Let’s be honest, driving a boat with a joystick seemed altogether bizarre when Hinckley Yachts introduced the JetStick a quarter-century ago. “It’s a strange sensation,” Yachting’s editor-in-chief wrote in 1998. “It is intuitive and vastly different from any other steering and control function on any production powerboat I have been on. In simple terms, the joystick handles all facets of the boat, except for the rpm. I don’t need to do the usual hand dance and alternate between grabbing the wheel, throttle and gear shift.”
The JetStick was mind-bending stuff for old salts, but it made perfect sense to the Atari and Nintendo generation, who today are boat buyers in their 50s and 60s. And, just as video game technology has been evolving this whole time, so have joystick systems for boats.
Hinckley’s JetStick 4 is the newest iteration from the Maine boatbuilder. Hinckley’s team acknowledges that JetStick driving is becoming ubiquitous but adds that their goal is to have top-performing tech among all helms.
“We’re not the only ones in the industry offering this kind of innovation,” says Scott Bryant, Hinckley’s vice president of sales and marketing, “but the integration and functionality of JetStick 4 is the best of its kind.”
JetStick 4 has many of the same features as JetStick 3, but with better underlying GPS and digital processing, which Hinckley says add to the boat’s performance and maneuverability. Dock Hold and Heading Hold features now operate with more precision, and the transition between modes is more seamless.
No, this joystick system doesn’t let a skipper play Space Invaders or Super Mario Bros. at the helm, but who knows? Engineers are surely working on version 5 as we speak.