Volvo IPS Joystick Control: Simple Captaining for New Boats

We get asked a lot whether new yacht owners will be comfortable piloting larger personal vessels (45ft+) by themselves, and without a captain. Although older vessels require quite a bit of skill and technique when it comes to close-range piloting, the newer yachts with either the Axius (Mercruiser) or IPS system (Volvo) allow for ease of use by any pilot, from the veteran sea-goer to newly-christened waterman. I’d venture to say, even a teenager with gaming skills could pilot a 50ft yacht like a pro- no experience necessary. The close-range piloting is no longer fighting single or twin screw transmissions; it’s far more intuitive and natural.boat-photo-volvo-ips-joy-stick

The joystick is perhaps the most well-known feature of Volvo Penta IPS, making it possible to dock in a new and completely intuitive way. Since its release it has been accompanied by many other smart features, such as Dynamic Positioning System and Sportfish mode. The latest generation of Volvo Penta controls has integrated buttons for Low-speed mode, Single-lever mode and Cruise control, making it even easier to enjoy boating with Volvo Penta IPS.

See more at: Volvo Penta IPS

There’s little difference between Mercruiser’s Zeus pods and the Volvo IPS pods… except that Volvo’s support for mechanical issues might help you gear toward their IPS systems.


Surface Drives: Props halfway out of the water? 1 Word: Efficiency

When most people hear the term surface drive, they think speed and high performance, but what these rather specialized propulsion units are really about is efficiency. Because the propeller blades break the water’s surface — they are called surface-piercing propellers — the engines powering them run under less load than with fully submerged props. Half of the propeller spins in the water. The other half rotates above the surface. This lets the boat make better use of the power of its engines and go faster than one with submerged props. (BoatingMag)

Check out this video of Surface Drives in action:

The engineering for this technology has been attributed to two independent inventors/innovators/enthusiasts: the late Renato ‘Sonny’ Levi and Howard M. Arneson. Sonny Levi had pioneered and developed his surface drive technologies in Malaysia, while Arneson followed for ultimate performance with a larger budget in California. You can find Arneson surface drives on the market today.


The surface piercing or ventilated propeller is a propeller that is designed to intentionally cleave the water and entrain atmospheric air to fill the void, which means that the resulting gas layer surrounding the propeller blade consists of air instead of water vapour. Less energy is thus used, and the surface piercing propeller generally enjoys lower drag than the supercavitating propeller. The surface piercing propeller also has wedge shaped blades, and propellers may be designed that can operate in both supercavitating and surface piercing mode. (Wiki)

The Arneson Surface Drives are among the most efficient marine propulsion systems in the world. Their surface-piercing propeller design reduces underwater drag by 50% compared to conventional submerged propeller drive systems. The only surfaces to contact the water are propeller blades and a protective skeg. This results in higher overall speed, quicker acceleration, and a better payload to power ratio… AND… 50% less drag significantly improves fuel economy while lowering operating costs.

For work, pleasure, gas, diesel, or turbine power systems capable of torque outputs exceeding 30,000 ft. pounds, the Arneson Surface Drives come in ten model sizes and various configurations for each model. Available in, Aluminum or bronze castings, straight or drop-center models, 12 or 24 volt compatible systems, plus the new Arneson Dual-Fin surface drives available in the ASD8 and ASD10 models.

Comparisons-1(Photo credit: Arneson Industries)

Advantages of the surface drive by Arneson:

  • 15% to 30% speed increase over conventional systems.
  • 15% to 30% increase in fuel efficiency.
  • More efficient than I/O’s
  • Corrosion resistant
  • Size adaptability, from 100 hp to over 10,000 hp applications.
  • Low maintenance requirements.
  • Ability to adjust propeller submergence while underway.
  • Ability to adjust submergence to match horsepower output permits conversion of more thrust as appropriately needed.
  • Propellers ventilate to the surface rather than cavitate under the hull reducing noise and destructive hull and prop erosion.
  • Flexibility in engine installation location.
  • Less Vibration than Inboard or I/O applications
  • Shallow water operation (elimination of underwater appendages).
  • Accessible propeller servicing.
  • Steerage by the positive thrust of the propeller and not by the propeller thrust to the rudder. This is equivalent to sports car rack-and-pinion steering performance.
  • For all it’s sophisticated performance, it is a less mechanically complex and fragile design than other propulsion systems.
  • Most models are available in Magnesium Bronze or Aluminum.
  • No limitations to shaft angle, blade top clearance, draft to restrict selection of optimum diameter propeller.
  • Adaptable to a wide range of engine applications, whether gas, diesel, or turbine.

