As one of the lucky ones who’s spent a good chunk of my life on and around boats, I have to admit…I’ve had my fair share of docking drama. And as any boater will privately agree (no matter how experienced they are), there is nothing more humbling, costly, dangerous, and in many cases, embarrassing/terror-inducing than trying to dock a boat with marginal control in a tight marina. Add some current, wind and of course, a gallery of people just waiting to see some “docking drama,” and it’s easy to see why the fear of docking may be the biggest limiting factor that keeps people who want to enjoy all the freedom owning and driving a boat on land. 

But the good news is, that all may change now that Volvo Penta has unveiled their fully integrated Assisted Docking System that’s specifically designed to take the stress out of close quarters maneuvering.

It works by integrating software they developed with the company’s GPS-based Dynamic Positioning System and proprietary Inboard Performance Systems (IPS), The complete package also integrates the HMI (human-machine interface) at the helm, electronics via the engine, propulsion systems and sensors, and advanced navigation processing power for a much easier boating experience, even in rough conditions.

“When we launched our joystick technology in 2006, the maneuvering and control functionality it brought to leisure boating shook up the marine industry. Delivering game-changing innovation is in our DNA,” explains Anders Thorin, Product Manager Electronics at Volvo Penta. “From our Electronic Vessel Control (EVC) system, which connects and manages the internal communications between the engine and driveline, joystick and display screen so the driver can control everything from the joystick. To our Dynamic Positioning System (DPS), which automatically maintains a boat’s heading and position, even in rough conditions. To our new Assisted Docking system, we continue our long-held ambition to make docking a boat easier for a more enjoyable boating experience.”

Since the Assisted Docking system consists of the joystick that controls the steering input and the GPS-based Dynamic Positioning System antenna to know the exact position and heading all a captain needs control close-quarters maneuvers is the joystick. The joystick-controlled docking system also takes external forces (i.e., wind, current) and the EVC system into account. The software calculates drive angles and thrust, then acts on the drift and moves the boat back to its intended course. The boat docking system keeps this course by constantly fine-tuning the steering angles and thrust.

The main benefits—the easy ability to move in straight line, stand still, slow maneuver a slow speeds, rotate around a fixed point, and side push for sideways docking—will be a boon to novice and expierenced captains alike.

“Assisted Docking is a hybrid between automated docking and manual docking,” says Ida Sparrefors, Director of Autonomous Solutions and New Business Models at Volvo Penta. “Even though, in some ways, it would have been easier to implement full automation, the beauty of this system is that it gives the captain enhanced control. With our team of experts – from software developers to test drivers – we have made it behave intuitively in all situations, so that anyone can feel like a seasoned captain.”

According to advance reports, Volvo Penta’s Assisted Docking system will be available in spring 2021 for installation on new boat models, as an upgradeable option for Volvo Penta IPS-equipped motor yachts sized 35ft to 120ft long, and as a retrofit (which will require a software upgrade and new antenna) for existing Volvo Penta IPS-powered boats. 

“Our aim has long been to make things easier for our existing customers and to attract more people to enjoy the boating experience,” says Thorin. “Current Volvo Penta customers will be able to enjoy the Assisted Docking system with a relatively simple update, which can be performed by a local dealer. For those new to boating, it will be the first step into the world of modern boating and, we hope, the first of many new adventures to come.”

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