Catamaran Construction - Sarasota Florida

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I'm going to start this page off today with a summary of what i know about electronic throttle, shifter, and steering control. i have done a lot of research into this lately. i really wanted to fly this boat by wire. (we have partly accomplished this). there are really two different systems involved and they have to be treated separately unless you want to spend a lot of money on controls. i mean, if your engines cost $250k apiece, what's another 30k? but if you are looking at a pair of honda 50s for 12k total cost, it seems a bit strange to spend another 6k just to get a cool electronic control. anyways, here we go...

throttles and shift-

the mathers controls are very expensive, and consequently i don't know very much about them. mathers actually makes remote control heads that incorporate throttles, shift, and steering in one box.

the teleflex ke-4 (which they bought from morse)- from what i have seen, this hardware looks very well made and engineered. it's been on the market for at least 8 years now and they have had plenty of time to work out the bugs. it has an electronic control head, and a control unit and actuator for each engine. i happen to have a spare - complete, new, twin engine single station set of these, which i would be willing to sell, contact me off list if anyone is interested. these units were selling at the boat show for $4600 if i recall correctly.

the teleflex i6000 is teleflex's next generation unit, it has been on the market less than a year, and looks like a very slick. it's probably around $6k+ for a twin engine set.

techmarine has recently introduced a unit for remote throttle and shift that consists of a sending unit which reads cable position off of a standard control head, transmits it down a wire to the actuator, which actuates short cable runs to the motors. they came by my shop and did a demo, and it was impressively easy to set up, with less hardware involved than either teleflex unit, and user friendly all around. these units are about $1100 per side with cabling and sender. they have not yet developed an electronic control head, which i find disappointing, so you must factor in the cost of the head.

for remote steering,

the simrad a20 or a22 (and on up...) autopilots look like a very nice solution. the a20 is the minimum unit that accomodates a remote station. if i had had another 4k to spend on the boat i would have installed one as primary steering. they make a really nice full follow up (FFU) remote steering station for power steering and of course you get all the niceties of an autopilot to boot. depending on the installation, you could use either a hydraulic pump or linear drive unit to steer with, though the simrad reps i spoke to didn't think too much of the linear drive unit for this application. they also make a few handheld remotes, all of which look functional. for true power steering rather than simple +10/-10 control an FFU type control (either knob or lever) is much more appropriate. i wouldn't hesitate to use this setup for primary steering on a power cat that had a facility to allow manual steering by tiller in event of a power loss. (or a hydraulic pump helm)

for outboard motors, the rumor is that by 2006 we will start to see electronic throttle and shift built into the motors themselves, with a standard interface, so all this heavy steel cabling will gradually fade away, to be replaced with an ethernet cable. i can't wait.

After going back and forth, we had decided on a set of KE4's but then the motors arrived with a very nice set of throttles/shifters/panels in a configuration that happened to fit right into the cockpit. So we installed them instead. And we put in a Teleflex SeaStar for steering. One cylinder with a 7' tie bar fabricated from aluminum tubing. An autopilot pump can be mounted inside the hull and hooked right into the line.


Build the little pieces first in a small space. There is a lot of time involved in making rudders, daggerboards and trunks, milling and scarfing, cutting glass, constructing molds, bulkheads, etc. For instance, if you are building a 45' cat, you will need a 60'x35' covered area, at least, to build and assemble the hulls in, if you hope to keep the rain out. All of the subparts parts can easily be built and stored in a 15'x25' space.

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Catamaran Construction
Sarasota FL 34236

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