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OsmundL 01-13-2011 09:38 PM

Is the bow thruster an aphrodisiac?
I thought I might try this thread, expecting some interesting responses:
Are power boaters a different breed? Or, to be fair to fishermen and many old-timers, maybe a more specific question: does having a bow thruster or 500 hp do something to you? Seamanship, attitude?

Blatant bigotry is permitted, providing the moderators don’t ban the whole thread…

jackdale 01-13-2011 09:48 PM

I have sailed a 37 foot Nauticat with a bow-thruster. In big currents and cross winds in tight quarters going stern-to, it was a god-send.

I also teach power boating. With the massive windage that some have, the bow-thruster is almost mandatory. A single screw trawler makes both bow and stern thrusters very nice luxuries.

MJBrown 01-13-2011 10:36 PM

While I can and have handled our 43'er without the bow thruster it's always nice to have it as an aide. It provides a lot more control when docking and generally takes the worry out of being close. When in reverse I simply keep the wheel in a fixed, straight on position and use the thruster to steer her. When turning to enter or depart a slip or dock, no matter the angle, you can combine prop walk with the bow thruster and pretty much pivot in place. On the downside once the wind gets above 15kts you can no longer expect it to work at full effeciency. There's just too much surface area at the bow for it to overcome. IMO once you use it you wont want to do without it. Does it make me different? While it doesn't change my attitiude, it does make me feel more relaxed and that's a good thing.

JomsViking 01-14-2011 02:57 AM


I think it does change people (or they were/are different from the beginning).
While I have great friends in MoBo's it seems that many are there for different reasons than those who sail - In discussions on running generators, and/or just making lots of noise it seems that the spirit is fundamentally different between the two camps - one simply cannot understand the others point of view.
Not saying that I'm right, I tend to enjoy the sounds of nature and watching the bow wave even when going very slow, but (some of) my MoBo friends cannot stand that and want's me to turn on the engine ASAP and would also prefer loud music to the sound of the birds in an otherwise quiet anchorage.

On bowthrusters...
I hate the things, it seems that people with those cannot perform even the simplest maneuvers without using them for extended periods of time. Last year someone woke me from my beauty sleep (we'd been sailing for 20+ hrs) using the thruster for like 10 minutes (at least I managed to wake up, complain about him, get into the cockpit and watch him for a while, wondering what the heck he was trying to accomplish - he was the only boat on a long quay with a light onshore breeze which the next person used to dock without a sound, and touching the quay so lightly you could have used eggs as fenders...
That is - all to often seamanship is being replaced with gadgets..

Minnewaska 01-14-2011 05:02 AM

I would like to dump on the stink potters as much as the next guy, but I have a bow thruster on my 54' sailboat. You're not backing it into a slip with more than a 10kt crosswind and my neighbor 4ft to leeward without one.

A friend has become convinced that to motor his 49ft sailboat to stern, the best method is to center the rudder and use the bowthruster to steer. At first, I sort of rolled my eyes. But I really don't know why that is much different than having a diesel/propeller in the first place.

capecodda 01-14-2011 06:20 AM

bigger boats only
I'm with Minnewaska. When we had a 52' sailboat it made sense. It allowed backing into tight slips, maneuvering in tight spots with little or no crew. When we built a 38, we left it out, cause they take up room, need more batteries, and break. Don't ask me how I know :) . Not to pick on bow thrusters exclusively, because everything on a boat breaks.

That said, when I had one tried to use it infrequently. It was noisy and people would "know" I was cheatin;)

OsmundL 01-14-2011 06:28 AM

Just wondering
First, a declaration of interest: I have a bow thruster and appreciate it. Windage is a problem. Still, three separate memories prompted my question:

1. I happened across a debate on a design forum where a gaggle of folk ganged up on a single guy defending canting keels. The gist of the argument was that power-assisted canting, a la Volvo Ocean Race, was an abomination and treason against the “purity” of sailing. The guy who argued that canting keels should be welcome as technical progress was shouted down. Sailors should use the wind and no more, with a tiny concession to electronic navigation. One argued that the VO is not a “sailing race.” I was amazed at how vitriolic the opponents were, and wondered if the purist ethos is still alive.
2. A few weeks ago, I was docking in a nasty side wind. My crew said “we have to use a spring” and I was both pleased and surprised, realizing I had not heard the suggestion for several years. It had not even occurred to him to use the bow thruster; he knew the old and tried techniques.
3. In the harbors I often use, it never ceases to amaze when boats come in during sunny still weather, heading for a longside wharf with oodles of free space, and painfully maneuver their way using the bow thruster. It made me wonder what they do when it fails one day.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this, other than a vague sense that guys running their unassisted single-screw get to learn their boat a whole lot more intimately?

capecodda 01-14-2011 06:43 AM


One thing I certainly would agree with is that many who have them overuse them. I have a friend with a 54' sailboat that I swear cannot turn it without keying the thing, even when there is plenty of room.

People seem to forget they've got a rudder, can use spring lines, can use prop walk, the current, the wind...... And someday, the thruster will break. It will wait till you really need it. Like putting docking it at a boat show in a brisk side wind, with a large audience on the dock, a short handed crew.... Nothing like this has ever happened to me :D

JomsViking 01-14-2011 07:00 AM

If I sounded like a luddite or was being rude, my sincere apologies - What I dislike is the people who seem to know nothing about seamanship and cannot enjoy the environment that we choose to be in as sailors.
Wrt thrusters, what I dislike is the people who engage those instead of their brains..
And the canting keels in the Open 40's are manual so would qualify as a keel for a real sailboat. :)

SVAuspicious 01-14-2011 08:32 AM

In my own experience those who express concern about bow thrusters failing are missing the most critical issue. The greatest problem is that thrusters are simply not powerful enough to manage the bow in really significant cross winds or cross currents. That means using a thruster in moderate conditions obviates the practice that would otherwise give you the skill to manage really ugly conditions.

When someone makes a thruster that has serious Wheaties, doesn't pitch black dust everywhere, and doesn't slow the boat down from drag I'll buy one.

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