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Old 04-10-2021, 08:54 AM   #1
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53ft, 2 Hands, No Thruster - Crazy or EZ?

New to this forum but experienced boater. Last boat was a Manta 43 sail cat that I had no trouble single-handing. Something about having engines 21 feet apart made dockside handling easy..


Now starting our trawler adventures. 1st mate will have limited ability to help handling lines, etc. I expect to have her at the helm using 2-way radio to work the engines at my 'suggestions' to make the approach.


Considering a boat with no thrusters. Lots more windage on this type of boat of course.



So is this a valid concern on my part or is it not that big of a deal to maneuver a twin screw boat (50-ish LOA) without the thrusters?


Best advice?
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Old 04-10-2021, 09:12 AM   #2
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Its not that big of a deal. Thrusters were mostly unheard of below 80 feet in 1990. There was a nearly-new 92’ Broward on my dock, for example, with no thruster. When I worked at a Hatteras store, the new 65 and 70 were both without thrusters.

I am not against thrusters and actually believe they have helped many people become comfortable with boat operation. Not everyone is a machine person, or able to grasp the physics involved. Thrusters have probably contributed to the success of the boating industry, just look at their availability on new boats.

My advice would be to obtain some training from someone who knows how to handle a boat. Practice to proficiency, use good headsets with your captain/mate, and have good fenders. This advice would not change even if you had thrusters. Remember slow is pro.

Edit - There will be days you could use a competent hand on the dock. I recently found someone to help me with a singlehanded departure from a transient berth. Don’t be afraid to find someone to help you leave, or call before you arrive.
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Old 04-10-2021, 09:24 AM   #3
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Twin engines will allow better control than low horsepower, intermittent use thrusters. Thrusters are a band aid.
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Old 04-10-2021, 09:32 AM   #4
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On a twin engine boat a pro can do quite well in a fishing or commercial boat where hull bruises are acceptable. On a 50' nicely finished boat it is well worth the cost to have a bow thruster. Peace of mind, marital bliss, few boat scars and happy mooring mates in a tight slip are just a few of the advantages.

I've been at this for over 60 years. Our current boat, purchased new, was not equipped with a bow thruster. After four years one was installed. It was a very good decision for our boat and in our case.
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Old 04-10-2021, 09:51 AM   #5
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A few boats ago, I had a mid-30's twin engine with no thrusters. I never wished for thrusters with that boat, so when I graduated to my last boat - a mid 50's twin engine sport fisher, I was not at all concerned by the lack of thrusters, and for the most part never wished for them. However, coming out of my slip, which was defined by shallow boulders and a seawall on the port side when backed into the slip, necessitated the use of spring lines (and fortunately, there were pilings in the right places to spring from). Even without wind or current, the only way to turn to starboard without swinging the stern toward the rocks and seawall perilously close on the port side, was a combination of careful use of spring lines and good close quarter maneuvering skills by the driver.

Moral of the story, you may find yourself in situations where good line handling is necessary when a bow thruster would allow the driver to maneuver the boat without assistance. In your case (OP), a bow thruster may be worth the cost.
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Old 04-10-2021, 10:19 AM   #6
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As stated. practice practice, practice. Go as fast as you want to hit something.

I have a 48ft with twins, no thrusters. I have windage too. Sometimes it will take you 5 times to make it to the dock when you have current and wind going against you. If you have a good boat pole, use it when you get close to the dock.

Good Luck
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Old 04-10-2021, 10:31 AM   #7
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Thrusters are handy but not a necessity. My boat doesn't have them. As mentioned above, a very effective tool in docking and undocking is the use of spring lines. Chapmans has a good section on spring lines that I still refer to from time to time.
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Old 04-10-2021, 10:35 AM   #8
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Thrusters are another tool in the box, like having twins and using differential thrust. Anything that makes boating easier and safer is to be embraced, not disparaged.
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Old 04-10-2021, 10:49 AM   #9
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As noted, until they became a new, reasonably priced tool, operators got without thrusters forever.

