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Old 04-15-2015, 09:29 AM   #1
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Bow or Stern thrusters?

I'm seriously considering a thruster for easier handling - I'm a lone cruiser in a single screw & get tossed around quite easily even in low swells. My max speed is 7 knots, plus I'm a novice.

But here's my question - is it best to have a bow or stern thruster? Or both?

My boat's an antique 27' Elco and my rudder causes me trouble too), but my instincts tell me to get a stern thruster. My thought behind this is that that's where I will be to throw lines for docking.

Still, I wanted to ask others, esp lone captains who have the experience w thrusters.

Any thoughts? Again, I'm a novice & get nervous docking, esp after her restoration.
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Old 04-15-2015, 09:39 AM   #2
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Having a high freeboard, enclosed flybridge, narrow slip with blind stern, and using locks frequently, I have, and enjoy, both bow and stern thrusters. I suggest you consider having installed by professional with thruster experience to insure correct installation re hull, wiring, charging, controls, etc. Look for boating friends with thrusters and give them a try. Certainly you can development the skills to maneuver your single screw, but it about enjoyment of boating to me.
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Old 04-15-2015, 09:40 AM   #3
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I have both on a single engine boat. My "pivot" point is aft and as I can put my bow where I want it, use my stern thruster much more than the bow. Both are handy in tight places but if I had to choose I would have a stern (on my boat).
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Old 04-15-2015, 09:43 AM   #4
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Greetings,
Mr. S. I can fully appreciate the "pucker factor" for the novice single engine single handler BUT, a bit of an anecdotal tale...
A friend with a 44' Marine Trader single engine had a bow thruster installed to the cost of XXXX dollars. He used it quite a bit the first year, not as much the second and very infrequently the third. Reason? Greater confidence acquired with experience. He admits he DOES use it, but rarely.
Nobody wants a scratch on their mistress but since you have restored her, you know pretty well anything can be repaired/replaced. Think of them as battle honors to be glossed over next haul. There's NO shame in mistakes.
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Old 04-15-2015, 09:54 AM   #5
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Are you ready to drill two large holes in the bow of your boat for a bow thruster or add an external tube at the stern for the stern thruster? With your boat, I'd go stern.
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Old 04-15-2015, 09:56 AM   #6
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A dock neighbour has bow and stern thrusters on his Mainship 40 as he singlehands a lot. For him, one of the real assets of his system is remote control of his thrusters, meaning that he can be on the side decks or dock and still control the sideways motion of his vessel.

We have recently installed bow and stern thrusters as well and they make a huge difference to our docking. Not that I use them much, but rather I'm more comfortable docking knowing that if I mess it up I have a safety net.

Keep in mind that if you use the stern thruster the bow will want to pivot in the opposite direction, and vice versa.
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Old 04-15-2015, 10:08 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by RT Firefly View Post
Greetings,
Mr. S. I can fully appreciate the "pucker factor" for the novice single engine single handler BUT, a bit of an anecdotal tale...
A friend with a 44' Marine Trader single engine had a bow thruster installed to the cost of XXXX dollars. He used it quite a bit the first year, not as much the second and very infrequently the third. Reason? Greater confidence acquired with experience...
I can attest to the three year boat handling relaxation/confidence factor. Then again, in other aspects of my life, it's just when you think you really know what you're doing is when you can make your biggest mistakes
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Old 04-15-2015, 10:25 AM   #8
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I am on my fourth bow thruster (4 different boats...2 twins & 2 singles) With a little practice, you can use your prop for placing the stern where you want it & then just thrust the bow to its desired location. When leaving a side tie, I just hit reverse with a short blast which moves the stern out away from the dock & then I move the bow out with the thruster. (With a single that backs to starboard, I always try and tie up at a fuel dock, "port to." This allows me to move the stern away in reverse, followed by thrusting the bow.) Of course with a twin (with a thruster) it doesn't make much difference which side the boat is tied to as you can thust the stern in either direction using reverse.

Years ago, I would find a buoy and practice simulating various approaches to it.(Backing, port to, starboard to, straight in, etc) Now, it's a piece of cake!

In summation, if you don't want to do the above, get both a stern & and a bow thruster.
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Old 04-15-2015, 10:29 AM   #9
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Please don't ruin that beauty with thrusters, she really just wants you to spend more time with her. Think unicycle with training wheels.


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Old 04-15-2015, 11:06 AM   #10
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I agree with Codger that a bow thruster is more useful than a stern thruster, at least on a twin.
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Old 04-15-2015, 11:14 AM   #11
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Not sure why you would want either on an electric powered boat of only 27'. You will have the immediate issue of charging the thruster batteries as the thrusters pull quite a load. Your house bank should not be used for the thruster and typically you will need another battery bank. I have forgotten what you planned on for a generator or solar power but adding thruster battery charging to the mix seems like whole another level.

Our TT has stern thrusters and I have found them lacking in that when you move the stern, the bow tends to pivot as the bow is lacking the mass of the stern. You can get used to it but I think bow thrusters are more errr accurate. How you dock the boat can also come into play. If you back in primarily, the stern thrusters can be very useful. If you head in, bow thrusters would be more useful. Best of both worlds is to have both but maybe not so much on an electric boat.
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Old 04-15-2015, 11:16 AM   #12
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I have both. The bow thruster gets more use than the stern thruster. With a single and a small rudder, they both come in handy. Check out the new variable speed thrusters from Side Power. Much greater run time than the standard on/off type.
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:04 PM   #13
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If one can only afford to fit one thruster a bow thruster will be more useful than a stern thruster under most conditions. It's dead easy to move a boat's stern around with the prop, rudder and power, or with asymetrical or opposed thrust and power with a twin (and the rudders which with added power helps move the stern around on a twin really fast).

