Over the last several years, a quiet revolution has been taking place on the dashboards of premium towboats, industry-wide. Virtually all of them, it seems, are now available with digital displays with the capability of not only aiding in navigation, but also controlling nearly every system on the boat. Now those boats are starting to show up in the used market.
For example, Malibu has what it calls the Touch Command display. MasterCraft offers its B.I.G. system, mounted between the analog gauges. Nautique offers its LINC system. Supra towboats are fitted with its V.I.S.I.O.N., and Tigé offers its Touch system.
I spend enough time in front of a digital screen, so I don’t often get excited about gratuitous gadgets, especially when my primary goal for a day on the water is to get away. However, these new systems are pretty nifty.
What do they do? Well, each company has its own parameters, but most if not all them control the audio system, the lights, and boat functions normally operated through rocker switches on the dash. They also control the functions that make a towboat a towboat: They know how much ballast is in the tanks, the angle of the wake-tuning plate if so equipped, and performance numbers like boat speed. The cool part is that they store those settings, so you can press a button and immediately tailor the ride to each individual rider’s likes. Some can store settings for up to 25 riders. MasterCraft’s system even includes a video feed from the camera on top of the tower pylon.
“You can either immediately play it back on the digital gauges or you can take the SD card out and drop it in your laptop and edit it,” said Jason Boertje, MasterCraft’s marketing director. “Those are the sorts of things we’re doing, because that’s what our customer is demanding we do.”
What I like most about the systems is that they’re easy to operate, with interfaces as familiar as those on smartphones or for sat-nav in an automobile. Tigé’s system is particularly cool because it’s located just forward of the throttle lever. This makes it more convenient than those mounted on the center of the dash behind the wheel.
“Tigé’s goal was to keep it simple and make it easy so you don’t have to hang an owner’s manual around your neck to be able to use it,” said Tigé’s lead designer Daniel Gutierrez. “It’s done wonders for us. Ours is a very simple icon-based system similar to an iPhone. It’s been a big deal.”
If I may venture a guess, I think these systems may become as big a deal as ballast systems, board racks, and towers were 10 years ago.