I would look more at your personal circumstances of where you will be boating, docking, windages, tight spaces and shallows, to assist in the decision making.

I also suggest it will be quicker and less stressful to train your “1st mate” in line handling than boat handling. You can do that without leaving the doc, or your yard.
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Old 04-10-2021, 10:54 AM   #10
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My only concern after making fun of a lot of people with thrusters is they are a good tool to have.

HOWEVER, I have seen people using them INSTEAD of learning how to handle the boat adequately, maybe not expertly, but adequately. You should not become dependent upon it.

Then the thruster fails for one reason or another and in what should have been a simple docking they cannot handle the boat.

If you get one do not depend upon it as a primary steering aid. Learn how to handle the boat at least adequately. And get some docking training. It will pay off in the long haul and reduce stress big time.
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Old 04-10-2021, 11:13 AM   #11
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As most above have said, a thruster is a nice luxury but non-essential. A fifty-ish foot boat with twins is quite maneuverable under most conditions. In conditions where wind and current overwhelm the boat's maneuverability, a thruster is unlikely to be enough to recover a desperate situation.

As an experienced boater and a sailor to boot, you already know that practice seldom makes perfect, but it absolutely makes better. You also probably know that in ten minutes of maneuvering in a stiff wind, you learn more about your boat's characteristics than a month of handling in calm conditions.
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Old 04-10-2021, 11:26 AM   #12
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You do need to practice handling the boat, but there certainly are reasons to have thrusters. We put a stern thruster on our boat since my wife does the bow lines and I have to get down from the flybridge and handle the stern line. I found that I was rushing and trying to get past our dog that wants to always be first. It was a dangerous situation and sooner or later I was going to fall and either hurt myself or the dog. Put in a stern thruster with a wireless remote and now I can get down from the bridge carefully and then use the thruster to bring the stern back to the dock. As you get older and less spry and less strong thrusters can be invaluable to keep you boating. If you can’t muscle the boat to the dock then you will stop boating. However with thrusters you can keep boating longer into old age.
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Old 04-10-2021, 11:39 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunchaser View Post
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On a twin engine boat a pro can do quite well in a fishing or commercial boat where hull bruises are acceptable. On a 50' nicely finished boat it is well worth the cost to have a bow thruster. Peace of mind, marital bliss, few boat scars and happy mooring mates in a tight slip are just a few of the advantages.