But there is only one way to move the bow straight sideways while leaving the stern where it is, and that's with a bow thruster. This is true of singles and twins.

Our PNW boat is a twin with no thruster and between prop walk, opposed thrust, power and the rudders we can really spin it around or put the stern wherever we want it. But there are times when it would be helpful to be able to move the bow one direction or the other while not moving the stern.

Putting a bow thruster on a wood boat can be done-- I know of a lot of Grand Banks woodies that have had them installed. But it is not as simple as installing a thruster in a fiberglass hull so great care must be taken in selecting who does the work.
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:39 PM   #14
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Is this the Elco 27 listed on Yachtworld? (Sometimes it takes a while for them to delist). It looks like a gorgeous vessel for sure; plus it seems to be powered by a gas V8 so should have lots of juice for at least one thruster if not two.
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:46 PM   #15
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Any thoughts? Again, I'm a novice & get nervous docking, esp after her restoration.

Our boat is a gas powered fiberglass but just about everything else is identical and I was a novice operator too. I've considered thrusters the first year and first couple of times docking for the same reasons. With time and practice I've found them not needed and although I typically have a few people aboard docking is a purely solo chore for me.

Most of the folks will tell you thrusters are fine and they really are but on our smaller boats you run out of room for extra crap in a hurry. Putting a tunnel in the bow leaves me with no storage below the vberth and would actually protrude into my walking area(measured and verified). A bolt on exterior unit has its own issues in my shallow water cruising grounds.

My best advice is try it for a year and practice docking by tossing a fender into a calm stretch of water and come alongside it. I did that for a couple hours on a weekday and it really gave me a lot of confidence. My berth has 6" of clearance (3" each side) and caused me the greatest anxiety at first but now is easy. If after a while you still want the thruster you could still put one on.
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:55 PM   #16
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I concur with whats been said before. For the experience factor, hiring the right captain to reach you confidence in close quarters maneouvering is better than relying on a thruster. What happens when the truster fails? It happens.

Once you know and have become comfortable with the boat if you still want it I'd install a bow thruster. Not sure you would need a stern one on that size boat at all. The space issue for the thrusters, and their batteries is something to consider.
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Old 04-15-2015, 01:59 PM   #17
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My boat came with a hydraulic stern thruster installed by the previous owner.
I use it a lot and it was a necessity IMO in the locks. Not so much when I was the only boat, but needed when the locks were full as they often are in Canada.
While I believe that a bow thruster would be more effective, I have learned to make great use of the stern thruster. In the marina I am in now I have to back out and take a port turn and if there is a west wind there's no way I could do it without the thruster.
And being hydraulic it can run for extended periods.
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Old 04-15-2015, 02:28 PM   #18
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To the OP Not knowing the characteristics of your particular boat, I would suggest the following course of action. Find a good experienced teaching captain to spend a day or two with you show you how to use your boat as-is. Very few single engine 27 footers are equipped with thrusters, because they are almost all eminently maneuverable with out one. If I could learn how to handle a 30 foot Mainship single (in a charter fleet) after some good instruction, I have to think anyone can because I am a grade A klutz.

If for some reason after and a good amount of practice in non-pressure situations, you still are having trouble, start with a bow thruster. You have a big propellor, which itself will steer the boat with throttle bursts due to prop wash and a rudder back there to move the stern for back and fill maneuvering. A stern thruster for a boat that size really seems superfluous to me.
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Old 04-15-2015, 04:18 PM   #19
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Hello SS,

This may have been mentioned but I will again anyway if it has. If you feel you must have a thruster I would choose a stern one for your boat. The Elco has a wood hull and I would not want to bore to very large holes in it's bow, but that's just me.

With a little practice, you can turn 360 degrees within your boats length using just your rudder and throttle. Thrusters are nice if the wind is kicking up or you're in an unusually tight situation though.
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Old 04-15-2015, 08:33 PM   #20
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Wow, wonderful advice here - thank you! -- and I'll try to answer some of the questions that were raised as well.

First, I do plan on taking the operating course, so I don't plan to do anything until after I've developed some confidence with docking. However, I cruised last year and found that docking stressed me out so much, that I became anxious before each cruise. In fact, during the classic boat show in St. Michaels, I embarrassed myself quite spectacularly.

Second, my slip is covered which limits where I can dock, and my slip is narrow and 60' long (I'm 27'). Thus, I have very little room on either side, but a long narrow stretch to get through. It doesn't help that one of the pilings is missing on the end, so I have to avoid a corner pier that I keep narrowly missing whenever I come in/out of the slip. That also makes me very anxious.

Third, I hate always having to ask for dock assistance everytime I cruise, but I recognize that could just be lack of experience/confidence...

that said, since I am a novice, I plan on holding off on the thrusters for at least 3 months. My hull is wood, and I don't like the idea of punching holes in her, but I did find an external electric thruster that doesn't require any invasive equipment on the boat. It can also be easily removed, but I like the advice here -- to wait and learn how to dock before jumping on the thruster band-wagon. Still, it makes me feel a little better knowing that that option is there.

I hope this explains why I'm thinking about it...the long slip, the jagged pier at the end, and my single screw w/rudder (any swell above 1' bounces me around like I'm in a bumper car -- and imagine the heavy boat traffic at St. Mike's, DC and Annapolis where I mostly dock.

Well, I Guess I'm beating myself up a little bit about being so green, but after Starside's restoration, I can't help it!

BTW, the advice here is awesome. Really interesting to see everyone's thoughts on thrusters!
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