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Electric joystick steering for boat???

Discussion in 'General Electronics Discussion' started by Dohcdelsol93, Nov 23, 2017.

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  1. Dohcdelsol93


    Nov 23, 2017
    Hi... New here. I love to turn wrenches. Have done more than a few engine swaps, v8, turbo and diesel conversions. Mechanics are one or my strengths, electronics is a weakness. Hope you guys can help me out with a project.

    I have a 26 ft flybridge fishing boat im restoring for the family to use. Im a sailor, i love my sailboats but the family isnt a huge fan and all my sailboats take from one hour to 4 hours to launch and set up to use. This power boat is a floating camper, fishing boat and can pull the family on tubes.

    Its currently a v8 chevy 350. A real gas guzzler. Im currently looking for a diesel engine to swap into her to double or triple my gph consumption. The throttle will be a standard spring loaded lever. Pull for rpms. The more you pull the faster the engine goes. Not a lot of force here. It's spring loaded so when you release pressure the spring brings it to idle.

    For steering, it currently has power assisted steering. Has a power steering pump close to what you see in a 90s chevy pick up truck. It has a hydralic ram that pushes or pulls depending on which direction you want to go. The steering rack is attached via cable. The cable slides arms forward or back which powers the steering ram.

    My boat has 2 steering and throttle stations. It has forward netural and reverse shifting as well.

    My 9 yr old is great at video games. Prefers it to most outdoor activity and i hope this helps to change it.

    I would like to have push button gear selects. Forward, neutral and drive. Engine needs to be at idle to shift without ripping out gears.

    I would like throttle and steering incorporated into a joystick. Forward for rpm, left or right for steering. However in reverse id like to move joystick to reverse for throttle and side to side for direction

    I have not done any programming since visual basic back in highschool.

    Im hoping you guys could help point me in the right direction for getting this project started. The throttle control should be simple but there is some force on the steering and programming intimidates me.

    Thanks ahead guys.
  2. kellys_eye


    Jun 25, 2010
    Blimey - you don't want much do you!!!! The whole project is a quite complicated task. Sure you're up for it (and the attendant costs)?

    First thing to do is fit electrically operable rams to allow control over mechanical movement. The you need to fit sensors to indicate the position of the rams.

    Both rams and sensors are readily available marine after-market stuff but you can make savings if you look around in the DIY electronics markets. Given I've spent decades in the marine industry I know how equipment deteriorates rapidly in that environment so you need to get the 'right stuff' if you want it to last and be fault-free for any length of time.

    Make sure all the electrically operated gear (rams etc) are for the DC voltage on the vessel (12V or 24V) and run power and control cables as required. You will need to draft a cabling/connection drawing to get an idea of what's necessary.

    Companies like Raymarine do mechanical/electrical/electronic interfacing for steering components and even have a 'joystick' solution for steering - at a cost..... check out the second hand markets for items that can be salvaged/reused like rudder feedback mechanisms (great for the feedback signals).

    But once you have the rams and feedback components in place the rest is pretty easy - programming. It can also be done using servo mechanisms like they use in radio-controlled aircraft (but on a larger scale of course) which would, imho, be easier to implement. I don't envy you the task of adapting the various rams and feedback units to the existing mechanical parts - it's going to take some skilful machine work and hardware.

    Fitting the hardware can, however, be done with little/no interference with normal vessel operation - up until the time you want to make the firm connections - so I'd concentrate in getting that side of it in place before going any further.
  3. Dohcdelsol93


    Nov 23, 2017
    Ive found a zero feedback ballanced ram. Its pretty much just like it sounds. It will not fight against Its self when you are steering. Its @ 300. Its not designed for power steering.

    With a seastar 1.7 helm pump it is about 6 turns clock to clock.

    A 14 inch steering wheel could be turned with one finger.

    Other than occasional beach trips this boat is fresh water used. It will be stored on a trailer in the drive way.

    Where would you recommend me to find servo motors can they be used to push/pull and can another style be found that spins cw and cc

    Im completely new to this part if it. The diesel conversion wont be ad hard as it sounds. I just have to center a flywheel coupler and drill/tap the flywheel and make some motor mounts.

    I will keep this entire diy. The used market is $$$$$ if you can find anything.
  4. kellys_eye


    Jun 25, 2010
    You need to determine the force requirement for the individual rams/servos before proceeding. I'm not entirely familiar with the calculations to determine this but it is imperative you get it right!

    Servos can work CW/CCW at will and there are many ways to enable the required movement - from bought-in devices to simple adaptation of screen wiper motors (and their mechanisms).

    Of course the whole system can be done using pneumatic or hydraulic controllers but, electrically, it is far simpler. Rams can be found all over the web (eBay etc) otherwise known as linear activators.
  5. Dohcdelsol93


    Nov 23, 2017
    The throttle actuator would be a pretty low load requirement system. Whether i stay diesel or the kiddo wants to wake board and i swap back for a v8 gasser it would only require adjustment from wot to idle. It is imperative that im able to throttle up and down in increments as if actually controlling a throttle cable and can stop at any given spot

    For the steering if i use the zero feed back hydralic ram and a 1.7 cu hydro helm i can attach a servo motor via a timing belt and idler and program 3 spins left and 3 spins right to take me completely starboard to port with the ability to stop at any given point. The trick will be to do it at a proper speed. As said before the helm (steering wheel could be turned with a single finger) so I'm sure a motor powerful enough to push a kids powerwheel would surfice for this.

    Perhaps the most force will come from the shifter. Its set up to move via a cable. Its important that its not engaged above about 800 to 1000 rpms as it could brake things.

    Is i suppose i could use a fish scale attached to the shifter, steering and throttle to determine the ft lbs required to move each of these items?

    And is there a program i could use to incorporate all this? I realize ill have to run some Sort if throttle position sensor on every moving part so it can relay the info back to the controller.

    Any advice on a system to use? The lower control system is inside the cabin free of weather. The fly bridge control system is exposed to weather. The idea is have the major electronics mounted inside rhe cabin and only the controls on top. Able to be removed when not in use and stored inside.

    All the servos and rams will be mounted in an engine compartment out of the weather but it is hot inside an engine compartment.
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