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Old 09-06-2016, 04:39 PM   #1
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Bow/Stern Thruster Warning

Yesterday our bow thruster started acting up as we were leaving a side tie on a tight dock with some wind (with multiple boats rafted behind us, and very shallow water in front). As I was moving the bow out with the thruster and stern with propwalk, the thruster kept running after I let go of the joystick. I tried to shut it off with the button at the helm and also tried switching direction with the joystick, but continued to run at full speed. I made a quick dash to the forward berth to shut off the main thruster switch/breaker. All turned out fine, although i had to do a ton of back and fill to get us turned around (we were facing shore and it was very shallow in front of us). I've spoken with the company (Imtra for our Sidepower unit) and they gave me some very good troubleshooting advice. It will likely be either the main switch at the helm, the control box on the motor or the solenoid (welded contact). I will find out when I'm back at the boat next weekend.

Moral of the story is make certain you have a seperate shutdown/breaker for the thruster and know where it is located. In doing some internet troubleshooting before calling the company, I was supprised to find examples of this happening where there was no seperate shutdown. In one instance, the owner had to shutdown the entire electric system at the main breaker, which meant his engine also shutdown. Talking with some friends later in the day, I was surprised to find that the ones with thrusters had no idea where the the main switch is located on their boats. If I hadn't been able to shut it down right away, it would have probably spun us into the dock or another boat.

Got back to the marina and resorted back to the way we got our old sailboat into the slip - spring line on the end piling. Anyway, just a reminder to make sure you have a main shutoff for your thruster and know where it is located. Probably also a good idea to practice docking without it, particularly at your home slip (something I do on a regular basis).
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Old 09-06-2016, 04:42 PM   #2
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I have a dedicated battery switch for the windlass and thruster, do you have a dedicated battery?
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Old 09-06-2016, 04:44 PM   #3
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Moral of the story is make certain you have a seperate shutdown/breaker for the thruster and know where it is located. .

I agree. While I've never had an issue, I do appreciate the Master shut-off switch at the helm. As you've discovered, you never know when you may need it...
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Old 09-06-2016, 04:44 PM   #4
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thanks! Good info!
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Old 09-06-2016, 04:48 PM   #5
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Anyway, just a reminder to make sure you have a main shutoff for your thruster and know where it is located.
Good reminder. I realize that I don't know exactly how mine is wired. On the overhead in my pilothouse I have a bank of switches. These are for engine, house, nav instruments, trim tabs, and bow and stern thrusters. Switching on the bow and stern thruster switches give power to the Vetus switches in the PH and on the flybridge. I assume that there is also a solenoid somewhere that connects the main breaker for the thruster batteries, but I honestly don't know and don't know where it is.

I spend a good part of the weekend crawling around in the boat learning more about different systems over the weekend. I still have much to learn.
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Old 09-06-2016, 05:24 PM   #6
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No way. everyone says thustlers are never a problem.....

Glad things turned out OK. Must have suprised the shi* out of you...
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Old 09-06-2016, 05:28 PM   #7
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I have no clue where a breaker for the thruster is. Never seen it.

My thruster runs off the house bank. Guess I could shut off the main house bank at the big rotary switch? Isn't there a chance you can ruin the alternator doing that if the engine is running?
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Old 09-06-2016, 05:31 PM   #8
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Have a breaker at the helm for mine.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:14 AM   #9
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Thank you for your warning!


In my Nordic tugs main switch is at the bow of the bed inside and stelrn truster main switch in the engine room star board side. Bow-stern trusters have separate batteries.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:19 AM   #10
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Could also use a motorized battery switch for the thruster battery (located close to battery) with a remote switch for operating it at the helm; that's my set-up
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:22 AM   #11
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OK, but why did the thruster keep running? That is the question.


My boat has a toggle switch on the same panel as the two directional buttons, but I suspect it just controls power to the buttons and wouldn't help if the problem was a mechanically stuck thruster relay.


The thruster circuit and wiring is protected by a fuse that would take a few minutes to get to but it is also controlled by the hose bank main switch so I could turn that off. The problem of course, is leaving the helm to run down the ladder to turn it off.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:24 AM   #12
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I have no clue where a breaker for the thruster is. Never seen it.

My thruster runs off the house bank. Guess I could shut off the main house bank at the big rotary switch? Isn't there a chance you can ruin the alternator doing that if the engine is running?
Probably not if you have separate house and starting batteries but each boat is unique. If your thruster continues running and is about to run your boat into other boats or rocks, it may still be the best choice.
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:26 AM   #13
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Sometimes solenoid welding closed and the only way is to disconnect power from your trusters main swits, if you have one installed. Joy stick switch is not enough ...
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:48 AM   #14
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I had the exact same thing happen except I was using the remote around my neck on the bridge since I don't have a joystick there. I knew where the main breaker was for the thruster so I had to make a mad dash down the ladder to trip it. Turned out a button on the fob had stuck. Sure is a pucker moment!! My guess would be your joystick or a couple wires shorting. Good luck!
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Old 09-07-2016, 07:58 AM   #15
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A shunt trip breaker is perfect for this scenario.


Shunt Trip Safety Switch

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Old 09-07-2016, 08:15 AM   #16
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with this mounted on/near helm.Across the line control at thruster,low voltage control from remote.


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Old 09-07-2016, 08:23 AM   #17
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Blue Seas makes a remote battery disconnect switch which would do the job as well. I believe it would be possible to connect two (or more) remote switches so one would be available at each helm.


I have to wonder though, how common is this problem? Is it common enough to install special systems to deal with this possibility? More or less common than a stuck windlass motor? A runaway starter motor?


Is being able to disconnect the bow thruster with the normal battery switch enough to cover this possibility even though we might have to leave the helm to do it?
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Old 09-07-2016, 08:35 AM   #18
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Quote:
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I have no clue where a breaker for the thruster is. Never seen it.

My thruster runs off the house bank. Guess I could shut off the main house bank at the big rotary switch? Isn't there a chance you can ruin the alternator doing that if the engine is running?
Shutting off the main could blow the diodes in the alternator, but if it is still connected to the engine start (assuming that is a seperate bank), you should be OK. As for this working in our senerio, it didn't. Our thruster runs off the house bank, but it has a seperate breaker/shut off from the main house disconnect. Once we were back in the slip, with the engine off, I turned off both the engine and house breakers then turned on the main thruster breaker, which caused the thruster to keep running. It is a direct wire from the house bank to the thruster breaker/main switch.
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Old 09-07-2016, 08:36 AM   #19
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Must have suprised the shi* out of you...
Yep, to put it mildly. Luckily it is only a few steps from the pilot house to the berth and the switch is readily accessible.
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Old 09-07-2016, 08:41 AM   #20
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OK, but why did the thruster keep running? That is the question.
I'll figure that out this weekend. Imtra customer support, which was great, by the way, said it is either the joystick switch at the helm, the control unit on the thruster motor, or the solenoid on the thruster. They explained what I need to do to troubleshoot. I initially assumed that the solenoid contacts had welded shut, but they think the control unit is more likely. That would be great, as the control is the least expensive of the three parts, followed by the solenoid then the joystick control. I was going to order the solenoid before talking with them, but after the conversation I decided to wait and troubleshoot so I'm not just throwing parts at it. Only downside is no thruster for this comming weekend. I'll report back once I have it figured out.
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