It might come as a surprise that a boat doesn’t necessarily need to be designed for surface drives. A V-bottom would need some rocker to generate bow lift because surface drives don’t create any, but a bottom designed for straight inboards or sterndrives can see performance and efficiency gains with surface drives. Among the first performance V-bottoms to break the 100 mph mark was a nonstepped Hustler 32 powered by 630 hp engines and Arneson drives.

The biggest downsides to surface drives are that they make docking more challenging because they lack the blade surface of a submerged prop and that they extend well aft of the hull, sticking out like appendages. But when you’re in search of speed and efficiency, looks aren’t everything. (BoatingMag)



Top 10 Boating Apps for the New Age Boaters

For the Tech Savvy Boater: Top 10 Boating Apps

The App Store has everything for the tech savvy boater, from navigation, charting, weather reports, down to the boating basics. Don’t forget to bring your smart phone or tablet on board! Here are a few of our favorites to use while out on the water.


1. BlooSee

Take the ocean further…in your pocket! Explore information on anchorages, dive sites, marinas, hazards and so much more. Navigation station with position, speed and course, layer wind forecast on top of maps.

2. BoatUS Towing 

Instant access to 24-Hour assistance on the water, to the world’s largest on the water towing fleet. In the unlikely event that you will need it, the BoatUS Towing App provides GPS coordinates for when you need on the water support. Oh and did we mention? Boatbound comes with free BoatUS towing!

3. Boaters Pocket Reference

Not just for the novice boater, the Boaters Pocket Reference is a combination of boating information and nautical calculators. Caters to all levels of boating expertise with a wide variety of content including 457 illustrations, photographs and a plethora of charts and graphs.

4. Boat Essentials – USCG Safety Gear

This is the first gear list that takes into account the type of boating you will actually be doing, whether it be the wide open seas or a small lake. This app can be set up to give you just what you need along with items that boating experts have determined are extremely useful.

5. WindGuru 

This simple, basic, useful and free app can provide you with worldwide coverage of current wind strength and direction.

6. Garmin BlueChart Mobile

Easily plan and view routes with this free app. Highly accurate and detailed maps with shaded depth contours and inter-tidal zones. Plan your trips around points of interest, see weather conditions, temperatures, dew points, wind direction/speeds. With the touch of a finger, search through marinas for marine service and find the phone number, hours of operation, and amenities and services available.

7. Float Plan

An easy add on to your safety gear. The Float Plan app takes a traditional, extremely useful concept into a few quick and easy steps.

8. Boat Ramps

A free app from for trailer boaters. Find the locations of and directions to more than 35,000 boat ramps nationwide.

9. Pro Knot 

Don’t know how to tie a bowline? What about a fisherman’s knot? Get step-by-step instructions with large illustrations, on how to tie over 30 different knots.

10. Whale Alert

For all you whale lovers, Whale Alert benefits right whale conservation and the maritime community by depicting active right whale areas. Other features include recommended routes, areas to be avoided and near real-time warnings of the presence of North Atlantic right whales.


Skyhook – Your “Electronic Anchor” from MerCruiser – Dynamic Positioning

As a Captain and Marine Surveyor, I’ve had the pleasure to captain quite a few boats with this new technology, and I approve! The Axius joystick system is great for close-range piloting, and makes the job of parking in slips quite simple. Skyhook is an extension of that system, allowing the Axius-enabled drives to maintain a solid position while you’re fishing or just out at sea.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a boat with the new joystick technology, give us a call! I can help you to understand your systems as I survey your yacht.


Keep your boat in place with the push of a button!

Mercury Skyhook digital anchor allows you to lock your boat’s position using a GPS satellite antenna. Then, working with your engines and drives, Skyhook maintains your position and heading regardless of wind or current.

Key features

• Ideal for holding the boat over a fishing spot, waiting for bridges to open or holding position while next in line at a fuel docking station.

• GPS technology and electronic compass automatically control shifting, throttling and steering to maintain heading and approximate position.

• Simple to operate – just place the levers in neutral and push the Skyhook button to lock position and heading.

• Standard on Zeus and Joystick Pilotingequipped boats. Available on Axius boats with Premier Package.


Source: Mercury Marine