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CHOOSING A BOW THRUSTER
Installing a thruster can involve some major
surgery, depending on the type selected and
the design of your particular vessel. As such,
you’ll want to thoroughly research the various options available in order to select the
one that’s right for you.
Selecting a unit that’s powerful enough to
meet your performance requirements while
matching the characteristics of your boat
(type, size, hull shape) is crucial to getting the most benefit from your installation.
Thruster performance is determined primarily by a vessel’s windage and correct thruster
location. Vessel weight is not typically a major
factor in thruster selection for pleasure craft,
unless they routinely operate in areas where
the thruster will be constantly needed to
counter strong currents or winds.
Some companies allow you to select a
unit based on vessel characteristics such as
length and displacement, but it’s always a
good idea to get a second opinion from a professional, particularly if dealing with unusual
installation requirements. Once you decide
to install a thruster, you’ll need to make several choices including power source, mounting type, and number of propellers.
ELECTRIC OR HYDRAULIC?
From a power standpoint, bow thruster
choices come down to two options, electric
and hydraulic. Electric units can be further
divided into 12- or 24-volt DC types, or even
the occasional AC-powered unit, although
DC power is a lot more popular and our
Hydraulic thrusters are a common choice
for larger vessels, particularly those that
already have hydraulic systems onboard
to power the windlass or dinghy davits.
Installing a hydraulic unit while utilizing an
existing centralized hydraulic power source
costs less and will greatly simplify the instal-
lation. Hydraulic thrusters are quieter than
electric thrusters, have greater thrust, and
can operate for extended periods of time
without the worry of overheating or draining
battery banks. They can also provide variable-
speed control with proportional control and
valves. Unless you already have hydraulic
systems onboard, however, electric units will
typically be a more economical choice.
Of the two electric options, 24-volt DC
systems have some notable advantages –
including the ability to use smaller wire and
a lower voltage drop – and are particularly
attractive for larger boats with high-power
requirements. As with hydraulics, unless
your boat already utilizes a 24-volt system
onboard, a 12-volt system usually means
a less complex installation, as the thruster
can often be wired directly into your boat’s
existing system. For that reason, 12-volt
DC systems are more commonly found on
A typical electric thruster installation
involves either running cables of sufficient
size to minimize voltage drop from an existing battery bank, or installing a dedicated
battery in the vicinity of the thruster along
with a method of charging it. As they likely
won’t be used at the same time, a third