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Posted by on Jun 28, 2011 in Boat Equipment, Marine Electronics, Ski Boat, US, Wakeboard Boat |

Digital Displays Dial It In

Tow boat drivers now have command of everything at their fingertips, including saved settings for wakeboarders and waterskiers.

Over the last few years or so, a quiet revolution has been taking place on the dashboards of premium tow boats 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.

For example, Malibu has what it calls the MaliView, above the steering wheel. MasterCraft offers its B.I.G. system, also mounted between the analog gauges. Nautique offers its LINC system. Supra tow boats are fitted with its V.I.S.I.O.N. and Tigé offers its Touch system.

Tigé’s Touch display is mounted conveniently to the right of the helm, by the driver’s throttle hand.

Tigé’s Touch display is mounted conveniently to the right of the helm, by the driver’s throttle hand.

I already spend enough time in front of a digital screen, so I don’t often get excited about gadgets, especially when my primary goal for a day on the water is to get away. However, the new systems are pretty darn nifty.

OK, so 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 a row of rocker switches on the dash.

They also control the functions that make a tow boat a tow boat. They know how much ballast is in the tanks, as well as other fluid levels, speed functions, and the angle of the wake-tuning plate if the boat is equipped with one. The cool part is that they can 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 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.”

Malibu’s MaliView display uses intuitive icons that lead to control of a multitude of functions.

Malibu’s MaliView display uses intuitive icons that lead to control of a multitude of functions.

What I like most about the systems is that they’re easy to operate, as familiar as a smart phone or the sat-nav on an automobile. Tigé’s system is particularly cool because it’s located just forward of the throttle lever, which makes it more convenient than those mounted on the center of the dash behind the wheel.

“Tigé’s goal was to keep it simple, 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.

– Brett Becker