How to use a Bow Thruster
Bow thrusters often feel like cheating. They’re viewed by boat purists as a negative addition to boats because it might imply that the boat’s captain lacks basic sailing skills, and yet, that is absolutely not the case. They are a great addition to sailing because they allow you to perfect your boat handling skills without risking yourself or your boat. On top of that, they can instil confidence in the mariner, as they can improve your docking and sailing skills in general. They are a great addition to have, which is why I’ve composed this handy list on how to best use them.
What Exactly are Bow Thrusters?
Bow thrusters for boats are a propulsion device that’s located at the bow. It provides lateral thrust, meaning both port and starboard, which makes the vessel significantly easier to manoeuver. Marine bow thrusters are often part of the default equipment on newer larger pleasure boats, but even so, practically all midsize marine vessels can be equipped with bow thrusters relatively easily. There are plenty of benefits of using bow thrusters, such as dealing with strong winds and currents, as well as manoeuvring in tight spots. That’s because bow thrusters allow the vessel to be turned without any forward motion whatsoever. They’re an amazing addition to anyone, from rookies to experienced mariners. That’s because they allow the rookie to feel more comfortable navigating in treacherous spots, whereas experienced captains will have more options for manoeuvring their vessel. On top of that, bow thrusters tend to significantly increase resale value, so you’ll be able to sell the vessel easier if you ever have intentions of doing so.
Choosing a Bow Thruster
Installing a bow thruster isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world. There are plenty of options to choose from, and the procedure itself can be long and sometimes scary. However, there are a few things to consider first before committing to a bow thruster that can make the entire procedure significantly easier. The very first thing you need to consider is picking a thruster that not only fits the power requirements but also matches the vessel’s specifications. It should be able to propel your vessel, but also to fit the type of boat, as well as its size and hull shape. That’s because the efficiency of a bow thruster is determined by the vessel’s windage and thruster location. The weight of the vessel doesn’t usually factor in the installation because it’s only relevant if the boat will have to sail through strong currents and winds all of the time. In any case, don’t neglect to consult with professionals that thoroughly understand bow thrusters before committing to one because you might otherwise end up with a thruster that doesn’t quite fit your vessel.
Hydraulic vs. Electric
The basic choice between bow thrusters is either hydraulic or electric. Hydraulic ones tend to be more popular with larger vessels because most large vessels already have hydraulic systems that power the windlass or dinghy davits. If you already have a hydraulic power source, it will cost you significantly less to install a hydraulic bow thruster and will make the installation very straightforward. Electric bow thrusters typically come in either 24 Volt or 12 Volt variants. The 24 Volt ones are usually suited for large vessels that don’t have a hydraulic power source, while the 12 Volt variant is usually suited for any other vessel. The 12 Volt variant also has a significantly easier installation.
Tunnel vs. External Unit
Tunnel bow thrusters are installed inside the vessel and require a tube or tunnel running through the hull below the waterline. In order to achieve maximum performance, they need to be deep enough to generate a lot of thrust and avoid sucking in air, which is not exactly suitable for smaller vessels that aren’t deep enough. External units are also equally adequate when it comes to performance, but they need to be placed outside the vessel. They’re great for when you want to avoid drilling a hole through the hull or have physical restrictions for placing the thruster.
Single vs. Dual Propeller
Single and dual propeller thrusters are also something that you should actively consider when choosing. Single propeller ones tend to cost less than their dual propeller counterparts, but they also are not as efficient. That’s because single propeller ones lose a lot of energy in the swirling motion in the water, which is why they produce less thrust. Dual propeller ones are actually a bit different. They don’t merely have two propellers, those two propellers actually move in opposite directions. That allows the bow thruster to be more efficient when creating thrust, meaning they’re significantly more efficient even if they have the same horsepower as single propeller ones.
If there’s one thing that all mariners, experienced and inexperienced alike should understand is that bow thrusters are nothing more than a tool to be used. Just because some sailors tend to be rag on bow thrusters, that doesn’t mean they should be neglected. Such improvements in technology only make sailing easier to handle, and they don’t take away from the whole experience. Using bow thrusters will make you more comfortable with the ship’s controls because they will definitely improve them, but they will not make you any more or less of a sailor.