Yamaha’s Helm Master: Total Control!

Warning! When the Yamaha Helm Master system is in action, your outboard engines may be positioned at crazy angles that look catawampus, asymmetrical or out of alignment. Relax. Just use the joystick and allow the onboard computer to do the work.

That’s the advice offered by Yamaha with their Helm Master system now available for more Yamaha engine packages than ever before. When you twist the joystick to counter current, back into a slip, or to maneuver precisely in the marina, the engine propellers perform hydrodynamic gymnastics behind the boat. One engine may be kicked inward, the other outward, one in reverse, and the other in forward. Regardless of the
angle, when you twist and nudge the joystick in a direction, the boat goes that way. Powerful computers adjust each engine’s rpm, gear selection
and direction precisely so that those forces result in the movement commanded by the joystick.

“Helm Master is the premium system for the boat owner who wants the very best benefits we have to offer,” says David Meeler, Yamaha’s Product Information Manager. “Helm Master only works on new boats with Yamaha engines with Digital Electronic Control (DEC). Engines with DEC now includes our 2.8-liter, inline-4 F200, as well as the 4.2-liter, V6 F225, F250 and F300, and the F350 in our 5.3-liter, V8 package.”

Meeler said customers constantly ask if they can retrofit or add Helm Master to their current boat, and unfortunately, the answer is no, but there’s a valid reason, Meeler explains. “Our applications engineers work hand in hand with the boat builders. When a particular boat builder wants to use Helm Master with a certain model, we install it, program it and test it to make sure the boat performs to our standards and their standards. When that happens, we will certify that boat and they can begin installing Helm Master after they receive specialized training. If we were to offer it as an aftermarket product it may not work correctly, and Yamaha will not let that happen.”

While the joystick control may be what everyone talks about when discussing Helm Master, there’s much more to the system. Because Helm Master now works with twin, triple and quad engine setups, the size and type of boats in which it may be utilized has greatly increased. The 26- to 28-foot high-end center console sportfishing boat is definitely a prime candidate for Helm Master with the new F200’s; however Yamaha had no information on boat builders that may be preparing to introduce that set-up.

“We call it a fully integrated boat control system,” Meeler said. “It extends from the ignition panel to the steering. It’s a plug-and-play system with a wire—actually, two pairs of wires for redundancy—that runs from the control box to the engines. All the engine data is available on a Yamaha display screen, or it can be routed into your MFD via NMEA2000 protocol and a gateway.”

Yamaha’s Helm Master joystick: It may look small but it has amazing control.

In addition to the joystick control it has a unique feature called speed control, which is similar to cruise control for your car—it locks in the rpm and then you can step up the rpm up 15 percent or down 10 percent with the touch of a button.

Another feature is automatic trim assist, which trims the engine based on throttle settings. “To set up the system, as you accelerate you determine where you want those engines to be trimmed by degree, and then you program in that setting,” Meeler explains. “You can program how the engines are trimmed from being just in gear to wide-open throttle.” In a real-world situation, a boat set up with automatic trim assist would be easier to operate, especially for an inexperienced skipper who now won’t have to worry about engine trim.

The Helm Master components require little dash space as there are no cables, and the steering does not require hydraulic hoses under the helm. (Hydraulic lines are used at the rear of the boat between the pumps and cylinders that control each engine.) Helm Master is also plug-and-play second-station compatible, with no cables or hydraulic lines under the helm. All Helm Master components come with a Yamaha limited three-year warranty.

Even the feel of the steering is adjustable thanks to Helm Master. Initial steering friction and the number of turns lock-to-lock at the electronic helm can be programmed to suit individual boat-builder preferences.

Many control functions can be programmed using the new Command Link Plus® 6Y9 gauge. The Helm Master system also incorporates a new Electronic Key System (EKS), which allows it to be powered without the use of a conventional key.Yamaha’s Y-COP® theft deterrent feature is built in.

“Helm Master not only makes docking easier, it also incorporates additional boat control functions such as automatic outboard trim, speed control and automatic steering friction,” says Ben Speciale, President, Yamaha Marine Group. “With Helm Master for quad outboard applications and 2.8-liter F200 applications, these features are now available for boats that exceed 40 feet in length and smaller boats alike.”


By Doug Thompson, Southern Boating May 2015

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