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.
But now for the bad news: A retractable unit will usually cost 20- to 30-percent more than a similarly sized tunnel unit. And since the whole unit needs to retract up into the boat, the internal area required in the bow to accommodate both the motor and the prop could impact the bunk and storage areas in the forward cabin versus a lower-profile tunnel unit that can often be mounted out of the way under the furniture.
As more skippers (even owners of boats in the 20- to 30-foot range) see how a bow thruster can take some of the anxiety out of maneuvering in tight quarters, externally mounted units that are much easier to install, and are often less expensive than tunnel or retractable units, are becoming available. An external thruster usually doesn’t require significant structural work—drilling holes in the bow, glassing in a tunnel and the resulting extensive fairing—they simply bolt on to the bow below the waterline.
But lower cost and ease of installation require some compromises. First, since these units are simply bolted on to the bow, they may cause drag while under way, depending on their design. And since there’s always an unprotected unit protruding from the bow, they may catch and snag lines or other debris in the water, and the motor will be submerged constantly.
There are lots of bow-thruster options for big or small boats—and budgets. But no matter what type of bow thruster you choose, all will help improve tight-quarters boat handling and take the stress out of docking.
Bill Springer is CW’s senior editor. He turned to Bill Jennings of New England Bow Thrusters , Tom Fleming of Lewmar Inc. , Mark Houle of Sideshift , and Marty Castle of Exturn when compiling this article.
Exturn: (866) 996-7577, www.exturnusa.com
Lewmar Inc.: www.lewmar.com (log on for a dealer in your area)
MAX Power: +33 (4) 92 19 60 60, www.max-power.com
Quick Nautical Equipment: +39 0544 415061, www.quickitaly.com
RMC Marine: +46 (0) 31 28 32 40, www.rmcmarine.com
Side-Power (Imtra): (508) 995-7000, www.sidepower.com
Sideshift: (877) 325-4787,
Vetus: www.vetus.com (log on for a dealer in your area)