Tech Files

Tech File: Controls

Shipshape: Simplifying Boat Control and Improving Maneuverability

Credit: Emerson
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Any competition requires skill — but when the stakes are high and seas are rough, the right technology can set contenders apart. On the popular National Geographic reality series "Wicked Tuna" and its spinoff, "Wicked Tuna: Outer Banks," commercial fishing crews compete to reel in elusive bluefin tuna. To brave North Atlantic waters off the coast of Gloucester, where the series is set, and bring in fish that are several hundred pounds, it's critical that captains outfit their boats with marine technology that simplifies control and improves maneuverability.

Before his vessel Hard Merchandise returned to the water for this year's bluefin season, "Wicked Tuna" star Captain Dave Marciano of Angelica's Fisheries fishing charters upgraded it with the AVENTICS Marex 3D joystick from Emerson. He had added a new bow thruster to gain better control of the bow of his boat when fighting fish. The new joystick offers an alternative steering solution that can be used instead of a traditional steering wheel, giving Marciano single-handed, highly precise steering control.

Credit: Emerson

Comfort meets precision

From pursuing and reeling in bluefin to docking, it's critical that a ship moves exactly as a captain intends. When Marciano fights tuna, he moves his boat astern to reduce the amount of fishing line between him and the fish. In this backward direction, the bow of the vessel is at the mercy of the wind and sea conditions. Hard Merchandise has a single engine with reversing gear, and the Marex 3D joystick provides intelligent, intuitive control — even in tight spaces — that can precisely maneuver fishing boats despite strong gusts or current. This allows Marciano to easily and precisely steer the bow in the direction required to keep the fish directly behind the boat.

Compared to handling the wheel and control levers simultaneously, the three-axis joystick combines engine and thruster control in one device and significantly simplifies maneuvering. From lateral movements to rotation, the vessel responds precisely to every movement. This makes it possible for the captain to effortlessly steer the vessel single-handedly, increasing comfort and ease. As the joystick was developed and certified according to IACS guidelines, it also improves safety.

The precision the sophisticated joystick provides comes from its smart control software. The Marex 3D controller processes commands from the joystick and performs vessel-specific vector calculations for controlling the main propulsions and thrusters. It also provides the interfaces to all the standard thrusters on the market.

For even greater operational control and comfort, the Marex 3D joystick control can be configured to include position hold functions when connected to a GPS sensor and high-performance drives. At the push of a button, the captain can maintain boat direction, position or both — which is incredibly useful when fishing. Alternatively, it can control engines and thrusters separately in thruster mode.

Marex 3D is easy to retrofit. When installing it on yachts, speed boats and pleasure craft equipped with Marex OS, the joystick uses the system's existing cables and requires no extra cabling or special interfaces. The controller and joysticks may be installed at any control station. The Marex 3D saves space and costs, as additional control elements for transverse thrusters aren't required.

Credit: Emerson

Credit: Emerson

Flexible control and greater maneuverability

Marex 3D isn't the first time that Marciano trusted Emerson and its boating technology. In 2018, he upgraded the push-pull cable system in his vessel the Falcon with the company's Marex OS III electronic control system for pitch propellers, jet propulsions and reversing gear systems. Then, in 2020, he upgraded the controls on Hard Merchandise with the Marex OS III.

The Marex OS III system, which is easy to integrate and accommodates up to six control stations, eliminates the additional force required to manually operate control heads between stations. This offers greater crew agility and is much easier on the body while improving boat maneuverability. By integrating the Marex OS III, the crew can increase the number of controls stations by up to six.

For maximum flexibility, the Marex OS III system features various control heads, a configurable display, propulsion controllers, operating modules as well as other accessories. For the Falcon, Captain Marciano chose a tall control head for the helm and quarter deck and one with a lower profile for the transom, where the most intense fishing tends to happen.

With the Marex OS III, Marciano can accomplish a wider range of fishing maneuvers, including trolling. This maneuver requires low speeds that allow the crew to slowly drag bait behind the boat. To perform the trolling maneuver, the system allows Marciano to control a trolling valve and reduce propeller speed at a given engine speed. This allows the boat to achieve slower speeds than normal gears can.

Smooth sailing

Rod-and-reel fishing for bluefin tuna is incredibly challenging — and rewarding. To catch these fast, smart fish requires extensive skill and the right tools and marine technology. Hard Merchandise has a single engine with reversing gear, and its new bow thruster will make the boat more maneuverable while fighting fish in the astern direction. The new Marex 3D joystick will allow Marciano to control engine revolutions per minute (RPM), gear direction and bow thruster with a single hand, all at the same time. This precise control will let Marciano and his crew focus their energy and attention on the catch.


July 2023