Boat Handling at Your Fingertips
Options abound if you’re thinking of installing a bow thruster to take the angst out of tight-quarter maneuvers.
I may have scoffed at the perceived need for a bow thruster when maneuvering in a small boat, but that’s only because I was jealous. The truth is, most of us head for the water to keep stress at bay, and bow thrusters are specifically designed to help us do just that. In fact, no other single piece of equipment will make it easier (and safer) to dock your boat in all conditions than a well-installed and properly sized bow thruster.
Whether you decide on a thruster that pushes water through a tunnel drilled through the bow, a retractable unit, or one of the various externally mounted thrusters, there are some basic facts that apply to them all.
First, it’s critical to choose the right size of thruster based on the length, displacement, and windage of your boat. Nearly all non-commercial thrusters are powered by electric motors, and available sizes range from small, 2-kilowatt units that provide enough thrust for boats in the 25- to 30-foot range (yes, it’s possible to get a thruster for your 25-footer) to 15-kilowatt units designed to push the bow of a 90-footer. Bow-thruster manufacturers and installers can offer valuable selection guidance and can usually provide a range of choices to meet your needs. The rule of thumb when making a selection? The more thrust, the better.
Second, since thrusters use leverage to push the bow around the boat’s pivot point, somewhere amidships, thruster efficiency increases as the unit is mounted deeper and farther forward on the bow. However, getting a thruster right near the bow and deep below the waterline can be a challenge on many sailboats with shallow bow sections.