The Yacht Insider: Yacht Handling Made Easy

Gyro-stabilization and other high-tech features can make even the most inexperienced skippers look like seasoned pros.

March 20th 2008
Azimut's gyro-stabilization system built by Maryland-based Seakeeper virtually eliminates roll.

Azimut's gyro-stabilization system built by Maryland-based Seakeeper virtually eliminates roll.

Being able to handle a boat well is a skill to be revered. If you can “walk the boat sideways,” you earn oohs and aahs. In rough seas, if you can ride the waves instead of being pounded by them, you are a skipper among the gods.

Thankfully, boatbuilders from the United States to Europe are working to help mere mortals get in on the glory. In addition to heralding new boat models, builders like Sea Ray and Azimut are touting performance enhancements that quite simply make boating easier.

 The gyro-stabilization system installs underneath a yacht's deck.

The gyro-stabilization system installs underneath a yacht's deck.

In the case of the new, sleek Italian yachts from Azimut, it’s a gyro-stabilization system built by Maryland-based Seakeeper. The system virtually eliminates roll, even when the boat is moving at just 1 mph. It will be an option on all Azimuts up to about 58 feet beginning in June. As Shepard McKenney of Seakeeper says: “It changes the basic experience on the boat.”

The same attitude is driving innovations at U.S.-based Sea Ray, which in partnership with Mercury MerCruiser recently announced the Axius Control System onboard boats up to about 38 feet. Larger Sea Ray yachts can be ordered with the Zeus system, which, like Axius, is designed to make boats easier to handle—especially during close-quarters maneuvers such as docking.

As both Azimut and Sea Ray have learned, making boating easier is good for business. Certainly, being a practiced and skilled skipper is still the ideal, but offering options like these—which make more people more comfortable onboard boats—is just plain common sense. Megayacht builders in the 100-plus range learned this several years ago when they began adopting zero-speed stabilization systems that keep boats roll- and pitch-free, even at anchor.

New models are great, and builders should keep ‘em coming. But right now, it’s performance enhancements like these that often set one yacht apart from the next.

Editor’s Note: Kim Kavin edits the websites CharterWave.com and BoatNameGame.com. She’s the author of five books, the president of Boating Writers International, and a regular contributor to marine, travel, and luxury lifestyle magazines worldwide. Learn more at KimKavin.com.