Optimus 360 Joystick System

For over 60 years, SeaStar Solutions has led the way in terms of marine and outdoor technology from single lever throttle shift controls, to the jackplate. Upon closer inspection, their impact on the boating world has been significant to say the least, and we need not look any further than the helm – steering to be precise. Fast forward to now, where SeaStar has created a retrofittable, intuitive solution that works in conjunction with twin, triple and quad outboard engines.  They call it, the Optimus 360 Joystick Control System. Designed for slow maneuvering, all from the convenience of a precision joystick, the Optimus 360 Joystick is actually an upgraded add-on to SeaStar’s Electronic Power Steering (EPS) system.  Comprised of multiple components which work together to make light of controlling the vessel, the advent of the joystick brings close quarter maneuvering to an entirely new level of ease.

Editor’s Report by Capt. Greg Thornton

handling

SeaStar’s Optimus 360 Joystick System imparts boat handling confidence, when it comes to close-quarter maneuvering.

joystick

The Optimus 360 Joystick has revolutionized the way that onboard slow maneuvers are handled – literally.

Key Features

  • Unique, ergonomic, weather-proof
  • Three-axis joystick
  • Low-speed maneuvers / progressive throttling
  • Compatible with 3rd party autopilot systems
  • Optional multi-joystick capability

Mission

SeaStar has created the Optimus 360 Joystick to ensure that slow, close quarter vessel maneuvering is made easier, and from the convenience of a centralized (or multi location), drive-by-wire joystick control.

Design

design

The design install for the Optimus 360 Joystick is based around SeaStar’s EPS, whereas the vessel must have a complete and functioning EPS as a prerequisite before the joystick upgrade is possible.

Backbone Requirements

eps

The EPS ties into a NMEA 2000 network and has its own network (CAN) which runs parallel to that. Interface-wise, the Joystick and Helm control the engine movements, the Color CANtrak displays engine data, the PCM controls and actuates the hydraulic pumps, which control the SmartCylinders, which then physically control the engine steering – thus completing the EPS.

The concept for the Optimus 360 Joystick System is not new and in fact stems from the Teleflex electronic power-steering subsystem. This was SeaStar’s original power steering system which was required for the install of the original joystick. Well, today’s updated Optimus 360 Joystick is no different, as SeaStar’s Electronic Power Steering (EPS) System is still a required install, and otherwise used as the backbone for the Optimus 360 Joystick’s installation. The main 5 modules that comprise the EPS are: 

  • Optimus EPS Electronic Helm
  • Optimus SmartCylinder
  • Optimus Hydraulic Steering Pump
  • Optimus CANtrak Display
  • Optimus Pump Control Module

Once those modules are installed, the SeaStar’s EPS will be complete, at which point the Optimus 360 Joystick is able to be installed.

The Optimus 360 Joystick

mounted

The Optimus 360 Joystick can be mounted anywhere on the helm, however the [best] common practice would be to keep it within arm’s reach of wherever the helmsperson will have clear sightlines from.

The Maneuvering Modes

The actual joystick itself is rather basic, however the movements it’s capable of producing, are anything but. The ergonomic design and rubberized, weatherproof finish are perfectly suited for most any applicant, in most any weather condition.

The most important of the controls on the Joystick housing (aside from the actual joystick) are the Boost and the Take Command buttons. The Boost gives a short burst of RPMs and the Take Command will “take command” away from any other helm control.

In addition, there are two other buttons: A (Position Mode) and C (Heading Mode). Position Mode will automatically control the vessel’s position yet let the heading drift freely. The Heading Mode will automatically control the vessel’s heading but let the position drift freely. These two controls can be combined by simply pressing them both at the same time.  This Position/Heading Mode will hold both the vessel’s heading and position.           

cantrak

The CANtrak indicated vessels movement (or lack thereof) and also shows which the individual engine engagement. This can be of help when holding both the heading and position and wondering which way the current is moving.

modes

When either Heading or Position Modes are engaged, the joystick is rendered inoperable and the above warning screen displays on the CANtrak.

cantrak

In the event of a fault, the CANtrak will inform the user by one of the following Warning screens. A fault can occur due to the weather conditions being too strong to hold the vessel, therefore causing drift.

upgrade

When considering an upgrade to the Optimus 360 Joystick, take into consideration the additional room on the helm that will be needed for the Control Head (binnacles) as well as the Joystick.

beauty

The beauty of the Optimus 360 Joystick is that whichever direction one needs to move the vessel, simply moving the joystick in the direction will do the trick. Bear in mind that a little goes a long way, so when nearing the docks, short pulses will move the boat. If extra power is required, then some extra Boost can be applied.

displays

The Color CANtrak displays real time RPM data for each of the engines, as well as which gear they are currently in.

outboards

Notice how the outboards work independent of one another to create the desired propulsion direction; A simple twist of the joystick will turn the boat on her axis.

docking

With the Optimus 360 Joystick, docking is made seamless – line up, and slide over for the tie up.

fishing

In a fishing scenario, the Optimus 360 Joystick can be used to keep the transom towards the action.

Price

$17,000

Observations 

breeze

So long as there’s room to maneuver, the Optimus 360 Joystick makes doing so a breeze – especially in and around the docks.

We see the real take away here being that the Optimus 360 Joystick provides stress-free, close quarter maneuvering and dynamic vessel positioning for operators. Whether for confidence or convenience sake, it’s easy to use and will make a seasoned pro out of most anyone who tries it.