering a vessel into a tight spot, surrounded by wood, metal poles and other boats, can be difficult. Which is why joysticks are one of the hottest technology trends on Lake Erie.

The 360-degree joystick works intuitively, like a video game controller. The boat moves whatever direction you push the stick in — even sideways.

(South Shore Marine in Huron has a video game simulator to let you try out joystick docking, which you can see in the video above.)

Volvo introduced the first recreational joystick in 2004. Now that a handful of manufacturers make joystick systems for increasingly popular outboard motors, the joysticks are really catching on. Though still expensive: The sticker price on a Mercury joystick upgrade is about $30,000, said Bart Barnes, a salesman for Clemons Boats in Sandusky.

And you have to have at least two engines on your boat to have a joystick. That’s because with every flick of your fingers, a computer onboard directs the your boat’s power sources to shift, thrust, throttle and turn to get the desired result.

“With the joystick is, the technology is so advanced,” Barnes said. “When pushing the joystick to walk the boat sideways, one engine goes one way and one goes the other…. When you see it the first time you think something just broke.”

You can buy a boat with a joystick, or you can add a joystick system to the boat you already own. The systems generally come with lots of other perks, such as autopilot, which can set you on a GPS course and keep you there.

There are still tricks to using a joystick, though. Boats.com has a few here.

You’ll definitely see lots of them starting Thursday at the Mid-America Boat Show!

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