Bow and Stern Thruster

How can a thruster make boating a joy?

Docking made easy!

If you want to dock easily even in strong cross-winds or cross-current, a thruster installed in your boat's hull can definitely help you. Simply put, boat thrusters are extra propellers that allow you to steer your boat even without the use of the main engines, saving you time and energy, and affording you more contro over your boat's steering. Thrusters come in most handy when you're trying to slip in your boat into parallel parking with the dock or you're docking with other boats around you. With one button or a flick of a switch, propellers start turning and you can go left, right, or make a full 180-degree turn in a very small radius and with instant response.

The docking control you get means you can set sail in windy conditions that would put out other boats, for fear of collision damage. With thrusters, you can save your hull's finish, increase your boat's resale value and generally get the best out of your boating day!

Thrusters can work with all types of boats and ships, anything from cruisers, sailboats, boat jets and dinghies.

There are two types of thrusters you can put on your boat: bow thrusters and stern thrusters. A bow thruster goes into the front end of the hull whilst a stern thruster goes into the rear. Most boat owners start with bow thrusters, adding stern thrusters to get additional power and to be able to perform feather-touch steering.

Both types of thrusters are powered either by hydraulic cables or electric motors, working through reversible propellers that are shaped in a tunnel-like compartment or mounted outside the boat's frame. The latter, also called a sideshift thruster, save you from putting holes into your boat and allow you to get moving after one day at work. They work well for boats with deeply angled hulls and especially smaller, lighter vessels.

Electric motor driven thrusters can last for a couple of hours with a standard battery, and its burst-period power needs are similar to that of an engine starter. However, you need not worry about using up power too quickly as the thruster needs only to operate for a few seconds at any one time. Hydraulic thrusters are more expensive than motorised versions, becoming feasible only for vessels beyond 45 feet, but they can operate continuously.

A little-known variation is the waterjet thruster, which eats up less of the hull area and uses nozzles and pressurised water to create a steering force. Like a conventional thruster, it can be used to go left, right, and make a turn-around.

On the next page, you'll discover the many considerations to take when installing a boat thruster.