Akuna Bay Cruising Club

Volvo Electronic Controls

Wednesday 14 May, 2003

For all those of you who are the proud owners of so-called fly by wire electronic controls, this story is for you.

The other day coming into my berth, I suddenly lost control of my boat. While I don't claim to be an expert boat handler certainly, I believe myself to be better than that! It was very much as though there was a very strong cross wind. However on the day it so happens, there was no wind at all.

Finally, after having slammed into my dock wheel broadside on, and having knocked it off its moorings into the water, we managed to grab a rope whereupon I cut engines and ignominiously dragged the boat into its berth. Not the greatest display of seamanship around!.

It turns out that in the past few weeks there have been a number of boats around the place that have problems with the potentiometer which is at the heart of the control levers. Fortunately these were covered by warranty as the warranty on the controls is for two years.

It seems that the potentiometers are made by Bosch in Germany, and they have had no problems with them over the last five years or so. However just recently it would appear that a bad batch may have come out of the factory. Mine certainly seem to have some corrosion on the contacts. I am told that the only thing that you really can do if they go wrong as mind did, is to cut the engines. Sometimes once the engines have been turned off and restarted the problem may go away, at least temporarily. Obviously, if you are in tight quarters as I was, this may not be an entirely practical suggestion.

Having seen what is at the guts of the control levers and the fact that they are connected by flimsy wires to those great hulking engines lurking in the bowels of the boats, I must say that it is quite scary to think that we are dependent on two flimsy black cogs connected to two flimsy black plastic boxes! Well, that is modern technology for you.

David Bornstein