I've been at this for over 60 years. Our current boat, purchased new, was not equipped with a bow thruster. After four years one was installed. It was a very good decision for our boat and in our case.
I whole heartedly agree. My first experience of handling anything more than the family runabout was a twin screw vessel (80-footer yard patrol craft) in 1965, and I grew up from there thinking that twin screws was quite enough and later came to call thrusters "cheaters." I now laughingly call my own thruster my cheater! A professional like me does not shun any tool offered to him and never gets overly dependent on any of them, including those twin engines!
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Old 04-10-2021, 12:24 PM   #14
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Today I had to hoist our tender out of the water while being blown against the dock by the wind. I needed to fit the tender between the dock and the side of the boat. I just loosened the stern line and had the Admiral use the stern thruster to move the stern away from the dock and hold it there while I moved the tender, hooked it to the bridle and hoisted the tender up to the boat deck.
What could have been a PITA involving boat hooks and lots of effort was simple and easy.
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Old 04-10-2021, 01:00 PM   #15
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We were docked at a different marina on a side tie. The wind was blowing onto the dock at a steady 30+ MPH. One of the fenders rolled out. I went out and was pushing on the boat as hard as I could, even with my back on the boat and using my legs to push. Nothing, I couldn’t move the boat at all. Then it dawned on me to try the stern thruster, my wife activated it and immediately the boat moved upwind and I could put the fender back in place.
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Old 04-10-2021, 01:21 PM   #16
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Good answers above on both sides...
A competent skipper can do a lot with twins.
Thruster(s) can add significant assistance and make life easier for those less than expert skippers, add years to your cruising enjoyment and and provide a degree of safety vs rushing to capture lines etc.
Mine is a single with prop in a tunnel so unable to take advantage of prop walk. Previou owner added stern thruster to the factory bow thruster. I added a wireless remote and it comes in handy in some situations.
I would strongly recommend a good headset vs hand held radio as it will allow a more normal conversation and full use of hands.
So much depends on your mates ability and attitude. If she is willing and wants to learn she will. If she gets a scare it may change her attitude.
I think the key is getting a good observer / trainer and then practice, practice
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Old 04-10-2021, 01:25 PM   #17
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I single hand an 83' boat with no thruster and usually with no deck hand.
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Old 04-10-2021, 03:15 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Comodave View Post
You do need to practice handling the boat, but there certainly are reasons to have thrusters. We put a stern thruster on our boat since my wife does the bow lines and I have to get down from the flybridge and handle the stern line. I found that I was rushing and trying to get past our dog that wants to always be first. It was a dangerous situation and sooner or later I was going to fall and either hurt myself or the dog. Put in a stern thruster with a wireless remote and now I can get down from the bridge carefully and then use the thruster to bring the stern back to the dock. As you get older and less spry and less strong thrusters can be invaluable to keep you boating. If you can’t muscle the boat to the dock then you will stop boating. However with thrusters you can keep boating longer into old age.
Dave, was your wife giggling a bit too much? Maybe the stern thrusters were holding the boat to the dock too.
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Old 04-10-2021, 04:57 PM   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by markpj23 View Post
New to this forum but experienced boater. Last boat was a Manta 43 sail cat that I had no trouble single-handing. Something about having engines 21 feet apart made dockside handling easy..


Now starting our trawler adventures. 1st mate will have limited ability to help handling lines, etc. I expect to have her at the helm using 2-way radio to work the engines at my 'suggestions' to make the approach.


Considering a boat with no thrusters. Lots more windage on this type of boat of course.



So is this a valid concern on my part or is it not that big of a deal to maneuver a twin screw boat (50-ish LOA) without the thrusters?


Best advice?

When mine was new to me, My spouse and I spent a few hours at a dock where we could do repeated approaches, from various angles, to see what worked and what didn't work.
We had to politely send the willing helpers on the dock away, did that a few times, telling them we needed to learn how to do it without any help.
Now, we have the steps down, rarely need a second approach, no thrusters.
One summer we had one engine down the whole season, so I learned to use prop walk to help and to avoid the other approach.
Coming from sail, once used to the twins you will love the improvement in docking maneuverability.
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Old 04-10-2021, 05:05 PM   #20
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On a twin engine boat a pro can do quite well in a fishing or commercial boat where hull bruises are acceptable. On a 50' nicely finished boat it is well worth the cost to have a bow thruster. Peace of mind, marital bliss, few boat scars and happy mooring mates in a tight slip are just a few of the advantages.

I've been at this for over 60 years. Our current boat, purchased new, was not equipped with a bow thruster. After four years one was installed. It was a very good decision for our boat and in our case.
I'm with RGANO in thumbs-up to this post. Have at least a bow thruster installed, hydraulic is strongly preferred. Thrusters are relatively affordable and some of the installation cost will be recovered at resale. I promise you will get more use out of your boat if you have thruster(s). There will be at least a few days per year that you will have reduced concern about afternoon winds and therefore will head-out instead of cancel plans. With the exception of over-confidence if a thruster dies, there is no scenario where having a thruster hinders a safe landing - it can only assist. Given the affordable cost of install and the high cost of fiberglass repairs, why wouldn't you install one?

I do not know a professional captain who declines to use a thruster if equipped. They may have a better Plan B if the thruster dies, but they will use every tool available to bring the boat in safely. Chest-thumping ego is checked at the dock.

Peter
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